The Em chord is an essential, especially if you’re playing songs in the keys of Em and G.
But how do you play it? For beginners it can be a little confusing.
Don’t worry because you’ve landed yourself in the right place. In this guide, we show you exactly how to play the Em ukulele chord, the easy way.
How To Play The Em Chord
The Em chord requires three fingers to play. Your index finger should be placed at the first string second fret, your middle finger at the second string third fret, and your ring finger at the third string fourth fret.
Teachers sometimes like to call it the “stair step” chord, because of the shape your fingers make when they are in the right positions. Because of this, it’s easy to figure out the placement of your fingers.
The fourth string can be left open, and when playing the Em chord, you can incorporate the open fourth string (G) into your strumming or picking.
Muted / dead notes are always a concern when learning new chords. With Em, the strings to look out for will likely be the first and second strings. You are less likely to mute the third string given that you won’t be placing any fingers above it, and it’s at the top of the “stack.”
Just make sure your ring finger is applying enough pressure to the third string, and you should be fine. Of course, you should always seek to use the right amount of pressure with each string for best results.
Besides that, we need to ensure our fingers – especially middle and ring – are adequately curled / arched. The number-one cause of unintentional dead / muted notes is lack of curling and arching.
Be sure to take advantage of your joints to avoid touching strings other than the one you should be fretting with each finger.
When practicing the chord, pick each note (instead of strumming) to ensure that each note is ringing out clearly. Also, practice making and breaking the chord, and transitioning to other chords for maximum benefit.
Overall, Em should not prove too much of a challenge, at least not compared to barred chords.
What Is The Em (E Minor) Chord?
The Em chord is basically two things:
- An open chord. Open chords always feature at least one open string and generally do not involve barring (placing one finger flat across multiple strings to fret them).
- A minor chord. Minor chords play an important role in both minor and major chord progressions, but on their own, have a sad, dark, or incomplete quality to them.
The Em chord contains the following notes – E, G, and B. When playing it as an open chord, you will be doubling up on the G note, but that’s rarely an issue with open chords. It’s just that you need at least three distinct notes for it to be considered a chord.
The Em chord shows up most often in the keys of Em and G, though it’s a valid chord in other key signatures as well.
We’ll be looking at several songs that prominently feature the Em chord below.
What Songs Use The Em Chord?
Whether in the key of Em or G, it’s not hard to find famous songs that prominently feature the Em chord. It’s a great guitar key, and most keys that are great for guitar are good for the ukulele too.
Work on these songs, and you’ll become an expert at the keys of Em and G before long.
“Heart Of Gold” by Neil Young
Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold” is a teachable moment for most students (especially beginners), given its four-chord simplicity. It’s well-suited to the ukulele too, given that it has a relatively straightforward strumming pattern.
With so many songs featuring the same four chords (in different orders), “Heart Of Gold” is well worth studying. As well, the key of Em / G is a very common key signature for the uke.
“Zombie” by The Cranberries
There are many songs that represent the mid-90s, but “Zombie” is one that encapsulates many of the elements that made alt-rock and grunge music so dominant. The Cranberries certainly released a lot of great music in their time, but they are surely most remembered for this – “Zombie.”
It seems, for whatever reason, that most great songs are simple at their core, and this one is no exception. While there are some embellishments you can add to make the song sound even better, at base, you can play it with the same four chords you learned in “Heart Of Gold.”
“Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” by Green Day
Here’s another 90s favorite – Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).” As with the songs already mentioned, “Good Riddance” only requires four chords to play. While it’s not in the key of E minor specifically (it is in G, though), it’s fair to say the song wouldn’t be the same without the inclusion of the Em chord.
While duplicating Green Day guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong’s strum / pick style is a whole other matter, the version seen in the video below is perfectly suited to beginners.
“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” is the very essence of a simple song with layers of flourish added on top. Another four-chord wonder, just like the ones we’ve already looked at, “Brown Eyed Girl” is in the key of G.
By now, you should be starting to see that you can play a lot of pop and rock songs with just four chords. It’s an easy way to expand your personal repertoire.
Em Ukulele Chord, Final Thoughts
When it comes to getting better at anything on your instrument, remember one thing – repetition is your friend. With enough repetition, you can learn to play just about anything, one note at a time.
Em is an essential if you plan to play along with your favorite chords or even self-accompany, so don’t skip the basics! Keep working on the chord until you’ve got the hang of it.