C Major Chords

There are two basic chord formulas that we will cover in this lesson:

  1. Inversions – The C major chord, played in 3 different ways.
  2. Cadence Chords – A chord progression commonly used in C major.

C Major Chord Inversions

A chord consists of 3 notes. Therefore, it can be played in 3 different ways depending on what order those notes are placed.

In order for a chord to be considered a “C Major” chord, it has to consist of the notes C, E, and G. The order of notes determines the inversion of the chord:

  • C-E-G = “root position”
  • E-G-C = “1st inversion”
  • G-C-E = “2nd inversion”

The charts below show the correct fingering and placement for each inversion. The left hand is in blue, and the right hand is in red.

C major chord in root position:

C major chord in 1st inversion:

C major chord in 2nd inversion:

C major chord inversions on the staff, with fingerings:


C Major Cadence Chords

Cadence chords are a great way to practice what we call the “primary” chords for a key. For a detailed explanation of the theory behind cadence chords, you can read this article. For now, it will suffice to just learn how to play them and get used to the patterns. Then you can go back and fill in the gaps in your music theory knowledge.

The following cadence chord charts show the fingering and positions for both hands.

The first, third, and final chord of the progression is your C major chord in root position which we have already covered. We refer to this chord with the roman numeral I:

The second chord is an F major chord in 2nd inversion, which we refer to as the roman numeral, IV:

(After playing this chord, return to the C root position (I) chord.)

The fourth chord is a G major chord in 1st inversion, which we refer to with the roman numeral, V:

The fifth chord is a G seven chord, which we refer to with the symbol, V7:

(After playing this chord, return to the C root position (I) chord to finish the progression.)

Here is the C major cadence chord progression on the staff, with fingerings:

Practice Tips:

  1. Make sure to be consistent with the fingerings. These chord templates are exactly the same in every key. If you get comfortable with the fingering and finger movement between the chords, the same feeling will transfer to all the other keys!
  2. Pay attention to common tones. These are notes shared from one chord to the next. Try to track where your hand is going based on what came before and feel the physical relationship between each chord.
  3. Make sure you play each note of the chord with a full and equal sound (no notes softer than others) and that all 3 notes go down at exactly the same time.
  4. Use your whole body when playing chords! Each chord should feel almost like you’re doing a push-up on top of the keys .