5 Ways to Play the E chord on Guitar

Published Categorized as Chords
e major 4th variation

Below are 5 different ways to play the E chord on guitar.

Once you’ve mastered some of the basic chords on guitar it’s a great idea to learn different chords – like 7th chords, sus4 chords etc.

But there’s another way you can expand your repertoire and that’s by learning how to play the same chords but in different ways, in different positions on the fingerboard.

For clarification, when I say E, I mean E major.

The first 2 variations below are quite common and you probably already know them. The other 3 you may or may not know how to play. They will give you options to play this chord in a less common way, which can add color and variation to songs you play or write.

Table of Contents

E Chord Variation 1: Open E

This is the most used and most known of all the E chords (with variation 2 a close second).

This is played by:

  1. Placing your 1st finger (index finger) in the 1st fret of the G string
  2. Placing your 2nd finger (middle finger) in the 2nd fret of the A string
  3. Placing your 3rd finger (ring finger) in the 2nd fret of the D string

All strings are strummed when playing this as a strummed chord.

Some people play this using their 2nd, 3rd & 4th fingers instead but this is the most common way and it can allow freedom for your 4th finger (pinky) to do other things with the chord.

E Major Chord

E Chord Variation 2: Barre E

The Barre E chord is played by barring the 7th fret and creating the open A shape in the 9th fret. All the strings except for the Low E are strummed when strumming this chord.

This way of playing E is also very common.

E barre chord variation 2

If you aren’t sure about how to play barre chords check out the link below.

>>How to Play Major Barre Chords on Guitar

How you create the A shape is up to you. Personally, I find it difficult to fit all 3 of my fingers into the 9th fret so I make that A shape by barring the D, G, & B strings in the 9th fret with my 3rd finger (ring finger).

Alternatively, you can play this by barring the 12 fret and making an open E shape in the 13th and 14th frets. This is essentially the same chord but it can be difficult to get your fingers in the right place if you don’t have a cutaway on your guitar.

E Chord Variation 3: Beyond the 12th Fret

The 3rd variation is a simple addition to standard open E chord and can add color and sometimes might be more suited to a piece of music or offer a nice alternative. Or if you are jamming it can be a good one to play if you don’t want to move back to the first fret.

Here’s the third variation.

  1. Place your 1st finger on the 13th fret on the G string
  2. Place your 2nd finger on the 14th fret on the A string
  3. Place your 3rd finger on the 14th fret on the D string
  4. Strum all the strings
E Chord 3rd variation

it’s that easy but it has a very different character to the standard open E. This is essentially playing the same shape but starting in the 13th fret instead of the 1st fret.

You can add other variations to this variation by playing the E shape with your 2nd, 3rd & 4th fingers and using your first finger in either the 12th fret of the Low E or the 12th fret of the high E string. Though I personally don’t find it that comfortable playing this chord with my 1st finger on the high E 12th fret, but everyone is different.

E Chord Variation 4: Mid Fingerboard

This a good mid fingerboard option. And there are a couple of different variations within this variation.

  1. Barre first finger across the G, B and high E strings in the 4th fret
  2. Place the 2nd finger in the 5th fret on the B string
  3. Place the 3rd finger in the 6th fret on the D string
  4. Place the 4th finger in the 7th fret on the A string
e major 4th variation

You can either strum this (not playing the Low E) or miss out the D string and pluck the A string with your thumb and pluck the G, B and E strings with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers of your right hand (or left hand if left handed).

Or you could strum it and include the Low E string.

To add a different flavor you could also play this with an open Low E and open High E. This would be played.

  1. 1st finger in 4th fret G string
  2. 2nd finger in 5th fret B string
  3. 3rd finger in 6th fret D string
  4. 4th finger in 7th fret A string

You could either play this by strumming all the strings or by just using the high E or just the Low E, or even leaving out both the high and low Es.

E Chord Variation 5: Between Variation 3 & 4

Finally let’s take a look at an E that’s in between the 3rd and 4th variation above – in terms of location on the fingerboard.

  1. Place 1st finger in 6th fret on D string
  2. Place 2nd finger in 7th fret on A string
  3. Place 3rd finger in 7th fret on High E string
  4. Place 4th finger in 9th fret on G string
e major 5th variation

If strumming, you can strum all the strings or leave out the Low E.

Alternatively, you can:

  1. Place 1st finger in 6th fret on D string
  2. Place 2nd finger in 7th fret on A string
  3. Place 4th finger in 9th fret on G string

And play the high E open.

Thanks for Reading

I hope this post has given you some new options for playing the E major chord. Are there any other ways that you like to play E.

If there are any other ways you like to play it, feel free to leave a comment below.

Meanwhile, here are some chords you can try:

FAQs E Barre Chord

How do you play an E-barre chord?

The E open chord shape is likely one of the first you learned when you originally picked up the guitar – it is such a central open chord shape. Of course, this is not the only way to play an E chord, as you have no doubt already surmised. The next easiest way to play an E chord is to use the A barre shape. A barre chord works much like a capo, though instead of using an actual tool for the purpose, you instead use the length of your index finger to momentarily modify the pitch and temperament of the guitar’s root notes. In this way and exactly as you would with a capo, you can play an open A chord shape 7 frets up to play an E chord.

How do you play an E chord on a 7th fret?

Though this might initially sound a little oblique, the answer is actually a lot simpler than you might think. Much as you would use a capo to play a song in open chords beyond your comprehension, you can also use your finger for this purpose, to momentarily change the pitch and tuning of a guitar. These are known as barre chords and can be used in a variety of different ways. One, for example, allows you to play an E chord on the 7th fret by using an open A shape that has been transposed up 7 frets.

How do you finger an E chord?

Though there are plenty of different ways to play each different chord, the easiest way to play an E chord will be to simply learn how to play the open E chord. This chord will use the open low E string as its root note and will then involve you placing your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the A string, your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the D string, and then your index finger on the 1st fret of the G string, allowing the rest of the strings to ring out and open.

Are barre chords hard?

This will depend on your ability with the guitar. Sure, they might be more difficult than open chords, but in terms of later stages of guitar development, barre chords are really rather easy. Some people struggle to understand them conceptually when really they are just a glorified way of using a capo. Some people, instead, struggle to implement them physically – after all, they do require a bit of stretching for those with smaller hands.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

1 comment

  1. Hi!

    In your photo above you have an E major chord. What would the chord be called if it was just the 1st finger was played and not the other two? Thanks for your time :)

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