Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In previous lessons, I showed you how to transition from the I to the V in the keys of C, G, and A major. This time, I’ll show you how to do the same in the key of E.

The Work

Example 1 shows how to transfer from the I (E) to the V (B) using an open E chord, moving to a second-position B major barre chord, and Example 2 demonstrates some three-note voicings on the top three strings. Note that the E chord in Ex. 2 is like an open D shape, but played two frets higher, and the B voicing is just the top three notes of the barre chord in Ex. 1. Also note that the E chord has the fifth (B) rather than the root (E) as the lowest note.


Example 3 uses two barre chords in seventh position. For the E voicing, you can include the open low E string, for a thicker sound. Another option is to go from the E chord in seventh position to the B in second—just slide the whole chord shape down, as shown in Example 4.

Example 5 shows three-note voicings derived from the barre chords in Ex. 3. Notice that for the B voicing, the lowest note is not the root (B) but the third (D#). Moving higher up the neck, it’s not really practical to play barre chords on acoustic guitar at the 12th fret and beyond. Instead try the compact voicings shown in Example 6. For the E chord, the lowest note is the third (G#) and for the B, it’s the fifth (F#).

The Result

You should now know a variety of ways to transition between E and B chords. One song that makes use of that progression is “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” by Bob Dylan. (Dylan originally played the song in C major, with a capo at the fourth fret causing it to sound in E.) Note the alternate fingerings for certain barre chords, using my third finger to fret strings 2–4. Starting in the next lesson, I’ll show you some new minor chords.