How To Play An E2 Guitar Chord

Chords in the E2 guitar chord family have a distinct sound to them – Let’s get familiar with them!

In this free lesson you will learn…

  • How to play an Eadd9 chord
  • How to play an Esus2 chord
  • How to play an E9 chord
  • The differences & similarities between these three chords
  • How to incorporate them into your playing!

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What Is An E2 Guitar Chord?

The term “E2” is a bit confusing, and could imply one of two chords.

Regardless of which chord it implies, your guitar playing is about to get a lot prettier.

There are some basic differences between an E2 guitar chord and other E chords you may have played before, and it won’t take too much to understand what they are.

E and Em, the “basic” E chords, each have three notes in them:

  • The root or note the chord is named after (in this case, E)
  • The third, which tells your ear whether the chord is major (G# is the major third) or minor (G is the minor third)
  • The fifth, which is a stabilizer note (in this case, B) that gives context to the other two notes.

E

Em

 

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

 

The notes of an E major chord are E, B, E, G#, B, E. The guitar notes of an E minor chord are E, B, E, G, B, E. For such a little difference on the fretboard, that one note difference (G) makes a big difference in the ears!

An E2 guitar chord involves either substituting a note or adding a fourth note.

In the case of E, the 2 (sometimes also called a 9, and you’ll know why soon) is an F#.

As you’ll hear when you play, adding the F# into the mix alters the personality of the chord by adding something you may hear as richness, tension, or dissonance.

That is the important thing to know about the difference between E chords and E2 chords.

e2-guitar-chord

Your First E2 Guitar Chord: Eadd9

The F# is on the second fret of the E string, so to turn an E major chord into an Eadd9, all you have to do is take your pinky and put it on the E string at the second fret.

Eadd9

 

Give it a try. You’ll hear a little extra flag flying at the top of the mast of the E chord, and that is the sound of the add9 element.

You can use an Eadd9 chord to replace an E major chord any time you like, because the Eadd9 does exactly what it says it does: adds a “9” to the E major chord. Whenever you need an E2 guitar chord, you can use this one easily.

e2-guitar-chord

Another Way To Play Eadd9

This alternate voicing of an E2 guitar chord is also an Eadd9 shape. You’ll use all the notes in the E chord and add an F.

For this one however, the F# will be added in the middle of the chord voicing for a different personality.

For a beautiful example of this particular Eadd9 voicing in action, check out Todd Rundgren’s “Cliche” from the 1976 album Faithful.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s worth the effort for the richness you get in the middle of the chord.

Eadd9

 

Now, you may be wondering why the F# is called a 2 as well as a 9.

The voicing we’ve just discussed, with the F# sounding right underneath the G#, could also be called Eadd2. Sometimes people do that to differentiate between the first voicing, where we just plucked the F# on top of the highest E in our chord voicing.

However, because the entire practical purpose of music theory rests on its usefulness in clearly communicating musical concepts (and because practically nobody cares about the difference between 2 and 9), the convention is to call it an add9 instead of an add2.

e2-guitar-chord

Pro-Tip: Don’t hold up your entire guitar career waiting to be able to play that one perfect voicing of that one perfect chord.

Use what you have, and over time, you will develop the ability to play the chord the way you hear it in your head! This is why different chord voicings exist – some are just easier to play than others!

Let’s talk about another one below.

e2-guitar-chord

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E2 Guitar Chord: The Moveable Add9

If neither of these Eadd9 chords are what you had in mind, you can try a moveable shape. This add9 chord  can be played in any key using this shape.

Match the note on the D string with the root of the chord you want to play, and you’ve got yourself an add9 chord!

Eadd9

 

Is There Such A Thing As An Emadd9?

Absolutely!

Adding an F# to an E major chord gets you an Eadd9, so it stands to reason that if you add an F# to an E minor chord, you would get an Emadd9.

“Breathe” by Pink Floyd gives us a beautiful Em to A vamp, and every once and again you’ll hear this E2 guitar chord peek out.

How-to-play-e2

It also stands to reason that the easiest voicing of the Emadd9 that you can make is simply placing an F# on top of the Em chord the same way you placed an F# on top of the E major chord.

Here, then, is the easiest way to play an Emadd9:

Emadd9

 

This voicing matches the sound you hear in “Breathe”, and it is the easiest E2 guitar chord if you’re in the mood for something minor.

  • It sounds similar to the first voicing for Eadd9 that we explored in that the 9 (F#) is floating on top of the chord.
  • An Emadd9 (particularly this voicing) is a nice touch you can add at the end of a song that is in the key of E minor. You can also play it instead of an Em whenever an Em is called for.
  • Using an Emadd9, or any Em chord in place of E major will not draw quite as much applause.
  • Minor and major chords with the same root do not swap out well.

e2-guitar-chord

Alternative Minor E2 Guitar Chord Voicing: Emadd9

Another way to play Emadd9 is similar to the other way to play Eadd9, with the F# in the middle of the chord.

This takes the tension off of the top of the chord and puts it in the middle of your E2 guitar chord.

Here it is in the main chord progression Chris Brown’s “Don’t Check On Me”!

To get that Chris Brown Emadd9 voicing, try this shape.

Emadd9

To see a list of other add9 chords in different keys, click here.

