The E major chord is a wonderful, bright sounding chord. It is commonly found in many songs and learning how to play it quickly and easily is a foundational part of learning to play chords on the piano. Let’s dive into some of the basics of the E major chord such as how it is constructed, which fingers to use, how to move it through various chord inversions and which other chords are related to the key of E major. When you are ready, dive in!
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What is the E major chord?
The E major chord is a triad built from the root note E. Remember, a triad is a basic piano chord that consists of three notes:
- The root, or the name of the chord
- The third, or the middle note of the chord. The third defines the quality of the chord between major or minor
- The fifth, or the top note of the chord. The fifth adds weight and density to the chord and also defines the quality of diminished or augmented.
What are the notes of an E major chord?
An E major chord is made up of three notes: E, G♯, and B. Remember the intervallic pattern for any major chord is a major third (4 half steps or semitones) followed by a minor third (3 half steps or semitones) and the scale degree formula is always 1 – 3 – 5.
Playing the E major chord on the piano
The E major chord is simple to play on the piano. With your right hand, start with your first finger on E, then place your third finger on G♯, and finally your fifth finger on B.
To play the chord with your left hand, begin with your fifth finger on E, followed by your third finger on G♯, and finally your first finger on B. The chord looks like this on the piano:
Inversions of the E major chord
Remember that the three notes of a triad can be arranged in three different ways. We call these different arrangements chord inversions. There are three basic inversions for every triad:
- Root position: the root of the chord is the lowest sounding note
- 1st inversion: the third of the chord is the lowest sounding note
- 2nd inversion: the fifth of the chord is the lowest sounding note
Above we learned the root position E major chord (E – G♯ – B). Now, let’s explore the 1st and 2nd inversion E major chord.
1st inversion of the E major chord
A 1st inversion chord is defined by the third as the lowest sounding note. The third of an E major chord is G♯. So, a 1st inversion E major chord will be spelled G♯ – B – E. Simple, right?
To play the chord on piano with your right hand, place your first finger on G♯, your third finger on B, and your fifth finger on E.
To play the chord on piano with your left hand, place your fifth finger on G♯, your third finger on B, and your first finger on E.
The chord looks like this on the piano:
2nd inversion of the E major chord
A 2nd inversion chord is defined by the fifth as the lowest sounding note. The fifth of an E major triad is B. So, a 2nd inversion E major chord will be spelled B – E – G♯.
To play the chord on piano with your right hand, place your first finger on B, your third finger on E, and your fifth finger on G♯.
To play the chord on piano with your left hand, place your fifth finger on B, your second finger on E, and your first finger on G♯.
The chord looks like this on the piano:
What other chords are in the key of E major?
Remember there are seven basic triads in any major key. That means, in the key of E major, there are seven chords you should know. The pattern of triads is the same in every major key. That pattern is:
major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished
Every major scale follows this pattern. If you memorize this pattern, you will save yourself a lot of wasted time thinking about which chords are in a key when you learn how to play piano.
Following this logic, the chords in the key of E major are:
E major, F♯ minor, G♯ minor, A major, B major, C♯ minor, D♯ diminished
Common chord progressions in the key of E major
Once you understand the basics of the E major chord and the related chords in the key of E major, try to practice some common piano chord progressions. Here is a list of some common chord progressions in the key of E major to practice:
- I – IV – V : E major – A major – B major
- I – vi – IV – V : E major – C♯ minor – A major – B major
- I – vi – ii – V : E major – C♯ minor – F♯ minor – B major
- IV – vii – iii – vi – ii – V – I : A major – D♯ diminished – G♯ minor – C♯ minor – F♯ minor – B major – E major
A great chord to know
The E major chord is a great chord to know. It is useful in a wide range of songs and understanding how it is built and which chords are related to it will help you in many ways as a pianist.
Interested in learning more about chords, inversions, and progressions? Then check out Skoove’s growing repertoire of songs, lessons, and articles. With over 400 lessons designed to take you from beginner to advanced all while learning some great repertoire, learning with Skoove really is your best way to build your skills. Try it today!
Author of this blog post:
Eddie Bond is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, and music instructor currently based in Seattle, Washington USA. He has performed extensively in the US, Canada, Argentina, and China, released over 40 albums, and has over a decade experience working with music students of all ages and ability levels.