Recent Update: October 25, 2017: Changed the open E7 diagram to label the seventh note as a "flatted seventh" so as not to be confused with a natural seventh, which would make it an E major 7th chord.
The E7 chord, or the "Jimi Hendrix chord" as some call it, is a slightly modified triadic E major (or minor - though in our case we're learning the major version). All that really changes is that we add a seventh interval over top of the root note.
While some forms are considered difficult and advanced, the most common forms of the E7 chord are very beginner friendly.
We'll learn two of those variations:
- Open form (two versions)
- Seventh fret form
If you know the E major chord, learning the open E7 is going to be quite simple. In fact, all we're doing is adding one more open note to that same chord shape; the open D string.
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1. Starting an E7 Chord with Dyads
Since D is the seventh of the root E, anytime you can combine these two notes, you'll have the skeletal structure of an E7 chord.
Take the following tabbed dyads, for example:
All tabs and notation were creating using the Guitar Pro 6 software.
Each dyad is a root E combined with a D, which is the seventh of the root and a compound interval, two octaves higher.
To create our full E7 chord shapes, we simply need to add a third and fifth to any of these dyads.
2. Our First Two Open E7 Chords
For our open E7 chords, we'll target the first and the last dyad in the diagram to use as a structural base:
These two dyads are what our open E7 chord variations are built on, which means we only have two more steps:
- Add the major third
- Add the perfect fifth
If we know our intervals, it's easy to get to our full E7 chord diagrams. Note where the third and fifth fall on the following chord diagram:
It's a pretty easy chord, agree?
Now that we've divulged all the theory you can easily see that this as a basic E major chord with the D string left open.
Very simple stuff.
Now, the second open version:
Once again we add the third, which falls on the same spot as the previous version, and the fifth of the chord which we'll now place at the third fret on the second string:
Thus, all the intervals are still there with minimal change to the actual chord shape. Moreover, this one is still really similar to the familiar E major.
Both are simple, valid ways to play the E7 chord.
Let's take what we've learned about the theory and intervals involved with this chord and see if we can create another E7 chord form.
First, a quick review of the theory.
Basic E7 chord theory
In total, you need the following notes to build a full and proper E7 chord:
- Root note
- Perfect fifth (certain forms)
And a quick refresher on triads:
A triad is a chord made up of three notes that contain a root, third and perfect fifth.
Now, if you go back to our group of dyads, you'll notice we have a root and seventh at the seventh fret:
This is a good shape to go ahead and build our second E7 chord, positioned at the seventh fret.
The resulting shape is a commonly-utilized form and is fairly easy to play.
We can begin by adding the third.
3. Adding a Third to the Root
Whenever you're looking for a third of the root you can almost always go down one fret and up one string (assuming your root note is on either the sixth, fifth or fourth string) like in the following shape:
This shape forms a major third, where the third is four semitones (frets) from the root. To add a minor third, we'd simply drop that second note one semitone lower, meaning it would be only three semitones from the root.
Adding this interval to our root E at the seventh fret would give us the following diagram, minus the seventh:
The root and third forming a foundation for our E7 chord at the seventh fret. | View Larger Image
You can "safely" play this dyad in place of a full E7 chord and still have a passable sound.
Playing the full form of a chord is not always necessary. Thus, if you know a chord progression has an E7 and you want to go minimal, this dyad is a workable compromise.
Try playing through the shape a few times, perhaps using the following exercises:
Fret to fret:
String to string:
Once you're comfortable with this shape, you can add the seventh interval back in on the third string at the seventh fret.
This gets us to a familiar and moveable seventh chord shape.
Per the following diagram:
We can easily add the minor seventh interval to the previous dyadic E7 chord shape. | View Larger Image
By adding two intervals we've given ourselves an incredibly easy chord shape to start with, which can be moved to any fret (since there are no open notes).
Here are a couple more exercises to help you get used to moving and transitioning the E7 chord shape.
Arpeggiated with sixth string:
Arpeggiated without sixth string:
4. Adding a Fifth to the Root
At this point, the E7 chord shape we have is fine to play as is, despite omitting the perfect fifth.
If you want to add the fifth to the chord you will need to find a B, since a perfect fifth is seven semitones above the root E. Thus the open B string is a perfectly acceptable way to add this interval into the chord.
In fact, the open second and first string can both be played as part of the full E7 chord, giving it a more "open" sound:
Full open E7 chord at the seventh fret position. | View Larger Image
Pretty simple, right?
Adding the additional E note is not critical to tone of the chord. You can omit it at your own discretion and still have the most important aspects of the chord intact.
