C Major

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The C major chord is a triad formed from a root (C), a major third (E) and a perfect fifth (G).

How to play C major on the piano

Looking down at the piano, you'll notice black keys in groups of two and three. Just to the left of each group of two black keys, you’ll find the note C, the root of one of the most common chords played on the piano: C major.

The C major chord is made up of three notes: C, E, and G. To play the root position chord on the piano with your right hand, you’d use the following three fingers:

G - Fifth finger (5)
E - Third finger (3)
C - First finger (1)

To play the root position chord with your left hand, you’d use the following fingers:

G - First finger (1)
E - Third finger (3)
C - Fifth finger (5)

Depending on what you’re playing, you may use different fingers to play the chord. If you haven't yet, look at the video above to see how the C major chord is built.

What are the inversions of C major?

Above, we learned the root position of the C major chord. If we simply change the order of the same notes, we get two different inversions of C major, which we’ll refer to as the 1st and 2nd inversions.

How to play the 1st inversion of C major

The 1st inversion of C major contains the same notes, but with the E as the lowest note of the chord. With your right hand, you would play the 1st inversion with the following fingers:

C - Fifth finger (5)
G - Second finger (2)
E - First finger (1)

How to play the 2nd inversion of C major

The 2nd inversion of C major has the G as the lowest note of the chord. With your right hand, you’d play this chord with the following fingers:

E - Fifth finger (5)
C - Third finger (3)
G - First finger (1)

What popular songs use the C major chord?

As one of the most popular chords on the piano, C major is used in many different songs and compositions. Some of the following are fantastic examples to get you familiar with playing the chord in the context of a song.

"Imagine" by John Lennon

Imagine what a C major chord sounds like. It’s easy if you try, but you’ll also hear the chord right at the beginning of this John Lennon classic.

"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen

It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, but first comes the C major. One of the most covered songs ever, you’ll hear the C major regularly throughout its verses.

"Prelude No. 1 in C" - Johann Sebastian Bach

One of Bach’s many preludes, this piece is one of his most popular and beautiful compositions. Made up of arpeggios, the first three notes you hear make up a C major chord.

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