Seventh chords are a great way to breathe some life and character into an otherwise dull-sounding chord progression! Used across hits like, “The Beatles – Something”, “Metallica – Nothing Else Matters”, and even “The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. In fact, the Emaj7 chord in particular is an excellent segway into more difficult seventh chords out there! Whether you have the desire to learn how the Emaj7 chord is played, or how it functions, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!
How to Play the Emaj7 Chord
This very tense, and elegant-sounding chord comes in a number of variations. You may decide on one variation over another whether it comes down to your playing ability, how it flows within a chord progression, its tonal characteristics, or just personal preference! You can’t go wrong!
Without further ado, let’s go over how to play the Emaj7 chord and a few of its variations.
Chord chart of the Emaj7 chord played from the open note position.
For our first variation, we’ll be playing the Emaj7 chord from the open note position. Generally, when there are no numbers to the left of the chord chart, as well as a number of open notes within the chord, we say it’s played from the open note position.
To begin forming the Emaj7 chord, we’ll need to form a “partial barre” over the first fret of the D and G strings. To form a partial barre, take your index finger (1), drape it over the D and G strings, and apply pressure. Next, take your middle finger (2), and place it on the second fret of the A string.
You’ll notice that above the fretboard, we have an “O” symbol over the low E, B, and high E strings; this indicates you’re to play an open note over these strings (a string to be played, but not fretted). Now that you’ve achieved the proper chord shape, give the guitar a nice strum! You have successfully formed the first variation of the Emaj7 chord.
Chord chart of an advanced Emaj7 chord variation played from the open note position.
For our second variation, we’ll be yet again playing from the open-note position. However, this variation is slightly more difficult.
To begin, we’ll need to form another partial barre over the fourth fret of the high E, B, and G strings. To achieve this partial barre, however, we’ll be using our ring finger (3), draping it over the high E, B, and G strings, and applying pressure. This might feel slightly awkward at first. Next, we’ll be taking our middle finger (2), and placing it on the second fret of the D string. Finally, with our index finger (1), we’ll place it on the second fret of the A string; the low E string remains open. Feel free to give the guitar a nice strum; we have our second variation complete.
Chord chart of the Emaj7 chord played from the fourth fret.
For our third variation, we’ll be starting on the fourth fret of the guitar. We can tell that it’s the fourth fret, because of the number “4” marked to the left of the chord chart. Typically this is done to simplify the chord chart, so we don’t need to see the entire fretboard.
Taking your index finger (1), we’ll form a partial barre on the fourth fret, covering the high E, B, and G strings. Next, we’ll take our middle finger (2), and place it on the fifth fret of the B string. Now, we’ll have to take our pinky finger (4) and place it over top of the sixth fret of the D string. Finally, with our ring finger (3), we’ll place it over the sixth fret of the A string; the low E string remains open.
You’ve successfully formed the third variation.
Chord chart of the Emaj7 chord played from the sixth fret.
The awkward-looking fourth variation you see above begins on the sixth fret of the guitar. To begin forming the variation, we’ll need to take our middle finger (2), and place it over top of the seventh fret of the high E string. Next, we’ll be skipping the B string, leaving it open, and moving to our G string. With our ring finger (3), we’ll place it on the eighth fret of the G string. Lastly, we’ll be forming a partial barre, with our index finger (1), on the sixth fret of the A, and D strings; we’ll leave the low E string open. Give the guitar a nice strum; we’ve successfully formed our fourth variation!
Chord chart of the Emaj7 chord played from the seventh fret.
For our fifth and final variation, we’ll be starting on the seventh fret of the guitar. Using our index finger (1), we’ll form a barre, covering the A, D, G, B, and high E strings of the seventh fret. This barre will likely feel uncomfortable at first, as it’s bigger than the partial barres we formed earlier. Next, taking our pinky finger (4), we’ll be positioning it over the ninth fret of the B string. With our middle finger (2), we’ll place it over top of the eighth fret of the G string. Finally, the ring finger (3) will go over the top of the ninth fret of the D string; we’ll leave the low E string open. Give the guitar a nice strum, and that’ll do it for our final variation!
There are many other variations you can try, especially if the ones covered here aren’t cutting it for you. With the guitar there are many possibilities, go out and explore them!
Where Seventh Chords Are Used
There are many artists who incorporate seventh chords into their songs, however, you’ll come to find that they’re most common in the realms of Jazz, and Blues music. Of course, there are many other genres, such as hip-hop, for instance, that use these chords when searching for a similar aesthetic.
So what exactly is a seventh chord, you might ask?
To sum it up, a seventh chord contains your standard triad of notes, with an interval of a 7th from the tonic on top, giving us a four-note chord. If this confuses you, don’t worry, we’ll explain this in more detail as you read on.
