The E minor 7 guitar (Em7) chord is one of the first chords a beginner guitar player learns. It is one of the easiest chords to hold given that for one of the shapes you only need one finger.
I cover the notes and intervals in the Em7 chord and have 26 closed and open guitar chord shapes. At the end of the article, I list popular songs that use an Em7 chord.
Definitely learn some of the open and closed Em7 guitar chord shapes as you will be seeing them a lot in your guitar journey.
The E minor 7 (Em7) chord defined
Every minor chord has a minor 3rd interval. It is the minor third interval that gives the minor triad its quality and name. All minor 7 chords are minor triads with a minor 7th added: root note, or 1st, a minor 3rd, a perfect 5th, and a minor 7th interval.
The E minor 7 chord has the notes E, G, B, and D. Here is the Em7 chord defined by the intervals of the chord with variations in terms used:
Em7 chord = 1-♭3-5-♭7 = R-m3-P5-m7 = E-G-B-D
E = 1, or first, root note, R
G = ♭3, flat 3, minor 3rd, m3
B = 5, perfect fifth, P5
D = ♭7, flat 7, minor 7th, m7
Some of the variations in naming of the Em7 chord (or any minor 7th chord):
Em7, Emi7, Emin7, E min 7, E-7, and E minor 7.
You may also see slash chords with the 5th or b7 in the bass. You should not see the ♭3 G in the bass because that would be a G6 chord. The Em7 and G6 chords have the same notes.
Slash chords will most commonly be expressed as the “m7” version:
Em7\G = G6 = G-B-D-E
There is also a term that jazz players used called shell voicings. They are chords where the perfect fifth is dropped. That would mean a minor 7th chord would only have the 1, ♭3 and ♭7 notes.
I tend to write out “no 5th” (or N5) for shell voicings. Four of my 13 closed minor 7th chords below are shell voicings.
Scales that build the Em7 chord
The common scales that build an Em7 chord are G major, D major, and C major:
vi7 in G major
ii7 in D major
iii7 in C major
The vi7 above is a symbol for the min 7th chord built on the 6th degree of the scale, and ii7 and iii7 are the chords built on the 2nd & 3rd degrees respectively.
Em or Em7 would be the tonic, or i chord in E natural minor which is the Aeolian or 6th mode of G major.
You can also build an Em7 chord from the E minor pentatonic and E blues scale, the E Half-Whole Diminished scale, on the 2nd degree of the melodic minor scale and the 4th degree of the harmonic minor scale.
I might as well add a music theory \ fundamental thing in here. The easiest way to find the relative minor for any note is to go a minor 3rd (m3, 3 frets) below the note.
Just look at the first 2 notes for any minor pentatonic scale in E voicing on either E string. For E minor pentatonic that would be the open E and the G on the 3rd fret: G is the relative major to E minor.
Open guitar chords: E minor 7
I have 13 Em7 guitar chord shapes with 4 variations of some of the shapes. Check out my graphic of the symbols I use, specifically the slash for additional fretted notes. The final versions are the ones I prefer.
Note: #3 should have the 2nd finger fretting the B on the 5th string, not 1 (my bad). #13 is difficult to hold and the sound of it is “Ehh”. Skip it if you find it too difficult to hold. My favorite open Em7 chord shapes are #’s 2, 4, 5, and 12. I also like #8 but it sounds identical to #2.
Closed & bar m7 guitar chords
I did not mark the guitar fret #’s for where to play the shape for an Em7 chord – you should be able to figure that out for yourself. Just move the root note to wherever there is an E note. I have 14 closed minor 7 chord shapes with optional notes to create another 3 shapes. So I actually have 27 chord shapes (missed one).
Notes: #10 min7 is a difficult shell voicing but it sounds good. My go-to closed Em7 chord shapes are #’s 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9. I added a 15th chord, a m7 shell voicing that I missed, so I have a total of 28 chords but I’m not changing the title (just an FYI).
Popular songs that use an E min 7 chord
Here are some songs that that an Em7 chord:
Beatles: Hello Goodbye, Eleanor Rigby, Maybe I’m Amazed, Yesterday, We Can Work It Out
Simon & Garfunkel: I Am A Rock
Little Feat: Willin’
Grateful Dead: Shakedown Street
Don McLean: American Pie
Dido: Don’t Leave Home
Elton John: Rocket Man
Kenny Chesney: The Woman With You
Counting Crows: Round Here
James Taylor: You’ve Got a Friend
Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On
Elliot Smith: Say Yes
America: A Horse With No Name
Silverman’s Folk Song Encyclopedia Vol. II: In The Pines, I
The Em7 chord is such an easy chord to play on guitar and you will encounter it often being that it is a chord from some of the most popular keys for songwriting: C, G & D major.
Download the chord blocks on this page or write them out on a sheet of paper. You can impress some people with 1 or 2 of the fancier guitar shapes for Em7.
The E minor 7 chord is one of the top chords you’ll need to know if you want to play with other musicians.