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How to Play: C# Piano Chord & Inversions (C#, C#/E#, C#/G#)

C# major piano chord

The C sharp major chord is a lovely chord to play on the piano. It is enharmonic with the D-flat chord, meaning it is the same notes but with a different spelling. Usually pianists don’t love the C sharp spelling because it includes an E-sharp. If this sounds confusing now, don’t worry. I’ll explain more in this ultimate guide to the C# chord!

What Is A C# Chord?

When you see the term “C#” this is an abbreviation for C Sharp. A “#” is a sharp sign in music theory. (It was a sharp before it was a hashtag, LOL!)

C# is an interesting sharp chord because it includes 3 sharps, but NOT 3 black keys. One of the sharps is a white key. See the keyboard diagram for more info about this.

Anyway, the C-sharp chord is basically just a chord in the family of major chords, made up of 3 notes in what’s called a triad. It is formed the same as any other major chord – by building a major third and then a minor third on top of that.

Is It C-Sharp Or D-Flat?

Now, before going further, we need to talk about an important topic. Because C# is a black note, it has two names.

The C# major and Db major chords are the same physical chord but with different spellings. The musical term for this is that they are enharmonic to each other.

(Want to learn more about flats and sharps? See this video).

C# & Db chords are the same because they use the same exact notes. Your hand will be in the same place when you play both of these chords.

However, the spelling of these two chords are different.

Here are the two spellings:

C# – E# – G#

OR

Db – F – Ab

Most pianists prefer the Db spelling of the chord because no one likes to think of an F (a white note) as an E#. If you’re a beginner, you may want to start by exploring D flat before jumping into C sharp.

However, it is necessary if you’re ever going to try to read music in the key of C#. If that’s you, keep reading!

How do you play the C-sharp chord on piano?

Now let’s get into the details of the C# chord!

You will play a C# major chord simply by pressing down the 3 notes in the triad simultaneously. See below for a diagram on which notes are included.

Notes In A C# Chord

In its regular form (root position) the C# chord includes 3 notes: C#, E#, and G#. The C# is known as the root of the chord, the E# is the major third, and the G# the perfect fifth. Herein lies the reason you can’t spell the C# chord with an F. To form the major third, you HAVE to use the note E#!

Anyhow, check out C# major on the keyboard below!

C# major piano chord keyboard diagram

What key is C sharp on piano?

When learning this chord, you’re going to want to start by finding what’s called the root of the chord – the note on the bottom. In this case, that note is C-sharp, which is a black key.

C#, as the name suggests, can be found by going directly above any C. This makes it fairly easy to find. Just go to the first black key to the right of a C (in musical terms, this is called going one half-step up!)

Another way to think of it is that C# is on the far left of any 2-black-key group.

Hopefully one of these methods will stick in your memory so you can always find C# easily!

C# Chord Piano Finger Position

Now that you’ve seen the notes in the C# chord, we have to talk about fingering. Fingering is an absolutely essential part of playing piano chords! You will save yourself much pain later on if you focus on this in the beginning. If all my students would focus on fingering, they could save themselves so much wasted practice!

The nice thing is that the fingerings for major chords are always the same. Yes, even for the sharp chords! Even though this chord feels different because of the sharps, you will still use the same exact fingering.

Right hand fingering: 1 – 3 – 5
Left hand fingering: 5 – 3 – 1

Don’t forget that finger 1 is your thumb, finger 3 your middle finger, and finger 5 your pinky.

More Piano Chords To Learn

C# Piano Chord Inversions

Now that you’ve learned C# in its most basic form, it is time to talk about inversions! Inversions are another one of those things that can be boring to practice, but are SO HELPFUL. Trust me, this is not a step you want to skip.

An inversion is basically just the SAME notes but mixed up into different orders. C# inversions will feel a little different than white-key chords since it has two black keys. However, the more you practice putting your hand in the form, the more it will start to feel normal.

C#/E# – First Inversion Chord

C# first inversion is also known as “C#/E#” or “C# flat over E#” (the slash can be read as “over”).

The reason for this is the E# is now on the bottom of the chord. As you can see below, you’ll flip the C# from the bottom onto the top for first inversion.

C#/E# piano chord inversion keyboard diagram

Right Hand fingering: 1 – 2 – 5
Left hand fingering: 5 – 3 – 1

C#/G# – Second Inversion Chord

C# second inversion is known as C#/G# for the same reason as the last chord—the G# will now be on the bottom!

To play this on the piano, start with your hand on first inversion. Then, take the E# on the bottom and put it on the top.

Now, G# will be on the bottom, which is exactly what we want! See below:

C#/G# piano chord inversion keyboard diagram

Right hand fingering: 1 – 3 – 5
Left hand fingering: 1 – 2 – 5

As one final step, I highly recommend you try switching back and forth between ALL the different inversions when you practice! I normally have my students start at the root chord, go up the inversions, and then come back down to the root. This will help you get used to the way the different chords feel with the sharps.

C# Major Inversions Sheet Music

If you prefer to follow sheet music, here are the C# inversions written out on the staff.

Chords In The Key Of C#

Wondering what other chords are in the general key of C# major? I’ve got you covered! You don’t have to stop with just C#. A chord can be built off of each note of the scale.

Here’s a quick list you can refer to:

I: C#
ii: D#
iii: E#m
IV: F#
V: G#
vi: A#m
vii: B# diminished

Yes, you read that right—C# is the key with the MOST sharps in it! Every single note is a sharp! But just remember, that doesn’t mean every single note is a black key. The E# and B# are the enharmonic equivalents of F and C.

I know this can be confusing, especially if you’re a beginner. If you’re working on learning chords like these, here are some tips for memorizing piano chords!

What Chords Go Well With C-Sharp?

Any of the chords listed above will go well with the C# chord, because they are all in the same key signature (7 sharps). However, they will sound better if you play them in certain orders. This is called a chord progression.

Common Chord Progressions In The Key Of C#

Playing chord progressions in the key of C# may require more concentration than other chords, since every note is a sharp! But just take it slowly. Here are a few I love to do:

  • C# – G# – A#m – F# (I – V – vi – IV)
  • C# – F# – G# (I – IV – V)
  • D#m – G# – C# (ii – V – I)
  • C# – F# – G# – D#m (I – IV – V – ii)

Conclusion

C sharp is an interesting chord spelling to learn, that’s for sure! Start out by getting a feel for the 3 notes in root position. Try inversions, and eventually move onto chord progressions. Slowly but surely, you’ll get it!