Chords In The Key Of E

Wondering what the chords in the key of E are? This article will help you learn them and understand them. Let’s dive in!

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • How the key of E is constructed (and what it is)
  • Major Scale theory (this is not as scary as it sounds and VERY useful!)
  • All of the chords in the key of E

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Chords in the key of E

There are loads of different keys in music, but we’re just going to focus on the key of E here. This is the guitar’s ‘native’ key and that’s why these chords are so useful to know and understand.

All keys are built from scales and the key of E (or to use its full name, ‘E major’) is constructed from, you guessed it, the scale of E major.

The E major scale dictates what the chords in the key of E are.

So to understand the chords in the key of E major, we have to start with the scale of E major.

The E major scale

The notes in the E major scale are as follows: E  F#  G#  A  B  C#  D# 

In tab form it looks like this:

chords in the key of e

Note that in the example above we go through 2 full octaves (so we see the notes listed above appear twice).

And it sounds like this:

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So if you play these notes on your guitar, you would be playing in the key of E Major.

If you want to understand notes better, read this article of ours: Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

Understanding this key (or any key)

The chords in a key are dictated by the notes of its scale.

I’ll write that again because it’s the absolute heart of this lesson! The chords in a key are dictated by the notes of its scale.

  • The chords in the key of E major are dictated by the notes in the scale of E major.
  • The chords in the key of D minor are dictated by the notes in the scale of D minor.
  • And so on….

From each note within the scale we can build a chord.

But there are rules that dictate what type of chord a note will become (major, minor or diminished).

How to work out the chords in any key

Each note in a scale has a number. (For example, E is the 1st note in the scale of E major. Therefore it is number 1.)

Each number relates to a chord.

The number 1 note is always a major chord. (So in this instance the chords would be E major.)

The number 2 note is always minor. (In this instance the chord would therefore be F# Minor. Because F# is the second note in the E major scale.)

chords in the key of e

  • For E, A and B we have major chords, these tend to have a brighter, happier sound.
  • For the F#, G# and C# we have minor chords, these chords tend to have sadder sound.
  • And for D# we have a diminished chord, this chord has a lot of tension and has quite a bitter sound. (Diminished chords are hardly used at all in popular music.)

Notice that the numbers we mentioned before have now become roman numerals now. I have no idea why this is the case, but this is just how the different numbers of a scale are commonly written in the musical world.

These roman numerals are often referred to as the ‘degrees of a scale’. (So, using the table above you can see that the ‘5th degree’ in the scale of E major is B.)

The coolest thing about understanding how chords relate to the notes of the scale, is that when you apply this to other major scales the chord formula stays the same.

Like so many things in the guitar world, this concept is moveable.

The pattern of notes becoming chords always goes like this:

  1. Major
  2. Minor
  3. Minor
  4. Major
  5. Major
  6. Minor
  7. Diminished

Just forget the diminished chord for now because it’s so niche.

As you can see, there are 3 major chords in a key and 3 minor chords in a key.

  • The 1st, 4th and 5th notes become major chords.
  • The 2nd, 3rd and 6th notes become minor chords.

Knowing what we now know, let’s move on and look specifically at the key of E.

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again. Click here to download your copy.

How To Play E Major

chords in the key of e

To play this chord you:

  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the A string.
  • Place your third finger on the second fret of the D string.
  • Place your first finger on the first fret of the G string.
  • Strum all the strings.

There are loads of different ways to play an E major chord, check out this article to learn more: 4 Easy Ways To Play The E Chord On Guitar

Download a free beginner chord guide and learn easy versions of every chord

 Say goodbye to frustration and twisted fingers. Say hello to MAKING MUSIC.

  Learn beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

  This is one of our most popular guides and will improve your chord ability quickly. Click here to download the guide.

Chords In The Key Of E – F# Minor

There are a few different ways to play this chord, we’re going to be focusing on the barre version.

Barre chords can be tricky, so if you’re a little stuck on how to play barre chords, this lesson may be useful for you: 3 Tips For Clean & Easy Barre Chords

chords in the key of e

To play F# Minor you:

  • Place your first finger on the second fret on the low E string, whilst barring over on the G, B and high E string.
  • Place your third finger on the fourth fret of the A string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the fourth fret of the D string.

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Chords In The Key Of E – G# Minor

 

For G# Minor we’re going to use the same shape as F# Minor, but instead of the root starting on the second fret of the low E string, we’re going to start on the fourth fret of the low E string instead.

So this means that we simply move the same shape up two frets to get to the fourth fret.

chords in the key of e

Not sure how to read this chord box? Check out this article to learn more about chord boxes: How To Read Guitar Chordboxes

To play the G# Minor Chord you:

  • Place your first finger on the fourth fret of the low E string, whilst barring over on the G, B and high E string.
  • Place your third finger on the sixth fret of the A string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the sixth fret of the D string.

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Chords In The Key Of E – A Major

There are many different variations of the A major chord, we’re going to use a standard open string version.

chords in the key of e

To play this chord you:

  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the D string.
  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the G string.
  • Place your third finger on the second fret of the B string.
  • Strum from the A string.

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There are loads of ways to play the A chord, here’s an article which explains some! 3 Easy Ways To Play The A Chord On Guitar

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Chords In The Key Of E – B Major

There are loads of different ways to play the B Major Chord, however we’re going to play with our root starting on the A string.

chords in the key of e

To play a B Major Chord you:

  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the A string, whilst barring over the high E string.
  • Place your second finger on fourth fret of the D string.
  • Place your third finger on the fourth fret of the G string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the fourth fret of the B string.
  • Strum from the A string.

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This chord can be very tricky, check out this article to make sure you have it down! B Guitar Chord: 4 Essential Tips & Tricks You Need To Know

Chords In The Key Of E – C# Minor

C# is the sixth note in the scale, so this is our sixth chord. This is a great chord and an essential to know when learning the chords in the key of E.

chords in the key of e

Here’s how to play it.

  • Place your first finger on the fourth fret of the A string.
  • Place your third finger on the sixth fret of the D string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the sixth fret of the G string.
  • Place your second finger on the fifth fret of the B string.
  • Strum from the A string!

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Naturally the barre chords we have covered in this article are a lot harder than your standard chords, however if you can crack them you will learn SO much about guitar, and have a completely new world to explore.

Chords In The Key Of E – D# Diminished

This is the final chord in the key of E. Even though it isn’t used very often, it can be really useful to know.

This chord has a lot of tension, so if you decide to use it in a song, use it sparingly!

 

How To Play D# Diminished

We’re going to be playing this chord with our root note on the A string.

chords in the key of e

  • Place your first finger on the sixth fret of the A string.
  • Place your second finger on the seventh fret of the D string.
  • Place your third finger on the seventh fret of the B string.
  • Strum from the A string.

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Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

I made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. I hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

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We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

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