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How to Play an E Major Chord in the Guitar

By Jon Chappell

The backbone of guitar playing is the basic chord, and learning how to play an E major chord is a great place to start. A chord is defined as the simultaneous sounding of three or more notes of different-named pitches. You can’t, however, just play any group of notes, like all six open strings — the notes must form a musically meaningful arrangement. To a guitarist, that means learning chord forms.

To play the E chord, follow these steps:

1Place your first finger (index) on the third string, first fret.

Try not to put any pressure on the strings that you skipped over.

2Place your second finger on the fifth string, second fret.

Here, you have to skip over the fourth string. Be careful not to touch the fourth string as you reach over it.

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3Put your third finger on the fourth string, second fret.

You may have to wriggle your third finger to get it between the first and second fingers, but try not to grip the guitar too tightly; you want to relax your fingers so you can add fingers as needed.

4Press down firmly on all three fretted strings.

Make sure to keep your knuckles curved, with none of the fretted fingers covering the open strings — especially the first and second strings, which must ring out to help the E chord sound in all its resplendent, six-string glory.

5Strum all six strings at once with a smooth and firm motion, but don’t strum too forcefully.

You can play chords in three basic ways: strumming, plucking, and smacking the strings. When you play the strings with your right hand, position your hand over the soundhole (if you’re playing acoustic) or over the pickups (if you’re playing electric).