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How to play the E major chord on guitar

Learn the essential E major chord, used in hits like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

The E major chord

The E chord, pronounced "E major," is a fundamental guitar chord that every beginner learns. It's played by pressing the first and second strings at the second fret, while leaving the thinnest string open. The E major chord has a bright, happy sound and is widely used in popular music across many genres, from rock and country to folk and blues.

There are many ways to play a chord. Here's a diagram for the most common E major chord. We've also included other versions below.

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Finger placement for E major chord

The most popular way to play the E major chord on guitar is in the open position, with the root note on the open 1st string.

Follow these finger positions to play a E major chord on your guitar:

  1. Place your index finger on the 1st fret of the 3rd (G) string.
  2. Place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th (A) string.
  3. Place your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th (D) string.

To strum this E major chord, use a pick or your thumb to strike all six strings in a downward motion. Make sure to apply enough pressure with your fretting hand to ensure all notes ring out clearly.

How to play an easy E major chord on guitar

If you're a beginner looking to play a simpler version of the E major chord, try the open E major chord:

  1. Place your first finger on the 1st fret of the 3rd (G) string.
  2. Place your second finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th (A) string.
  3. Strum all six strings.

How to play a E major bar chord

The E major barre chord is a great alternative to the open E major chord, allowing you to play the same chord in different positions up and down the fretboard.

Here's how to play an E major barre chord:

  1. Place your index finger across all six strings at the 7th fret, creating a barre.
  2. Place your ring finger on the 9th fret of the 5th (A) string.
  3. Place your pinky finger on the 9th fret of the 4th (D) string.
  4. Place your middle finger on the 8th fret of the 3rd (G) string.
  5. Strum from the 6th (low E) string down to the 1st (high E) string.

Common E major chord progressions

The E major chord is a versatile chord that can be used in various progressions to create different emotional atmospheres, ranging from uplifting and triumphant to melancholic and introspective. Here are some common E major chord progressions:

  • I - V - vi - IV (E - B - C#m - A): Used in "Let It Be" by The Beatles and "With or Without You" by U2
  • I - IV - V (E - A - B): Used in "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty
  • I - vi - IV - V (E - C#m - A - B): Used in "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran and "The Scientist" by Coldplay
  • I - iii - IV - V (E - G#m - A - B): Used in "Wonderwall" by Oasis and "Hey Soul Sister" by Train
  • I - V - vi - iii - IV - I - IV - V (E - B - C#m - G#m - A - E - A - B): Used in "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus and "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi

Drills to master the E major chord

To master the E major guitar chord, start by practicing a simple strumming drill. Focus on maintaining a steady rhythm while strumming all six strings. Begin slowly and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the chord shape.

Another effective drill is to practice transitioning to and from the E major chord. Choose a simple chord progression, such as E to A and back to E, and work on smoothly switching between the chords. Concentrate on minimizing any pause or hesitation during the transitions.

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Songs that feature the E major chord

Here are 10 popular songs you can play with the E major chord:

  1. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd (D, C, G)
  2. Free Fallin' by Tom Petty (E, F#m, A, B7)
  3. Glamorous by Fergie ft. Ludacris (E, D, A)
  4. What's Up by 4 Non Blondes (E, A, D, G)
  5. Already Gone by Eagles (E, A, B)
  6. Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars (E, B, G#m, A)
  7. Otherside by Red Hot Chili Peppers (E, D, A, C)
  8. The Joker by Steve Miller Band (E, B, A, D, G)
  9. Radio Ga Ga by Queen (E, A, B)
  10. Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver (E, A, B7)

How a guitar teacher can help

If you feel stuck in your playing, it might help to take personalized guitar lessons with an expert guitarist. Taking lessons with a pro gives you access to the skills, feedback, and motivation to reach your goals.

You can find expert guitar teachers to support you in the journey. Thousands of people have turned to online guitar lessons on Til, instead of traditional in-person lessons, because Til gives you access to the best teachers in the world from the comfort of home. And with flexible scheduling, secure payments, lesson recordings, and a private chat with your teacher–there’s never been a better way to learn guitar.

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