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Learn to Play the E Chord on Guitar

Posted on January 12, 2024

Are you ready to take your guitar playing to the next level? In this article, we will teach you how to play the E chord on the guitar. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to expand your chord repertoire, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll walk you through the correct finger placement and technique to ensure you can play this essential E guitar chord with ease. With our step-by-step instructions and the assistance of Yousician, you’ll be strumming the E chord like a pro in no time. Get ready to rock, and let’s dive in!

The Pattern of the E Minor and E Major Scale

First, let’s define the following terms: “notes,” “chords,” and “scale.” Notes represent a musical sound. These are shown as letters, and they constitute the smallest part of musical language. Cords can be described as a harmonic set of multiple notes. In other words, the notes can be compared to single letters, while the chords are like words. Finally, the scale refers to any set of musical notes which is put into order by their fundamental frequency.

In music, there are seven notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. And depending on whether you look at a C major scale or a D minor scale, these notes will have a different order. But now let’s take a look at the scales of E minor and E major.

The notes of the E minor scale look like this:
i = E minor
ii° = F# diminished
III = G major
iv = A minor
v = B minor
VI = C major
VII = D major

These are the notes of the E major scale:
I = E major
ii = F# minor
iii = G# minor
IV = A major
V = B major
VI = C# minor
vii° = D# diminished

A minor chord is very similar to a major chord, with just one notable difference. While a major chord is constructed using the root note, the major third, and the fifth note of the scale, a minor chord is formed by the root note, the minor third (which is one half-step lower than the major third), and the perfect fifth.

Both chords consist of the tones E, G, and B, but in the E major, the third string of the guitar is raised by a half-step, producing a G# instead of a G. The number sign signifies that the G is a G-sharp. This means that in E minor, the G string remains open because the key signature of E minor dictates that G should be natural, not G#.

This alteration results in a major third interval rather than a minor third, which is basically what distinguishes E major and E minor from each other. This subtle alteration is all it takes to transform a lively E major chord into a somber E minor chord.

How to Play the E Minor Chord on Guitar

The E chord is one of the first, and perhaps most important, chords to learn. The E chord can be divided into an E major chord and an E minor chord. Generally, major chords sound happier, whereas minor chords sound more melancholic.

To play an E minor chord on the guitar:

  1. Position your second finger on the second fret of the fifth string.
  2. Place your third finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  3. Strum all six strings.

Here’s what a guitar chord chart of the E minor or “Em” chord looks like:

E Minor

You might be wondering if it’s possible to utilize your first two fingers instead. However, by keeping your first finger free, transitioning to adjacent chord shapes such as C major, A minor, or D major becomes much smoother and less challenging.

The key of E minor is highly favored by classical guitar composers, likely due to its natural compatibility with the instrument. In the basic E minor chord position, the majority of the strings can be played open. Additionally, the lowest and highest notes within the chord are the tonic and E. E minor is also popular among heavy metal composers.

How to Play the E Major Chord on Guitar

As mentioned, an E major chord contains the notes E, G#, and B. The E major chord is also called an E major triad, and it consists of three parts: E is the root, G# is a major third, and B is the fifth.

Here’s a detailed guide on playing an E major chord on the guitar:

  1. Position your first finger on the first fret of the third string.
  2. Place your second finger on the second fret of the fifth string.
  3. Place your third finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  4. Ensure that you strum all six strings when playing the chord.

The two chords are very similar, and if you already know one of them, you’ll easily learn the other because only one finger needs to be placed differently.

Is E Minor the Same as G Major?

It is not entirely correct to say that E minor and G major are the same. Instead, G major is the relative major of E minor because they share the same key signature, which includes one sharp: F#. Consequently, both scales are essentially the same except for the starting note — E for E minor and G for G major.

The relative minor of a major key is always three half-tones lower. This means that you can easily find the relative minor of any major key by simply counting down three half-tones or three frets on your guitar.

Songs That Use E Minor and Major Guitar Chords

There is a wide variety of songs that use the E minor and E major chords, in addition to a few other common open chords. Here are just a handful of great songs to learn on the guitar that use chords in the key of E minor:

  • Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica
  • “Livin’ On a Prayer” by Jon Bon Jovi
  • “Take Me to Church” by Hozier
  • Fallin” by Alicia Keys

The following are songs played in the key of E major:

But don’t stop your musical adventure at the E chords. At Yousician, you can explore music theory and learn to master a plethora of other chords to play your favorite songs. For instance, you can discover techniques to conquer the A minor chord on your guitar as well.

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