I am trying to learn this version of Islands In The Stream on the guitar and am kind of stuck with the change between C and C6 which is quite characteristic for this song.

My question is: Is there some sort of "trick" or easy way to change between this two chords so fast, as it is required for this song? The chord suggestions of the ultimate guitar website are way to hard for my level of practice.

  • The C6 chord suggested on the website you link to looks completely ridiculous - there are so many better ways to play a C6! – Bob Broadley Apr 8 '14 at 17:48
  • Unless, of course, the actual voicing there is important to the sound of the song - it's difficult to tell with this kind of notation (lyrics with chord symbols). – Bob Broadley Apr 8 '14 at 18:28
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    I think they give the same suggestion for any song with this chord. That's why it is so hard to guess the "correct" version – Milla Well Apr 9 '14 at 0:10
  • Aye, Milla's right. The best way to learn the original is either official lessons from the band, or to look at what they do on live videos. – Alexander Troup Apr 9 '14 at 11:37

You could play any number of different C6 chords: some using barres, some higher up the neck, chords with or without C in the bass and even chords that double an open string note. But practically, it makes sense to play the C6 shape that is closest to the common open C shape, as this is probably what you are most familiar with, and as it will be close to other chords you are probably familiar with. I have suggested three ways to finger this below (sorry, they were scribbled in a hurry!): enter image description here

The first fingering is like an Am chord with the fourth finger adding a C root note. The second fingering is that suggested by Meaningful Username. The third fingering is one I quite like; the second finger bends "backwards" to barre two strings at fret two. This takes a bit of practice and finger strength, but does mean the rest of the chord is a regular C chord, making it easy to move C to C6 to C7, which happens during this song.

A couple of things to note...

This chord shape doesn't have the note G; the fifth of a C6. In theory, this makes it an Am/C chord, but in practice it doesn't affect the sound of a C6 dramatically.

The music you link to is just a lyric sheet with chord symbols - it doesn't necessarily give accurate information about the chord voicings (shapes) that would be best to use. Also, the music is not conventionally published, so may not be correct anyway! Having said that, if C6 is the correct chord to use in this song (sorry I haven't had a chance to listen to the original to check…), this C6 shape should work well, both to listen to and to play.

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    +1 for physically taking the time to draw out diagrams and upload them. – jjmusicnotes Apr 9 '14 at 14:01
  • The pen is mightier than the word.doc... – Bob Broadley Apr 9 '14 at 14:04

Two ideas: use the 'A' shape barre on fret 3 for C, and drop pinky onto top string, 5th fret to produce C6. Or - Barre fret 8, use E shape chord, and drop pinky onto 2nd string, 10th fret for C6.There is another not so good version of C6 in that Am7 uses the same notes, and Am7 open is an easy chord to play. Trouble is,this change doesn't sound as good. Use it as a get out if others are playing !


That is a bit of a transition. What makes it a 6th chord is the added A. You could try a first position C chord (like the one in the song), but finger it with your pinky on the 3rd fret A string, third finger on D string E (2nd fret), middle finger for G string A (second fret), and B string C (first fret) with your index finger as usual. I.e. add 3rd string, 2nd fret to the normal C shape.

This will likely be tricky too, since things become quite crowded, but it might be easier than the barres shown at the site.

Edit: I've now tried the chord out, and I would finger it like the first example in Bob's post instead. That is, just add the C on the 5th string 3rd fret with your pinky on a Am.


There are already a lot of answers that give you tips as to how to play a C6 on the guitar, and how to change between C and C6. However, I would like to point out one more important thing that many beginners do not realize: a C6 chord can always be replaced by a standard C chord. If you listen to the song then you'll realize that the melody implies a C6 at the places indicated by the lyrics, but this does not mean that the accompaniment (i.e. you) needs to follow. I personally find it actually almost a bit irritating if the accompaniment follows (i.e. doubles) each and every tension in the melody. Listening to the song, I also cannot really hear that the chord (played by the band) would change to a C6. The C6 simply "happens" as a combination of the melody and the accompaniment.

So my recommendation for this special case is: just keep on playing C until the chord really changes (i.e. to F via C7). People might now say that with the same argument you could replace the C7 by a simple C chord. In a way this is of course true, but it is still a different thing. The C7 chord adds a specific tension which is resolved by going to F, and if you do not play this tension then you'll lose the whole tension-resolution thing (which makes music interesting). C6 doesn't go anywhere in this case, just back to C. And, as I said before, the '6' (i.e. the note 'A') is already there (in the melody).


You could try an Am7 =

from top ..

E open
B 1
G open
D 2
A open
E open

Technically it's the same set of notes but a slightly funny inversion for a C6, as the "root" note (C) is quite high.

I havent tried this in context - it might sound ok or might sound bizarre, but probably easy to play so would get you though the song :-)

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    Do you mean a minor 7th? – Tim Apr 8 '14 at 16:09
  • Yes I did, apologies - edited answer and reformatted a bit – user2808054 Apr 8 '14 at 16:11
  • The low E shouldn't be included, right? That doesn't sound so good. – Meaningful Username Apr 8 '14 at 17:39
  • The B string is 1st fret, and the D string is 2nd. Everything else will work. Spelled C-E-G-A in any order you fancy. – Tim Apr 9 '14 at 7:08
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    The low E will sound a little odd, but then again, so will the A as bass note. This is because the chord should be based(Bassed) on C - it is C6 after all. However, even with the low E played, it's not wrong, technically, it just doesn't sound as good as it should with a C as the lowest note, which can't happen with this voicing. – Tim Apr 9 '14 at 7:13

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