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How to play the E minor chord on guitar

Learn to play the E minor chord, used in hits like "Wonderwall" and "Hotel California."

The Em chord

The Em chord, pronounced "E minor," is one of the most essential chords in guitar playing. Its melancholic tone adds depth and emotion to countless songs across various genres, from rock and folk to blues and country. Notable for its simplicity and versatility, the Em chord is a staple for beginners and seasoned guitarists alike, making it a must-know in any musician's repertoire.

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

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Finger placement for Em chord

The standard way to play an E minor chord is on the 2nd fret of your guitar.

Follow these finger positions to play an E minor chord on your guitar:

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

To strum this chord, use your pick or thumb to strum down across all six strings in one fluid motion.

How to play an easy Em chord on guitar

If you're a beginner looking to play a simpler version of the E minor chord, try placing your middle and ring fingers on the 2nd fret of the A and D strings, respectively, while leaving the other strings open. Strum all six strings together, and you'll be playing an easy, open E minor chord.

How to play a Em bar chord

The E minor barre chord is a great alternative to the open E minor chord, as it allows you to play the chord anywhere on the fretboard and opens up new possibilities for your playing.

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

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

Common Em chord progressions

The E minor chord is often used in progressions that evoke feelings of melancholy, introspection, and emotional depth. Some common E minor chord progressions include:

  • i - iv - v - i (Em - Am - Bm - Em)
  • i - iv - VII - III - v - i (Em - Am - D - G - Bm - Em) Used in "Stairway to Heaven" and "Hotel California"
  • i - VII - i - VII (Em - D - Em - D)
  • i - v - iv - iv (Em - Bm - Am - Am)
  • i - III - VII - i (Em - G - D - Em)

Drills to master the Em chord

To master the E minor guitar chord, try practicing the following drill:

Strum the chord repeatedly, focusing on producing a clear and consistent sound. Start slowly and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the chord. Aim for a steady rhythm and pay attention to the quality of each strum.

Another effective drill is to transition smoothly between the E minor chord and other chords you frequently use, such as A minor or G major. Practice switching back and forth between these chords, maintaining a steady tempo and minimizing any pauses or hesitations during the transitions.

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Songs that feature the Em chord

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

  1. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin (Am, C, D, F, G)
  2. Losing My Religion by R.E.M. (Am, Em, Dm, G, F#m)
  3. Wonderwall by Oasis (Em, G, D, A7sus4)
  4. Hotel California by Eagles (Am, E7, G, D, F#, Bm)
  5. Nothing Else Matters by Metallica (Em, D, C, G, Am)
  6. Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd (Em, G, A, C, D)
  7. Zombie by The Cranberries (Em, C, G, D)
  8. Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple (Em, G, A)
  9. All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan (Am, G, F, C/E)
  10. One by U2 (Am, D, Dsus2, Fmaj7, G)

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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