The E chord on the guitar

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How to play the open position E chord and CAGED E shape

We’re building all CAGED chord shapes in this series of videos. We’ve looked at the C chord, the A chord, and the G chord, and now we’re looking at the E chord.

This is one of the most common chords around. As it’s so easy to play (the finger placement is obvious), you should quickly move on and look at the intervals.

These are the intervals in an E chord: Root, 5th, root, 3rd, 5th, and root.

The next step is to turn it into a barre chord or as I prefer to say; an E shape. Looks like this in a Chordacus image.

E chord and E chord shape.
Open position E chord/shape

E chord extensions

It’s a bit big, so when we start extending it we get rid of strings. Here are all possible extensions for an E chord shape. Experiment with finding all of these chords by focusing on the intervals in this order (low string to high).

  • E major chord (root, 5th, root, 3rd, 5th, root)
  • Eadd9 (root, 5, 9, 3)
  • Esus4 (root, 5, root, 4, 5, root)
  • E7sus4 (root, 5, b7, 4, 5, root)
  • E6 (root, root, 3, 6)
  • E13 (root, b7, 3, 6)
  • E7#5 (root, b7, 3, #5)
  • Emaj7 (root, 3, 5, 7)
  • Emaj7 (root, 7, 3, 5)
  • E7 (root, 5, b7, 3, b7, root)
  • Emaj9 (root, 3, 5, 7, 9)
  • E9 (b7, 9, 5, root)

As interesting as extending all E chord shapes may be, you need song examples for all this to make musical sense!

Roxanne is probably the best song to look at for playing the sus4 and 7sus4 in an E shape.

In Whistle For The Choir, we play an open-position E as we play the song in the original key. When we change the key to A to play with a female singer, we play it as an E-shaped A chord.

My favourite E-shaped 13-chord example is an instrumental song by Billy Cobham called Red Baron. It goes G13C9.

For 6 chords in an E shape, there are plenty of examples in the intermediate electric course, Son Of A Preacher Man is probably the best one.

Building scales and arpeggios around the E chord/shape

We can turn the E-shaped chord into a maj7 arpeggio, a dom7 arpeggio, a Major Pentatonic, Ionian (the major scale), Lydian, and Mixolydian.

Below are all the intervals used to build these arpeggios and scales around the E-shaped chord.

If you can see all the intervals around the chord shape, you can play all these arpeggios and scales.

If you look at the other CAGED chords you’ll see this very same diagram. That’s because the intervals to build these arpeggios and modes are always the same, it’s the layout around the CAGED chord shapes that change.

All possible major arpeggio and scale intervals using the CAGED system

The E Chord | Related Pages

Guitar chords

Learn about all open position chords and the CAGED system.

You can learn how to build all minor and major guitar chords using the so-called CAGED system.

This is the foundation upon which we learn to extend chords and build arpeggios and modes as well.

The Em chord

Open position Em chord, barre chord shape and extensions.

The easiest to understand and fret of all minor chords is the Em chord.

Once turned into a barre chord shape, we can see how the solution to understanding the fretboard when it comes to chords and scales simply lies within calling it an Em shape, not position 1.

Beginner Acoustic

There are E chords among the Beginner Acoustic Songs.

This collection of beginner acoustic tunes will teach you how to arrange for one acoustic guitar, as well as how to create a supporting part.

Playing songs will help you with switching between open-position chords and give you the context you need to understand how music works theoretically.

About me | Dan Lundholm

Dan Lundholm wrote this guitar lesson about the E chord and CAGED chord shape.

This was a guitar lesson about the E chord and CAGED chord shape, by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and learn guitar with Spytunes.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.


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