5. Practicing Progressions and Movement with the E7 Chord
You'll want to be intentional about practicing the E7 chord in context, particularly as it relates to common chord progressions in the key of E. We can start by practicing the E7 chord within the following progressions:
- E7, A and B
- E7, C♯m, A and B
- F♯m7, B7 and E7
Let's run through E7, A and B first:
E7, C♯m, A and B:
And lastly, F♯m7, B7 and E7:
The bluesy tone of the seventh can be heard more clearly when played alongside other chords. Playing through these progressions also helps to improve your ability to transition in and out of the E7 chord shape.
Play through each progression a few times until you're able to quickly move from chord to chord.
You can even make up some progressions if you're feeling ambitious.
Moving and arpeggiating the E7 chord
As you can see, the E7 chord shape we've outlined can be easily transposed and moved to other frets, where it will adopt the corresponding root note.
I've covered how to move through those shapes in progressions and as arpeggiated patterns.
Let's look at a few more exercises that get us engaging with some more challenging movement, sliding in and out of the E7 chord shape.
E7 Chord Exercise #1: The Half Slide
E7 Chord Exercise 2: The Full Slide
E7 Chord Exercise 3: Slide from Top
Practicing this way will help you build a some speed into your transitions. It'll also allow you to introduce basic technique into your E7 chord practice.
As you're comfortable, start adding some vibrato or bends.
You can also change up the location of where you slide to and from. Further, I'd recommend running through these kinds of exercises with both a pick and using just your fingers.
Don’t try to always play the full version
Remember the two-note dyads we started with at the beginning of this lesson?
Those are all perfectly acceptable ways to play the E7 chord on the guitar, even though they omit the third and fifth of the chord. In fact, whenever you see "E7" on a chart or a piece of music, any of the following combinations will work:
- Root + 7th
- Root + 3rd + 7th
- Root + 3rd
- Root + 5th + 7th
- Root + 5th
- Root + 3rd + 5th + 7th
The most important thing is to get that seventh interval sounding with the root of the chord to give off the bluesy tone that seventh chords are known for.
While you can play just a third or fifth with the root, losing that seventh interval means you're not actually playing a seventh chord. Rather you're playing a major or neutral E chord that will still sound okay (i.e. won't be off key) but is not technically extending the seventh interval.
However, it's helpful to be able to put together an entire chord from the ground up.
There are plenty of times when I've seen an E7 chord, forgot how to play it, and just opted for the Root + 5th arrangement. It sounded fine and got me through a piece of music without noticeably screwing up.
Learn these versions of the E7 chord first
At some point you can, and should, learn the more difficult versions of the E7 chord.
However, you don’t always need to use them and they shouldn't be your first go-to when you're in the early stages of learning the chord's conventions and patterns.
As with any difficult chord learn the minimal and easier versions first, like the open E7 chords we covered in the first paragraph.
When you get comfortable with those shapes, you can progress incrementally into the more difficult voicings.
Ready to tackle the more difficult versions?
Checkout Guitar Trick’s list of E7 variations.
An Incremental Learning Style
Learning any chord should be a step-by-step process.
You shouldn't just look at a chord chart and memorize a pattern blindly.
There’s a root note, intervals, open notes, muted notes, chord-changing technique, right hand technique and other voicings. It all has to be understood in order to really learn a guitar chord.
That takes time and often has to be done slowly, via incremental steps.
In other words:
Take the dyads, the root notes, each interval and all the aspects of the chord you can identify, as individual topics. Know how to "piece" it all together, instead of just memorizing it off a chart that you don't really understand.
Not only will it help you learn the chord more thoroughly, but it will make the next chord you learn much easier to process.
Got an idea, exercise or technique related to the E7 chord you want to share?
You can also leave questions in the comments section below.
Other Beginner Rhythm Guitar Resources
Ultimate C Chord Guitar Reference: A massive lesson on the C chord covering every aspect of its theory, forms, voicings, progressions and applicable exercises.
Ultimate D Chord Guitar Reference: A massive lesson on the D chord covering every aspect of its theory, forms, voicings, progressions and applicable exercises.
Guitar Music Theory for Songwriters: A lengthy article covering all the basics of music theory that are particularly applicable to songwriters and acoustic artists.
27 Chord Progressions for Guitar Players: Roundup of all the most common and guitar-friendly chord progressions, complete with charts and explanations.
C Sharp Minor Guitar Chords: Full lesson explaining the ins and outs of the C sharp minor guitar chord, focusing on basic theory and application.
181 Easy Guitar Songs: Collection of links to guitar songs that are easy to play on guitar, either via a tab or chord lead sheet.
5 Reusable Hard Rock Chord Progressions: A lesson focusing on chord progressions that are particularly relevant to heavy, modern rock styles.