7 ways to play a C sus 4 chord on guitar


After learning your open chords on the guitar, you’ll soon want to know how to play sus 4 chords, which often come up in many popular songs. In this lesson, we’ll be covering the C sus 4 chord, which is short for suspended 4. 

The C sus 4 chord has a common open chord shape but there are many different ways you can play this chord throughout the guitar fretboard. By knowing different sus 4 chord variations, you’ll be able to use them in different musical contexts. 

We’ll first cover some basic chord theory and then show you 7 ways to play a C sus 4 chord which you can start to incorporate into your playing. Grab your guitar and let’s get started!

C sus 4 chord theory intro

A suspended 4 chord means that the 4th degree replaces the 3rd of the chord. For example, a Major triad chord has the chord tones 1, 3, and 5 but a sus 4 chord has chord tones 1, 4, and 5.

This means that an C sus 4 chord has the chord tones C, F, and G.

Here is the formula for sus 4 chords below.

C sus 4 chord formula

To compare, here are the notes for other chords with C as the root.

Now that you know what notes belong to the chord structure, let’s look at how to read the chord charts.

How to read the chord charts

For the charts below:

  • The top horizontal line of the chord chart represents the high E string and the bottom horizontal line represents the low E string. 
  • The vertical lines separate each fret. 
  • The numbers in the blue dots tell you which fingers to use on the fretting hand. 
  • The letters on the right of the charts tell you what notes you are playing on each string.
  • Circles on the left represent open strings.
  • Red X means to avoid that string.

You can check this link for more on how to read guitar notation symbols.

Open C sus 4 chord

The most common way to play this chord is by using the following open chord. This chord is similar to an open C Major chord except you use your pinky to play the the 4th string, 3rd fret.

C sus 4 open chord shape

Open C sus 4 chord with a mini barre

Similar to the last chord, this shape uses a mini barre on the first two strings. Although this chord variation is harder to play, it’s nice to be able to strum through strings 5 to 1.

Open C sus 4 chord with a mini barre shape

C sus 4 barre chord on the 5th string

This C sus 4 barre chord comes from the open A sus 4 chord shape. If you can’t get the chord to sound clear, first try to get the notes from the 5th to the 2nd fret. As you develop more strength in your fingers, try adding the 1st string as well.

C sus 4 barre chord on the 5th string shape

If needed, check out these 5 tips to get better at playing barre chords.

C sus 4 barre chord 5th string variation

Another way to play the C sus 4 chord using a barre is to remove the 2nd finger from the previous shape like this:

C sus 4 barre chord 5th string variation shape

Play this chord variation and the previous shape to hear the slight difference and see which one you like better.

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C sus 4 mini barre chord on the 4th string

This next shape uses a mini barre chord on the 8th fret. We’ll use this shape as the foundation for the next barre chord on the 6th string.

C sus 4 barre chord on the 6th string

Here is the C sus 4 as a barre chord starting on the 6th string. This shape comes originally comes from the open E sus 4 chord. Notice that the notes on the top 3 strings are the same as the previous shape but we now cover all the strings on the 8th fret with our 1st finger.

C sus 4 barre chord on the 6th string shape

Again, if the barre chord is too difficult to play, first try to get the notes from the 6th to the 3rd string. Then add the 2nd and 1st string as you develop more strength in your fingers.

C sus 4 barre chord on the 4th string

Here is the only chord here where the C note is not in the bass, meaning the lowest note. The shape comes from the easy open G sus 4 chord. This is another way you can play this chord when you want the root note highlighted at the top.

C sus 4 barre chord on the 4th string shape

Wrapping up

It’s good to know different variations of playing a sus 4 chord because you have more flexibility to move around the fretboard and also when you need a specific note in the top to help define a melody that you are playing over.

I hope this helped you understand how to play a C sus 4 guitar chord or learn new ways of playing it. You can also try shifting the shapes that have all fretted notes to play other sus 4 chords on the same string.

Get the free guitar practice guide here!

All the best,

JG Music Lessons

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