Building a Seventh Chord
When building a seventh chord, our Emaj7 chord, in particular, we need to take three important fundamentals that form the basis around our chord; our key, scale, and triad. Let’s go through each in a little more depth.
It only makes sense that we start with the key, as this defines the musical pitches associated with our chord – no different than what you’d find in a scale! Every key contains its own key signature, visually represented by a collection of sharps, and flats seen after the clef on a piece of sheet music. Notes that are marked sharp are raised by a semitone, while notes that are marked flat are lowered by a semitone. If you have trouble identifying the key signature of a corresponding key, then it can help to consult the circle of fifths for the answer!
However, to cut out the middleman, we’ll reveal that the key signature of E Major contains 4 sharps, which are F#, C#, G#, and D#. With this information, we can piece together our E Major scale:
E > F# > G# > A > B > C# > D# > E
Our Major scales will always follow a specific pattern of tones (T) and semitones (S) to give them their cheerful tone. The sequence appears as follows:
T > T > S > T > T > T > S
It’s important to note that every note within a scale plays an important role. These individual notes are otherwise known as our scale degrees. Each degree contains its own unique name, which helps musicians refer to them easily. Within the E Major scale, here are the various scale degrees:
E = Tonic (1st Degree)
F# = Supertonic (2nd Degree)
G# = Mediant (3rd Degree)
A = Subdominant (4th Degree)
B = Dominant (5th Degree)
C# = Submediant (6th Degree)
D# = Leading Tone (7th Degree)
E = Tonic (1st Degree/Octave)
A triad is a type of chord, containing three notes, played simultaneously. To form a Major triad, we need to take the tonic, mediant, and dominant degrees (1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees of our Major scale) and stack them on top of each other. This gives us the notes: E, G#, and B. These are the notes that form the E Major chord.
If we want to transform our E Major chord into an E Major 7th chord, then we stack the Leading Tone of our Major scale on top. This gives us the notes E, G#, B, and D# for our Emaj7 chord.
Building a Chord Progression
To find chords compatible with the key of E Major, we’ll need to stack triads on every degree of the E Major scale:
E Major = E, G#, B (Tonic/1st Degree)
F# minor = F#, A, C# (Supertonic/2nd Degree)
G# minor = G#, B, D# (Mediant/3rd Degree)
A Major = A, C#, E (Subdominant/4th Degree)
B Major = B, D#, F# (Dominant/5th Degree)
C# minor = C#, E, G# (Submediant/6th Degree)
D# diminished = D#, F#, A (Leading Tone/7th Degree)
Let’s break down our different degrees:
- Tonic – Root note/home (E Major), things tend to resolve here.
- Supertonic – Predominant degree, good for adding a level of tension. F#m shares two notes with Amaj
- Mediant – Draws the tonic out further. G#m shares two notes with Emaj.
- Subdominant – Builds mild tension.
- Dominant – Builds greater tension, typically the climax, which resolves home to tonic.
- Submediant – Acts as a predominant degree. C#m shares two notes with Emaj and Amaj.
- Leading Tone – Big tension builder. D#dim has no notes in common with Emaj.
Here are a couple of commonly used chord progressions:
The I – IV – V chord progression is probably the most common three-chord progression out there. Popular songs like “Ozzy Osbourne’s – Crazy Train”, “Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ – I Love Rock n’ Roll”, and even “The Beatles’ – Twist and Shout” all follow this I – IV – V progression. In the key of E Major, this chord progression involves the use of E Major, A Major, and B Major chords. Songs like, “Johnny Cash’s – Folsom Prison Blues”, “Eric Carmen’s – Hungry Eyes”, and even “The Cranberries’ – Dreams” follow this exact progression.
The next fairly common one is a four-chord progression containing the degrees: I – V -vi – IV. Within the confines of E major, this gives us the sequence of chords: E Major, B Major, C# minor, and A Major. Some popular songs following this exact progression include “The All-American Rejects’ – Move Along”, “Aerosmith’s – Chip Away The Stone”, and “Ramones’ – California Sun”.
When trying to incorporate seventh chords into your existing chord progression, a common area they may be used is when approaching the tonic/in the area of greatest tension. Degrees like our Dominant, and Leading Tone are common areas for these chords to be slid in. After which, things resolve home to the tonic, to feel calm once more. Lesser common degrees to insert seventh chords are the supertonic, and subdominant degrees. Even lesser than these are the remaining degrees, such as our tonic, mediant, and submediant.
Practicing With Chords
There are a number of ways you can choose to practice chords, all of which can enhance your finger strength and muscle memory. For instance, when starting out with chords, you may opt for something simple, and practice some generically easy ones, such as Em, C, G, Am, D, E… etc. In this case, it’s good to devote at least anywhere from 5 – 10 minutes of practice a day.
