The E 7 chord (E dominant 7) is a less commonly known chord when first learning to play guitar.
Like the E Major chord, the E 7 chord also has an easy open chord shape but there are many other ways you can play this chord throughout the guitar fretboard. By knowing different E7 chord variations, you’ll be able to use them in different musical contexts.
We’ll first go over some basic chord theory and then cover 11 ways to play an E 7 guitar chord which you can start to incorporate to your playing.
Let’s get started.
E 7 chord theory intro
The 7 next to the chord refers to a dominant chord which is built upon the chord tones 1, 3, 5, and b7. This is essentially a Major triad chord with the additional b7 chord tone. Dominant chords are often used as the 5 chord in a chord progression before resolving to the 1 chord of a key center.
For example, the E 7 chord has the chord tones E, G#, B, and D.
Here is the dominant 7 chord formula below.
In contrast, minor 7 chords contain the chord tones 1, b3, 5, and b7. For example, an E minor 7 chord would contain the chord tones E, G, B, and D.
Now that you know what notes belong to the chord structure, let’s look at how to read the chord charts.
How to read the chord charts
The top horizontal line of the chord chart represents the high E string and the bottom horizontal line represents the low E string. The vertical lines separate each fret. The numbers in the blue dots tell you which fingers to use on the fretting hand.
The letters on the right of the charts tell you what notes you are playing on each string.
You can check this link for more on how to read guitar notation symbols.
E 7 open chord
This first shape is a very easy way to play an E 7 chord. You can also think of this as removing your 3rd finger from the 4th string, 2nd fret of an open E Major chord.
E 7 open chord adding pinky finger
A variation for the previous E 7 chord is to add your pinky finger to the 2nd string, 3rd fret. Compare this shape to the previous one and see which sound you prefer.
E 7 open chord variation 3
This shape starts like an open E Major chord including the 3rd finger to the 4th string, 2nd fret but you also add the pinky finger to the 2nd string, 3rd fret.
Open E 7 chord on the 5th string
This E 7 chord comes from an open B 7 chord shape. This chord has a nice and full sound because you can add the open 1st, 2nd and 6th string.
E 7 barre chord on the 5th string
This next E 7 chord uses a barre with your 1st finger, starting on the 5th string, 7th fret. If you can’t get the chord to sound clear, first try to get the notes from the 5th to the 2nd string. Then as you develop more strength in your fingers, you can try adding the 1st string as well.
This shape comes from the open A 7 chord except you rearrange your fingers when barring this chord.
If needed, check out these 5 tips to get better at playing barre chords on guitar.
E 7 drop 2 chord
This shape uses a drop 2 chord voicing, which is a method of reorganizing chord tones by dropping the 2nd highest chord tone an octave below. In this case, the root note is moved down to the 4th string. Adding the 6th string is optional since the open E note belongs to the chord.
This shape comes from the open D 7 chord shape except you have to rearrange your fingers when adding the 1st finger.
E 7 drop 2 chord – 1st inversion
E 7 drop 2 chord – 2nd inversion
E 7 shell chord shape on the 12th fret
If your guitar is suitable to play past the 12th fret, you can use this shell chord shape. A shell chord is a simplified shape that outlines the important notes in a chord which are the 3rd and 7th chord tones. The open 1st and 2nd string make this chord sound fuller.
E 7 mini barre chord on the 12th fret
Before we get to the barre chord on the 6th string, here is a mini barre chord shape you can also use.
E 7 barre chord on the 6th string
And finally, this shape is the same as the open E 7 chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you barre the 12th fret with your 1st finger.
All these chords were mostly in root position, meaning the root note is in the bass. However, you have even more variations if you use different chord inversions. This is when you play a chord with notes other than the root in the bass.
It’s good to know many possibilities of playing the same chord because you have more flexibility to move around the fretboard. Also, you can use different chord variations when you need a certain note at the top to help define a melody that you are playing over.
I hope this helped you to broaden your understanding of how to play an E 7 guitar chord and also how you can apply these shapes to other chords.
For guitar improvisation ideas, check out these 7 jazz and blues licks over a dominant 7 chord.
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All the best,