What to Know About the E Minor Chord
If you want to play Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles, you’re going to need to know the e minor chord. If you want to master the e minor chord, you’re going to need to know all about it.
What notes make up the e minor chord? Where can you find it on the keyboard of a piano? When would you use it?
The E Minor Scale
Every scale has 7 different pitches and the e minor scale is no different. For the e minor natural scale, these pitches are E, F#, G, A, B, C, and D.
If you know anything about minor scales, you know that there are actually three types . The natural, the harmonic, and the melodic. These scales change the feel of the music by raising (or lowering) pitches at the end of the scale by half a step.
You don’t have to worry about these changing pitches when you’re working on the e minor chord. They apply to the 6th and 7th notes, depending on the variant scale you’re using, and don’t affect the e minor chord.
The E Minor Chord
The e minor chord is made up of a triad. What is a triad? That’s a fancy name for 3 pitches or a chord.
But which notes do you use?
To create the chord, you’ll use the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes. In this case, that would be E, G, and B.
The E Minor Seventh
To add a different effect, you can build on the basic e minor chord and create an e minor seventh chord. You can do this simply by adding the 7th note in the scale to the chord. In this case, that would be D.
Thus, the notes for the e minor seventh chord are E, G, B, and D.
Where to Find It on the Keyboard
You’re probably already familiar with the keys on the keyboard. C is the leftmost key in the grouping of three white keys. From there, the white keys advance in alphabetical order to the right until you get to C again.
The black keys provide sharps and flats. But since the e minor chord doesn’t have any, you won’t have to worry about those.
You’ll find E two white keys to the right of C. Move over two more and there’s G. To complete the chord with B, just move over two more from G.
If you want to create the seventh chord, you simply have to add D. You’ll find it two white keys to the right of B.
That wasn’t too complicated, was it?
The e minor chord makes a lovely sound. But if you always play it the same way it can get a little boring. That’s why composers use inversions to change things up a bit.
An inversion involves playing the same notes, but mixing up the order. Thus, it is still the same chord but sounds slightly different.
For example, instead of starting on E, try starting on G. Play G, B, E and you’ll notice that the sound has a slightly more open quality to it. This is 1st inversion.
To play 2nd inversion, you simply start on B and play B, E, G. Try playing around with the inversions and listen to the difference they make.
You can further spice it up by using both hands and adding octaves and fourths. For example, try playing a 1st inversion e minor chord in the right accompanied by an octave on E in the left. Or do a 2nd inversion in the left and play just B and E in the right. Feel free to experiment and see what sounds you like best!
You don’t want to be stuck on the same chord all the time so it’s good to learn the common chord progressions. The e minor natural scale chords are as follows:
- i – e minor (E, G, B)
- ii – F# diminished (F#, A, C)
- III – G Major (G, B, D)
- iv – a minor (A, C, E)
- v – b minor (B, D, F#)
- VI – C Major (C, E, G)
- VII – D Major (D, F#, A)
Just as the e minor chord has a seventh version where you add the seventh note on the top, each of these does as well. The seventh chords are:
- i – e minor seventh (E, G, B, D)
- ii – F# minor seventh flat five (F#, A, C, E)
- III – G Major seventh (G, B, D, F#)
- iv – a minor seventh (A, C, E, G)
- v – b minor seventh (B, D, F#, A)
- VI – C Major seventh (C, E, G, B)
- VII – D Major seventh (D, F#, A, C)
Thus, to play common chord progressions you can play these:
- i, VI, VII (Em, C, D)
- i, iv, VII (Em, Am, D)
- i, iv, v (Em, Am, Bm)
- i, VI, III, VII (Em, C, G, D)
- ii, v, i (F#mdim, Bm, Em)
Have fun playing around with different progressions and listening to how they sound!
When to Use E Minor
Now you know how to form an e minor chord and where to find it on the keyboard. How do you know when to use it?
The most obvious way is when your sheet music tells you to. But why did the composer choose to use e minor chords and the e minor key?
Because of how it sounds and the emotion the composer is trying to convey.
Minor keys tend to sound a little sad, melancholic, full of longing, or outright depressing. E minor is sad, without being overwhelming .
Composers use it when they want to convey innocent naivety or a bit of lament. This key isn’t as dark or depressing as some minor keys, but rather expresses a touch of sadness with a hint of hope.
The corresponding Major key to e minor is C, which is the key associated with pure happiness and innocence. Thus, e minor carries with it the sense of tears that will soon be wiped away.
Major Works in E Minor
You’re probably wondering now what songs you know that are written in the key of e minor and use e minor chords. Hearing the description in words is beautiful, so what does the music sound like?
Chances are, you’ve heard it and don’t even know it. There are several classic Christmas carols that come in the key of e minor.
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- What Child is This?
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Other classical works include:
- Beethoven’s Sonata No. 27 in E Minor Op. 90
- Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor Op. 28 No. 4
- Brahm’s Theme from Symphony No. 4
- Bach’s Bach Six Little Prelude no3. BWV941
- Clementi’s Sonatina op.36 No. 2 1st mvt
- Rameau Le Rappel des Oiseaux
As you can see, big name composers have used the e minor key and chord. And this is only a sampling of what is available. We encourage you to check out and enjoy more music that has been written in this beautiful key. And then, sit down and start playing it.
Practicing the E Minor Chord
Now that you know all about the e minor chord it’s time to start using it. This chord is the building block for some hauntingly sweet, beautiful songs.
Learning to use this chord on your chosen instrument will open up a whole new musical world for you. Start with some classics that use the e minor chord to help develop your ear and train your fingers. In no time, you can start creating your own beautiful melodies that use this chord as a base.