However, if you’d like to take it up a notch, there are some other methods that can help! The first method involves the triads we had gone over earlier and uses what’s known as inversions. Inversions involve taking our triad, and flipping it on its head, giving us a different note at the bottom. This isn’t to be confused with chord variations, where it takes the core notes of the chord, rearranges them, and even plays some enharmonically (depending on the variation).
Our E Major triad comes in three forms:
- Root Position – E, G#, B
- 1st Inversion – G#, B, E
- 2nd Inversion – B, E, G#
In the case of an E Major 7th chord, we’d actually have 3 Inversions:
- Root Position – E, G#, B, D#
- 1st Inversion – G#, B, D#, E
- 2nd Inversion – B, D#, E, G#
- 3rd Inversion – D#, E, G#, B
Of course, you would continue to add a 4th inversion for your ninth chords, a 5th inversion for your eleventh chords, and so on. However, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on the triads.
There are a few ways you might choose to work with triads on the guitar. For instance, you might use the same three strings on the guitar, running up the neck with different inversions, and playing the notes separately. You may even choose to outright play the triad as a chord, strumming your way up. If you wish to improve finger dexterity, you might even choose to connect triads together as you run up through all six of the strings (start on the low E, A, and D strings, then transition to the A, D, and G strings, then D, G, B, and finally the G, B, high E strings, the descend). Inversions can be fun!
You might even choose to learn more about the fretboard as a whole, in which case, the CAGED System is a great method for that. The general idea is seeing how chord shapes relate to one another, as you move up the neck; with CAGED being an acronym for the five chord shapes. For example, the C chord shape leads into the A shape, leads into the G shape, and so on, until you’re an octave higher from where you began!
Another great tool you should consider when practicing is a metronome. Whether you’re practicing inversions, scales, or strumming patterns, a metronome will help give you a sense of timing. It’s always good to start slow when first incorporating a metronome into your practice routine because the idea is you want to make sure you can nail every note. If you can’t play it slowly, how can you play it quickly?
Generally, it’s good for beginners to start anywhere from 40 – 60 BPM (Beats Per Minute). It should be nice and slow enough, however, decrease it if you feel it’s necessary. Set yourself some reasonable goals, for example, playing a scale 10 times without messing up. Then it’s up to you, to determine what a “mess up” would be, whether that’s incorrect timing, a wrong note, a buzzing string…etc. Remember not to be too hard on yourself if you’re just starting out.
When you feel comfortable enough with what you’re playing, feel free to bump it up anywhere between 1 – 3 BPM at a time. It’s not typically recommended to boost the BPM too much, as you don’t want to develop sloppy playing techniques or habits.
Other E Chords
We’ve covered a lot about the Emaj7 chord, however, there are many other E chords out there you might like to consider trying next:
- E Major – A fairly easy chord, requiring just one more finger than our E minor chord. Place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the A string, and your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the D string. Finally, place your index finger on the 1st fret of the G string. Play the rest of the strings open.
- E minor – A classic chord that many beginners choose to start with, only requiring you to use 2 fingers. The index finger goes on the 2nd fret of the A string, and the middle finger goes on the 2nd fret of the D string. The rest of the strings are played open.
- E5 – From the open note position, this chord is a little awkward, but fairly simple, nonetheless. Getting the generic E minor chord, index finger on the 2nd fret of the A string, and the middle finger on the 2nd fret of the D string. Next, we’ll be placing our ring finger on the 4th fret of the G string. The rest of the notes are played open.
- Emin7 – In its simplest state, this chord is a little boring, requiring one finger, therefore we’ll spice it up by forming a partial barre with our index finger on the 2nd fret of the A and D strings. Next, we’ll place our middle finger on the third fret of the B string. Play the rest of the notes open.
- E7 – Otherwise known as the E dominant 7th chord (Edom7). We’ll start by placing our middle finger on the 2nd fret of the A string. Lastly, the index finger will go on the 1st fret of the G string. The rest of the notes can be played open.
- Esus2 – To start the E suspended 2nd chord, we’ll place our index finger on the 2nd fret of the D string. Next, we’ll place our ring finger on the 4th fret of the G string. We’ll skip over the B string, leaving it open. Lastly, we’ll place our middle finger over the 2nd fret of the high E string. The low E and A strings are muted.
- Esus4 – To form our E suspended 4th chord, let’s form a partial barre, using our index finger over the A, D, and G strings. The rest of the notes remain open.
We’ve covered a lot about the Emaj7 chord, and all of the neat things you can do with it. The really cool thing is this can be applied to other chords you wish to learn in the future, why does it have to stop here? How do you intend to use the Emaj7 chord? What other chords are on your list? Whatever you decide, keep on rockin’!