A staple in the blues and beyond.
By Kristin Bigness
The E7 guitar chord is an undeniable staple. It’s like that old friend who is always there for you and who consistently makes life more interesting. You can find the E7 everywhere in the blues and also in other genres such as rock, folk, soul, and funk.
Given how useful a chord the E7 is, it’s time to start making it a staple of your own playing repertoire. Let’s learn a little more about the E7 chord, a few ways to play it, and how it plugs into songs across a variety of genres.
A standard E chord is made up of the notes E, G#, and B. An E7 adds one note to the original triad; it’s comprised of E, G#, B, and D. The D is the key note here. That is the “7” of the E7. Because it’s only one whole step away from the root note (E), it creates a tension that begs to be resolved. Let’s learn how to play a few different formations of the E7 guitar chord.
In standard tuning, you only need to fret two fingers to get a beautiful, deep E7.
This chord formation gives you the following notes from low to high: E, B, D, G#, B, E.
John Lee Hooker starts “Boom Boom” with the E7. It sets the vibe for the entire song; it’s the backdrop for the composition’s irresistible beat and swagger (just try listening to that song without tapping your foot). “Boom Boom” was released in 1962. British rockers like Eric Clapton and The Beatles were heavily influenced by American blues, and you can hear that translate to songs like “I Saw Her Standing There”, which was released just one year later in 1963. “I Saw Her Standing There” takes blues concepts and weaves them into infectious rock song with pop hooks and hand claps. And just like “Boom Boom”, it’s grounded in the E7.
Once you’re comfortable with that first formation, try adding your ring and pinky fingers into the mix.
This formation gives you the following notes from low to high: E, B, E, G#, D, E. What does this mean? The D (the 7) is played one octave higher than in the previous formation. Because it’s in a higher register, it cuts through the rest of the notes and is more noticeable. It sticks out more. It sounds “more 7.” It also gives you the opportunity to strengthen your ring and pinky fingers.
There are a few reasons you may want to learn the E7 at the 5th position. For starters, it has a beautiful, higher, more delicate sound than the E7 at open position. Second, it may also make it easier to transition to and from other chords in a song. Both of these factors are at work in the bridge of the classic ballad “At Last”, performed most famously by Etta James. During the line, “A dream that I can call my own”, there are some quick chord changes from D#7 to E7. This formation is perfect for achieving that musical moment.
Here’s how to play it:
The E7 guitar chord is versatile and finds its way into most every genre. Hear it in traditional songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “Oh! Susanna”. Spot it in the Motown hit, “My Guy”. Fast forward to artists such as Amy Winehouse, who put a contemporary spin on soul, blues, and jazz on tracks like “You Know I’m No Good”.
There are many ways to play E7, for more chords browse Fender Play's chord library, learn about chord types, and find tips on how to master them.
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