The Other E2 Guitar Chord: Esus2

As we’ve seen, adding a 9 to an E or Em chord gives it a certain kind of richness because of the close proximity of the notes. That’s called close harmony!

The counterpart to close harmony is open harmony, where the notes all have a little more room to breathe. That’s where the Esus2 chord comes in.

  • Esus2, the “other” E2 guitar chord, substitutes the third note of the chord for the second.
  • The notes in an Esus2 chord are E, F#, B. All sus2 chords work this way: root, second, fifth.

Here is one way to play an Esus2:

Esus2

Without the third, you don’t hear as much tension in the chord, but what is there is the F# sitting right on top of the E, on top of the chord.

You can hear this version of Esus2 in the bridge of “Right and Wrong” by Joe Jackson:

For a more subtle way to play the Esus2, try this voicing below:

Esus2

E2 Guitar Chord With A Capo

The guitar is one of the best instruments for adapting chord shapes you know into chords you need.

This process is called transposition: taking a shape and putting it into another position on the fretboard.

Take this Esus2 chord, for example.

Maybe that first shape with the little mini-barre on your first finger is not something that you or your fingers would like to do right now.

There are several ways you can use a capo to find an E2 guitar chord.

C plus four frets is an E, so if you place the capo at the fourth fret and make a Csus2 shape like the one below, you’ve got an Esus2.

Csus2

CAPO 4th FRET

A plus seven frets is E, so if you put your capo at the seventh fret and make an Asus2, you’ll be playing all the notes of Esus2

Asus2

CAPO 7th FRET

Another guitar-friendly sus2 shape is Dsus2.

D plus two frets is E, so if you put the capo at the second fret and make a Dsus2, you’ve got an Esus2.

Dsus2

CAPO 2nd FRET

Pro-Tip: Capo math is so much easier than it looks!

Just remember, to go up one letter of the musical alphabet, you go up two frets, except for between B and C, and between E and F.

B/C and E/F are called natural half-steps, and you can remember your natural half-steps with the phrase “Big Cats Eat Fish.”

To learn more about how to use a capo effectively, click here for a lesson.

easy-way-to-play-e2

Where Does The E2 Guitar Chord Go?

The songs above show you some places where an E2 guitar chord fits nicely into a progression, but there are some general principles about those chords (particularly the Esus2) that will help you understand when to use it.

The Esus2 can replace an E major or an E minor chord. Since the third, the G (minor) or G# (major) is being replaced with the second (F#).

The sus2 is an inherently ambiguous chord, while the add9 is a bit more pointed. They both tend to lead our ear either toward the 4th note, or back to the the third in different ways.

guitar-chord-e2

Sus, by the way, is short for suspended, where suspense is sometimes but not always resolved with the next chord.

A lot of people like to kill time on a chord by alternating with the sus2 chord as well as the sus4 chord. Van Morrison does it often in his music.

Here is Michael Jackson killing time on a chord with the sus2 and sus4 chords.

  • The ambiguity you hear in an Esus2 chord is related to the fact that the three notes in it – E, F#, and B – are sort of a cross between an E chord and a B chord.
  • For that reason, the Esus2 frequently moves to an E major chord or a Bsus4 chord.

e2-guitar-chord

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.

So What’s The Difference Between An Eadd9 And An E9?

There’s a little overlap between an Eadd9 chord and an E9.

When you get to chords that just have the root and then the number 7 or 9, or 11 or 13 (like E9, D13 or C#7), there’s an extra note that they’re not telling you about.

The “add9” means simply that. You’re taking a major or minor chord and adding another note (the 9), which is a whole step up from the root of the chord.

Easy-e2-chord

The E9 secretly adds two notes to the chord, whereas Eadd9 takes the E major chord and adds only the 9.

E9 takes the E major chord and adds the 9 as well as the minor 7, the note that is a whole step down from the root of the chord.

The notes in an E9 chord are E, G#, B, D, and F#.

Here is one of the most commonly used E9 chord shapes:

E9

 

How the Eadd9 and the E9 are generally used makes the biggest difference.

  • Add9 chords are commonly used in pop, folk, and some rock music.
  • Check out this 9 chord at the very beginning of a James Brown song.
  • The 9 chord itself (not the add9 chord) is considered the “James Brown chord.”

Master the shape above – even just the highest three notes – and you’ve got practically his whole catalog down. 9 chords are for blues and funk.

With that, there you have it!

The Eadd9 chord, E9 chord and ESus2 chords all have difference sounds and voicings, but fall under the category of E2 guitar chord because of their unique uses for the second note of the scale.

Not every E2 guitar chord is created equal, but by now you already knew that.

e2-chord-voicing

How To Use Any E2 Guitar Chord

Although you may have come across this article just because you saw some kind of E2 guitar chord in a song you are trying to learn, or you heard it referenced somewhere, it’s a good thing to remember that an E2 guitar chord is really just another way to play an E chord, major or minor.

With that in mind, you can take your E2 guitar chord out for a spin by replacing some E or Em chords with it and seeing what it does to your song.

It is always the most helpful to learn these chords by playing, so the more chances you take to include them in the songs you play, the more quickly you will master them!

Recommended Resources

If you enjoyed learning about the E2 guitar chord set and its variety of applications, you’ll love some of the other lessons we have for you below!

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