How to play an Em chord in three simple steps

You’ve been dreaming of a career in rock ‘n’ roll for a long time, but there are two little problems: you don’t have a guitar and even if you had you don’t how to use it. Luckily the first problem is soluble with a summer job and a letter to Santa Claus. The second challenge is a lot harder. But that’s where we come in. Chordify helps you step by step and starts at the basics: the Em chord.

How to play an Em (E minor) chord? As we explained in the blog post about the basic E chord: you start with a well-tuned guitar, followed by reading the chord diagram and using that to get your fingers in the right position on the fretboard. So, let’s start with step one.

Step 1 – Tune your guitar in E

Guitar playing is a centuries-old craft; and throughout history, musicians have experimented with different ways of tuning their instruments. If you can think of it, people have probably tried it out.

How about an open D tuning, something that often occurs in metal. Or an Eb tuning, popular in grunge and rock. Those are cool, but not relevant for the lesson at hand. So, let’s start at the beginning. Tuning your guitar in E. You can use an analog or digital tuner, or a tuning app like KARANG for that.

Step 2 – Study the Em chord diagram

When we talk about an Em we portray it in a chord diagram. This is a picture that shows you the position of your fingers on the fretboard. Take a good look at the picture below. What do you notice?

Four circles lining the top, the number 1 at the top left corner, and in the grid there are two thick dots, each with a number. What you’re actually looking at is a very abstract representation of a part of the neck of the guitar. “But which part?” Good question! That’s indicated by the number in the top left corner: 1 stands for the first fret.

The frets are indicated by the light-grey horizontal lines. The black vertical lines are the strings. From left to right you see: the low E, the A, the D, the G, the B and the high e. The thick dots on the strings indicate the places where you have to position your fingers. The 1 is your index finger and the 2 is your middle finger. The circles at the very top mean that you have to make these open strings sound crispy clear when you strike them.

Step 3 – Play the Em

You know what’s expected of you now. Simple, isn’t it? You put your index finger on the second fret of the A string and your middle finger on the second fret of the D string. And remember, an Em chord can also be played with your middle and ring finger, or even your ring finger and pinky. This depends on your preference or which chord you want to play afterwards.

Whatever fingers your using, press them down well on the strings. Does it hurt? Get used to it. The life of a rocker isn’t always easy. When pressing the strings, make sure you’re not touching other strings by accident. All strings should be free to resonate and produce a clear tone. Strike them all now. And? Sounds good, doesn’t it? Congratulations! Now you know how to play an Em.

Step 4 (bonus) – The Em chord

We promised you an explanation of Em in three simple steps, so if you’re thinking “I’m done,” than feel free to click this blogpost away. If you decide to read on, here’s a brief summary of the music theory behind the Em chord. Don’t be alarmed if you feel a bit out of your depth at the moment, the biggest rockers don’t always get it right either.

The Em is made up of three tones that form the basis of the chord. These tones come from the scale of the Em key. It’s important to know that each basic chord is built on the same principle, namely a combination of the root, the third tone (third), the fifth tone (fifth) and the eighth tone (octave).

Step 5 (bonus) – Em scale

But what does that scale look like now? Well, we saved the best for last. From left to right the scale of Em starts with the root E, followed by the second note F#, the third is a G, the fourth note is an A, followed by a fifth B, the sixth note is the C, the seventh note of the ladder is a D, and the last note is the octave e.

“Huh, how is it possible that the octave is the same tone as the root?” Good thinking. If you go up eight tones in any major or minor scale, you will indeed end up with the same tone only one octave higher. This tone is needed in a chord to give the root strength. The fifth note provides the harmony and the third indicates whether a chord is major or minor.

Step 6 (bonus) – Difference between E and Em

If you look closely, you can see that the difference between an E and an Em is only one finger, namely the position on the G string. When you’re playing an E chord you’ll find the third on the first fret of the G string (G#). The difference with the Em is that the third is a G. And yes this happens to be an open string. So you don’t have to press anything on the fretboard. But remember that the third is still there.

Enough theory for now! Pull out your guitar and start jamming with this new knowledge. Here is a list with tracks in Em. Not doing so well in the beginning? Then read this blog post about motivating yourself. Do you have pain in your fingers? Check out these five tips to counteract this. Enjoy and happy jamming!

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