The chord of E is one of the most fundamental guitar chords of all. (It’s full name is “E Major” but most people just call it, “E”.) It crops up in most styles of music, but is most widely used in blues and rock music.
In its full form it looks like this:
[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!]
Playing E major on the guitar isn’t super-difficult, this is a medium difficulty chord. It’s straightforward to strum correctly as you simply play all 6 strings. (No need to worry about missing out any strings out here, phew!)
However, beginner guitarists will still find it challenging to play as it requires 3 fingers and in the early days of learning guitar you simply won’t have the accuracy and finger dexterity required to play this chord shape quickly.
With that in mind, let’s look at some easy alternatives.
Easy Ways To Play E
There’s a couple of easy ways to play an E chord. As always, it’s a trade off between simplicity and sound quality. Take your pick from the list below!
The ‘all-things-considered best option’ for beginners: The 2-finger version
For most people (15-years-old and above) the easiest way to play E is like this:
This is the best all round option, offering the strongest balance between playability and sound quality. This chord is E7, a version of E that sounds great and is easier to play than E major because it only requires 2 fingers. All things considered, this is the best version of E to learn if you’re struggling to play a full E.
Note that you must strum all 6 strings for this chord to sound its best.
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The Easiest Option: The 1-finger version of E
This is a super-simple way to play E. It’s ideal for children or adults with small hands. It doesn’t sound great though, so it’s not my number 1 recommendation.
E Major (1-finger version)
As you can see, with this version you should only play strings 1-3. This can leave the chord sounding a little thin, but it’s still an E chord and a great alternative if you can’t manage to play a full E major chord.
The Best Easy Versions Of This Chord
How to play E Major on guitar – other options
A powerful 2-finger version of E is called “E5”. This is a Power Chord and is a great bass-heavy option that’s ideal for rock, heavy blues, punk and metal. It looks like this:
Important – note that with this chord you are only playing strings 4,5 and 6. It is essential that you don’t play any more strings than this, otherwise this chord will no longer be an E5. (It will turn into E minor, and have a very different sound.)
This is one of the best ways to fudge E major on guitar. It sounds similar to E major (because it’s the top half of E major!) but it’s easier to play because the finger shape is simple. (The finger shape is E minor – but we’re only playing strings 4-6, so we don’t hear the ‘minor’ part of the chord, hence, it becomes E5.)
This chord sounds incredibly badass on an electric guitars with a distorted or overdriven channel. It doesn’t sound as good on an acoustic guitar, but it still does the job and works well in blues and roots-based songs.
How to play the E chord on guitar – Some more 1-finger versions of E
These three notes are technically not chords, as they’re just individual notes. They’re very easy to play as they only require 1 finger, but of course they don’t sound very full. Even so, these 3 are good options for children, total beginners, people with learning difficulties and beginner bass players.
Three E notes (highlighted in orange)
So there you have it, several different ways to play the E chord on guitar. I hope you enjoyed this article!
More common E chords
Now let’s look at some versions of E7. (A great chord for blues and rock.)
Here’s a few minor and major sevenths, these will give you more depth.
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.)
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