A great deal of music we listen to uses chords. The E minor chord is a commonly-used chord in many different musical genres. This chord, like all minor chords, consists of three notes.
In this article, we will learn which notes comprise the E minor piano chord, how to play it in each hand, and the music theory behind how minor chords are built.
Which Notes Are in the E Minor Chord?
The E minor chord consists of three notes: E, G, and B. All of the notes in this chord are white keys, which makes it a fairly easy chord to play. As with all chords, the E minor chord can be played in any octave on the piano. Play it in different octaves to hear the different ways it can sound!
The below images show E minor chord notated in the treble clef (right hand) and the bass clef (left hand).
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Piano Finger Numbers
Sheet music written for the piano often features numbers above or below the notes. These numbers tell you which fingers to use to play the notes.
When it comes to piano sheet music, it’s important to understand that the thumb is always number one, the pointer is number two, the middle finger is number three, the ring finger is number four, and the pinky is number five. These finger numbers are demonstrated for each hand in the images below.
These fingers will be used to play the E minor chord in the left hand:
E – finger five
G – finger three
B – finger one
These fingers will be used to play the E minor chord in the right hand:
E – finger one
G – finger three
B – finger five
Playing the E Minor Chord in the Left Hand
Now that we know the notes in the chord, and which fingers to use to play them, it is time to try playing the E minor chord in the left hand! To play the chord with the left hand, place the pinky (finger five) on E, the middle finger (finger three) on G, and the thumb (finger one) on B.
Remember to keep your wrist parallel to the ground and your fingers curved! The image below demonstrates how to play the chord in the left hand.
Chords in the left hand are a great tool for accompanying melodies played in the right hand. Once you are more comfortable playing this chord and other chords in the left hand, try finding a piece of music that uses this chord! Then, try playing the chords in the left hand underneath the melody in the right hand.
Playing the E Minor Chord in the Right Hand
We’ve learned how to play the E minor chord in the left hand, and now it is time to learn how to play it in the right hand! Your thumb (finger one) will play E. The middle finger (finger three) will play G, and the pinky (finger five) will play B. Just like the left hand, keep your fingers curved and your wrist parallel to the ground.
Raising the wrist or lowering it can cause unnecessary pain and tension. With repeated use, this raising or lowering of the wrist can lead to injury. For more on how to play E minor chord in the right hand, view the image below.
Chords in the right hand can be used to accompany songs that are being sung. One way to do this is to play the entire chord in the right hand, and just the root note (the note the chord is named after) in the left hand.
Once you are comfortable with this, you can practice playing the root note in the left hand and omitting the E in the right hand. That way, you are playing E in the left hand and G and B in the right hand. All three notes of the chord are still being played, but this adds a little bit of variety to the sound.
How Minor Chords Are Built
All minor chords are built with a certain formula of intervals. Intervals are the distance between two pitches. We will use the E minor chord as a basis for understanding how to build minor chords.
The interval between the lowest note (E) and the middle note (G) of the chord, is a minor third. To create a minor third, start on the lowest note and count three keys to the right of that note. Remember to count both white keys and black keys!
The interval between the middle note (G) and the highest note (B) is a major third. To create a major third, start on the middle note of the chord and count four keys to the right of that note. Once again, be sure you are counting both white keys and black keys!
This formula can be used to build a minor chord on any note. Once you are more familiar with the E minor chord, try using the combination of intervals mentioned above to build a minor chord on any other note on the piano!
Major Chords vs. Minor Chords
Major chords and minor chords are both built on thirds, but the thirds are stacked slightly differently. This difference is what gives major and minor chords different sounding qualities.
While a minor chord consists of a minor third between the bottom note and middle note, and a major third between the middle note and the top note, a major chord flips this around. In a major chord, there is a major third between the bottom note and the middle note, and a minor third between the middle note and the top note.
Major chords are often thought to have a “happy” sound quality, and minor chords are thought to have a “sad” sound quality. This is the result of which type of third is formed between the bottom and middle notes of the chord.
The major third between the bottom and middle notes of a major chord is why some people perceive major chords as sounding “happy.” The minor third between the bottom and middle notes of a minor chord are why some people perceive them as sounding “sad.” While these statements are sometimes true, there are many other factors that influence the emotional quality of a piece of music.
A song in a minor key, but with fast, lively rhythms, can easily be thought of as sounding happy due to its rhythmic character. A song in a major key with slower rhythms can be thought of as sounding sad due to its lack of rhythmic motion.
You’ve now learned all about the E minor piano chord! You now know which notes are in the chord, which fingers to use to play it, and some information about how minor chords are constructed.
Now you can use what you’ve learned and incorporate it into your piano practice sessions. Doing so will help you progress on your musical journey!
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