Basics of the E Form on the Guitar

On the guitar, like the A form, the E form is a standard barre chord shape. You use it to form major chords for notes along the 6th string, as shown here. You can form it into some unique chord voicings, especially when you use the extra note found in its arpeggio pattern.

[Credit: Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna]
Credit: Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna

Here, you add only one note to the E form shape to complete the arpeggio pattern: a 3rd interval on the 5th string. Play it as a scale.

[Credit: Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna]
Credit: Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna

Here, you play some of the E form chord voicings heard in popular music.

[Credit: Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna]
Credit: Illustration courtesy of Desi Serna
  • A is a common F chord that guitarists usually learn together with basic open chords. You can always play a full E form barre chord partially like this, and you can still visually track the root on the 6th string when you do.

  • B is similar to the preceding F shape, but it’s reduced even further to include only the first three strings. This E/Gs is used in “Gloria” by Van Morrison. Even though you’re fretting and playing only strings 1 through 3, you can still track the root E on the 6th string with your eye.

  • C is the Bf/F used in the opening to “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry.

  • D uses a unique spacing of the root and third and is featured in the song “Tripping Billies” by Dave Matthews Band. This interval is often called a 10th because the 3rd is a register above the root, ten steps in the major scale.

  • E is an inverted 3rd with the root in the top position and the 3rd in the bass. It’s used as a B/Ds and an A/Cs in the opening to “Hold On Loosely” by 38 Special.

  • F is a G/B with some unique spacing that’s arpeggiated in the opening to “Cliffs of Dover” by Eric Johnson.

Other songs that use chord voicings based on the E form include

“Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” by Pink Floyd
“Burning Love” by Elvis Presley
“Caught Up in You” by 38 Special
“Domino” by Van Morrison
“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
“Good Lovin’” by The Young Rascals
“Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh
“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon
“Santeria” by Sublime
“Soul Man” by Sam & Dave.
“Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
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