Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In the last lesson, I showed you a bunch of F#m chords. This time, you’ll learn all about a new minor chord, C#m.

The Work

If you remember, a minor triad is built from three notes—the root, the minor third, and the fifth. A C#m chord is spelled C# E G#, as shown in Example 1. Like F#m, C#m is typically played as a barre chord. Example 2a shows the lowest C#m voicing on the fretboard. If this shape seems familiar, that’s because it’s the same one you learned for F#m, just moved down five frets. Example 2b shows a three-note voicing derived from Ex. 2a.


Next try a full barre chord in ninth position, as shown in Example 3a. If you want, play this example using just the top or bottom four strings. As you’ve done with other minor barre chords, you might also try wrapping your thumb around the neck to fret the C# on string 6, while eliminating the fifth string.

Since it’s impractical to play barre chords high up the neck on most acoustic guitars, Example 4 shows a four-note voicing in the 12th position, which removes the need for the barre. Note that the lowest voice, E, is not the root but the minor third.

The Result

You should now know a handful of common C#m voicings. A song that makes use of this chord is “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies. Next time I’ll show you another minor chord, Bm.