11 ways to play an E minor 7 chord on guitar


The E minor 7 chord is a less commonly known chord when first learning to play guitar. You may also see this chord written as Em7 or E min 7 on sheet music.

The E minor 7 chord has an easy open chord shape but there are many different ways you can play this chord throughout the guitar fretboard. By knowing different E minor 7 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 minor 7 chord which you can start to incorporate to your playing.

Let’s get started.

E minor 7 chord theory intro

Every minor 7 chord is built upon the following four chord tones: 1, b3, 5, and b7. These chord tones can also be thought of as the scale degrees related to one minor scale.

For example, the E minor 7 chord has the chord tones E, G, B, and D.

Here is the formula for minor 7 chords below.


In contrast, Major 7 chords contain the chord tones 1, 3, 5, and 7. For example, E Major 7 chord would contain the chord tones E, G#, B, and D#. However, we will only be covering the different minor 7 chord variations in this post.

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 minor 7 open chord

This first shape is a very easy way to play an E min7 chord. You can use your 1st or 2nd finger to press down on the 5th string, 2nd fret. You can also think of this as removing your 2nd finger from the 4th string, 2nd fret of an open E minor chord.


E minor 7 open chord variation 2

Another option for this chord is to add your 3rd finger to the 2nd string, 3rd fret. Compare this shape to the previous one and see which sound you prefer.


E minor 7 open chord variation 3

Adding to the previous shape, you can add your pinky finger to the 1st string, 3rd fret like this:


E minor 7 open chord variation 4

This shape starts like an open E minor chord including the 2nd finger to the 4th string, 2nd fret but you also add the 3rd finger to the 2nd string, 3rd fret.


E minor 7 open chord variation 5

Building upon the previous chord, this shape simply adds your pinky finger to the 1st string, 3rd fret. Again, compare this with all the previous chords and hear how they sound.


E minor 7 barre chord

This next E minor 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 fret. Then as you develop more strength in your fingers, you can try adding the 1st string as well.


If needed, you can also check out these 5 tips to get better at playing barre chords.

E minor 7 variation on the 5th string

This variation of the E minor 7 chord is less conventional but has a nice sound with the 1st and 2nd open strings. If the 2nd and 3rd fingers feel like too much of a stretch, you could also use your 3rd and 4th finger instead.


E minor 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.


E minor 7 drop 2 chord – 1st inversion

This next shape is an E minor 7 drop 2 chord in 1st inversion. This uses a barre starting on the 4th string, 5th fret.


E minor 7 drop 2 chord – 2nd inversion

This next shape is an E minor 7 drop 2 chord in 2nd inversion.


E minor 7 on the 12th fret

Another way to play this is chord is on the 12 fret. This is also a less commonly used shape but it sounds nice with the 1st and 2nd open strings.


Wrapping up

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 minor 7 guitar chord and also how you can apply these shapes to other chords.

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All the best,

JG

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