An Introduction to E Major Chords

Are you a fan of The Graduate [1]? Is “Mrs. Robinson” your jam? What if we said you could learn to play it?

You just have to start by learning E major, which “Mrs. Robinson” is set in [2].

Here, we’re going to be talking about E major chords, how they’re different from the E major scale, and how to play the chords. And here for D major chords and F major chords.

E Major Scale vs. E Major Chords

It’s easy to confuse the E major scale and the E major chords, but it’s simpler than you realize.

In basic terms, the E major scale is what the E major chords are built from. So, let’s talk about a few basics of the E major scale.

The notes of the E major scale are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, and D#.

This is important because each of these notes is a root note for each chord in E, and the chords are limited to these seven notes. Like we said, chords are built from scales.

The Basics of Chords

With that in mind, let’s talk about chords.

Scales contain notes that are played individually. By contrast, chords consist of three or more notes that are played simultaneously. These groupings are useful because each grouping contains notes that always sound good when played together.

Among chords, there are triads, which is a three-note chord whose notes can be arranged into thirds [3].

Triads

With that in mind, let’s take a moment to explore triads before we dive into the specifics of E major chords and triad chords.

To figure out if a chord is a triad, you start by arranging notes into a circle of thirds. Pitch classes of a triad will always sit next to each other.

Now, triads are identified and labeled by their roots and quality. If you have a circle of thirds, you’ll find the root of the chord by identifying the pitch with the lowest class of the three.

If you want to find the quality, you identify the interval between the root and other notes in the chord. There are four qualities of triads in major and minor scales: major, minor, diminished and augmented.

Understanding Chords in E Major

With all of that in mind, let’s talk about the chords in E major. If you’re new to piano music or chords in general, don’t be intimidated by the number of chords–it’s simpler than you might think at first glance.

Root Position

As we said, the notes of the E major scale are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#. All chords for this scale are based in these notes and can only contain combinations of these notes.

So, the chords in the E major scale are:

  • I: E major, E major seventh (Emaj, Emaj7)
  • ii: F sharp minor, F# minor seventh (F#m, F#m7)
  • iii: G sharp minor, G# minor seventh (G#m, G#m7)
  • IV: A major, A major seventh (A, Amaj 7)
  • V: B major, B dominant seventh (B, B7)
  • vi: C sharp minor, C# minor seventh (C#m, C#m7)
  • vii: D# diminished, D# minor seventh flat five (D#, D#m7b5)

Roman numerals for major chords are capitalized and Roman numerals for minor chords are lowercase.

If you have no idea what those bullet points mean, here are the chords in plain English:

  • E major: E, G#, B
  • E major 7th: E, G#, B, D#
  • F# minor: F#, A, C#
  • F# minor 7th: F#, A, C#, E
  • G# minor: G#, B, C#
  • G# minor 7th: G#, B, C#, F#
  • A major: A, C#, E
  • A major 7th: A, C#, E, G#
  • B major: B, D#, F#
  • B dominant 7th: B, D#, F#, A
  • C# minor: C#, E, G#
  • C# minor 7th: C#, E, G#, A
  • D# diminished: D#, F#, A
  • D# minor 7th flat five: D#, F#, A, C#

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that all of these chords have a pattern that’s pretty straightforward to follow if you’re looking at a keyboard.

Inversions

Now, if you’re focusing on the E major chord (E, G#, B) there’s a whole lot you can do with just three little notes.

Start by looking at a keyboard. You’ll notice that G# (the black key to the right of G) is two tones/keys to the right of E, while B is one and a half tones/keys away from G.

So, the root position of the E major chord is E, G#, B. From here, the first inversion is G#, B, E, and the second inversion is B, E, G#. Regardless of where you play the chord or whether you play a root or inversion, all three notes are played simultaneously.

Fingering

With that in mind, let’s talk about fingering.

On the right hand, if you start with the root position (E, G#, B), then your first finger/thumb will be placed on E, your third/middle finger will be placed on G#, and your fifth/pinky finger will be placed on B.

When you use the right hand, you can read the root and inversions from right to left and understand how you’re going to place your fingers in the chord.

If you play with the left hand, all you have to do is reverse the order. Or, read from left to right, since your first finger/thumb on your left hand is on the right and your fifth/pinky finger is on the left.

So, on your left hand, your first finger/thumb plays B, your third/middle finger plays G#, and your fifth/pinky finger plays E. This can all be shifted through the two inversions as well.

Making Sense of the Whole Keyboard

Now that you understand the E major chord, are you ready to start playing?

If you want more ideas for where to begin on the piano, or if you want to learn more about scales and chords, check out our site for all kinds of information from guides like this one to piano reviews and more.

Stephanie Su
 

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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