E Chord on the Guitar (E Major) – 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory)

The E Major chord is one of the most common and popular chords on the guitar. The open E chord is one of the first chords that most guitarists learn, and it has been used in countless songs across many genres.

Some Quick E Chord Theory

  • The E Major chord contains the notes E, G# and B.
  • The E Major chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of the E Major scale.
  • The E Major chord (just like all Major chords) contains the following intervals (from the root note): Major 3rd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th (back to the root note).
  • The E Major chord is the first chord in the key of E Major. The seven chords in the key of E Major are: E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m, D# diminished. 

10 Ways To Play The E Major Chord

If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for E, here they are.

E Major Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard E Chord Shape (Open E Chord)

The most common way to play the E chord is in the open position. This is one of the most commonly used chord shapes and one of the first ones that most guitarists learn.

E Chord Guitar

Easy E Chord Shape

The easiest version of the E chord is essentially a mini version of the standard, open E chord. It uses the first three strings of the guitar and only involves one finger (as well as open strings). These mini chords can be a great way to get started when learning the guitar, as they allow you to play chord songs without learning full (and sometimes difficult shapes).

Easy E Chord Guitar

How to Play the E Major Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the fifth string.
  • Place your third finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your first finger on the first fret of the third string.
  • Strum all six strings.

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the open E Major chord shape. These instructions can actually be super helpful when you feel like you’re interpreting the shape incorrectly. By going through the E chord instructions step by step, you can verify that you’re playing the chord correctly.

Barre Chord Shapes for E

The E chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 12th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 7th fret:

Alternative E Chord Shapes Guitar

E Major Triads

Most of the time, when we play the E chord, we play the standard shapes, such as the open position E and the barre chord shapes. However, learning the strict root position and inverted triads is a great way of exploring subtle and interesting variations that exist across the fretboard. The E Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:

  • E Major Triad (Root Position) – E, G#, B
  • E Major Triad (1st Inversion) – G#, B, E
  • E Major Triad (2nd Inversion) – B, E, G#

Here are six different ways to play the E Major triad (including inversions).

E Major Triad Guitar

Which Keys Have The E chord in Them?

The E chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of E Major (E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m, D#dim)
  • The key of B Major (B, C#m, D#m, E, F#, G#m, A#dim)
  • The key of A Major (A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim)
  • The key of C# minor (C#m, D#dim, E, F#m, G#m, A, B)
  • The key of G# minor (G#m, A#dim, B, C#m, D#m,E, F#)
  • The key of F# minor (F#m, G#dim, A, Bm, C#m, D, E)

Alternative But Useful E Chord Shapes

The following shapes are alternative ways of playing the E Major chord shape. They’re not the most common E shapes, but used enough to include here as interesting alternatives.

Alternative C Chord Shapes Guitar

E Chord Substitutions

The E chord can often be substituted with the E sus 4 chord, the E sus 2 chord and the E add 9 chord. The E chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the E Major 7 chord, the E7 chord, and other extension chords which have E as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the E chord?

The most common and effective scales that can be used to solo/improvise over the E Major chord, or to create melodies for the purposes of song writing are:

  • E Major pentatonic scale – This scale will almost always work over the E Major chord, in any context.
  • E Major scale – This is the ‘default scale’ of the E chord.
  • E Lydian mode – This scale can be used over the E chord in certain contexts to add a jazz flavour.        
  • E Major Blues – This scale is particularly useful in a Blues context.

Further Reading

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