How to Play E Minor Chord on Guitar

On this page I am going to show you 5 ways for how to play the E minor 
I'll show you the easiest way to play the Em chord, how to play the Em chord in other positions without barring as well as the Em bar chord. We'll also get into popular chords that go with Em, popular songs that use the Em chord, and what notes are used to make up the chord. 

Why is the Em chord so hard?

The Em chord is actually the easiest chord to learn first. If you are finding it difficult it is due to poor guitar technique. Don't worry, as we go over how to play the Em chord in guitar I'll give you tips for good guitar technique. 

Em Guitar Chord

Open position

First place your 2nd finger (middle) on the 5th string 2nd fret and then place your 3rd finger (ring) on the 4th string 2nd fret. 

That's It!

Be sure you thumb is right behind your fingers. If your thumb is curled or on the outside of your 1st finger your fingers wont stretch and everything will feel awkward. 

Not sure on how to read a chord diagram or want to learn more chords?  Click here

How To Strum The Em chord

To strum the Em guitar chord simply strum from the 6th string (the big one) down to the 1st string. 
That's really all there is too strumming the Em chord. 

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Em Chord Tips

The 1st tip to learning the Em chord is to get it memorize and trust your picking hand. If you are constantly trying to remember the chord or having to look back and forth between your picking and fret hand progress will be a slow and painful process. 

The 2nd tip is to to make sure your thumb is behind your first and second fingers. You don't want your thumb on the outside of your index finger as this will cause your hand to not be able to stretch or work properly.

The 3rd tip is for bar chords. When playing bar chords and your index finger (1st finger) needs to do execute the bar you want to apply pressure to the side of your finger. If you squeeze directly in your finger will bend and the strings on your knuckles wont ring out!

Before we move on I want to point out that there is another fingering that is common for the Em chord but it is not recommended. 
As you can see in the diagram, you use your 1st and 2nd fingers to fret the chord. 
Using the recommended fingers in the 1st example is much better as that same "shape" is used for the E major chord, the A major chord, The Am chord and even the 7th chord. So basically you are practicing and reinforcing OTHER chords when practicing using the fingers I recommend. 

Em Chord Without Barring

This next position for the Em chord will move you one step closer to playing a an E minor chord as a bar chord! To play the Em in this position
place your 1st finger on 5th string 7th fret,
place your 3rd finger on 4th string 9th fret,
place your 4th finger on 3rd string 9th fret,
place your 2nd finger on 2nd string 8th fret. 

To avoid strumming string 1 & 6 you can have your index finger slightly higher on the finger tip so that the finger tip touches the 6th string. 
For the 1st string, if you have good technique and are not jutting our your wrist your hand may mute the 1st string without you needing to do anything. 

Em Bar Chord 

Now we are going to move on to bar chords and you are going to learn how to play the Em bar chord properly. I am going to guide you through different variations of the Em bar chord with easy variation getting progressively harder. 

Just so we are clear, when you use one finger to press multiple strings this is called a  bar chord or sometimes spelled barre chord. 

This Em chord is just like the variation you learned but now we are going to bar using your 1st finger. Fret it just the same as above but have your index finger lining FLAT and pressing to the side so the 5th and 1st string can ring out. 

** Note, even though I break down the fingerings 1 by 1, to play chords properly and make smooth transitions this all must be done with ONE motion. 

Em Bar chord Easy


This is actually the easiest way to play the Em barre chord. In this position, I want you to navigate up to the 12 fret on your guitar. Usually there are 2 dots on your fretboard for this. Then place your 3rd finger (ring) on the 4th string 14th fret and then lay (bar) your 1st finger (index) across strings, 1, 2 & 3 on the 12th fret. 

Your thumb should be splitting the difference in your hand, and your 1st finger should be pressing on its side. 

In this last variation of the Em bar chord we are going to cover here is sometimes called the "Em" shape in reference to how the Em chord looks in open position. 

If this is confusing don't worry about it. I don't want you to become a "shape" player but it's a common reference so I thought I'd mention it here. 
To fret this place your 1st finger on the 6th string 12th fret your 3rd finger on 5th string 14th fret, your 4th finger on 4th string 14th fret.  Then lay your 1st finger down across all the strings. 

To help leverage I recommend using your 2nd finger to help your 1st finger push down.

As you can see from the first Em you just learned above, all we did was add the bar on the 6th string 12th fret. 

Now you know how to play the Em chord in guitar! 👊
Scratch that, you are a Em chord pro as you know a lot of ways to play the Em guitar chord!

Easy Songs That Use The Em Guitar Chord

The Eagles - Hotel California
Metallica - Nothing Else Matters
Tracy Chapman - Fast Car

Em Guitar Chord Progression

Here's a few chord progressions that sound great that use the Em chord. Feel free to change up the orders and experiment with the sounds!

C  - Em - D - G  
C#m - D - F#m - E 

F#m - Em - A - D

Em - D - C - D
Bm - A - Em - A
Bm - Em - A - D

If you need help learning these other chords, click here

What Keys Have Em Chord? 

Major keys that use a Em chord:
Key of C Major
Key of G Major
Key of D Major

Minor keys that use a Em chord:
Key of A Minor
Key of E Minor
Key of B Minor

What Are The Notes Of An Em Chord?

An Em chord or E minor chord consists of 3 notes that are derived from the Em minor scale.
E   F#   G   A   B   C   D

When you number the notes of a scale they are called SCALE DEGREES. So to make a E minor chord we need the 1st, 3rd and 5th "degrees."

1       2       b3      4        5       b6      b7 
E      F#      G       A       B       C       D 

All minor chords use the 1, b3, and 5 notes of a their corresponding scale. 

When these 3 notes are being played harmonically (played at the same time) you are playing a Em chord.

Now you may be wondering, why did you add a "b" (flat) to the 3, 6, and 7? This is beyond the scope of this lesson but for simplicity sake, all minor scales have the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes lowered down a half step.  We'll have other lessons where we'll go in-depth on this. For now lets just stick to learn the E minor chord. 

Now, notice from the chord diagrams, ONLY the notes E, G, and B  are being used?  If you have another note such as an A note or a F# note it is no longer an E minor chord!

That being said, you can have multiple E, G, or B notes as show in the chord diagrams. Try playing the chords but only strum a few of the notes. Notice the chord will sound "thin" if there are only one of each note. By adding in more of the same notes you make the chord have more depth. You may even think of it as a darker or lighter shade of the same color.

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