How to Play E Diminished Voicings | Chord by Chord


Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. Last time I showed you how to derive various Adim voicings from their Am counterparts. In this lesson I’ll demonstrate how to do the same with Em and Edim chords.


The Work

As I explained in the last installment, a minor triad is comprised of three notes—the root, the minor third, and the fifth (Example 1). And remember, minor and diminished chords are identical, except that the fifth in a diminished chord is flatted (Example 2). To our ears, these chords sound very different.

guitar notation for E diminished voicings

Example 3 incorporates the bottom four strings of the guitar. Notice that I’m omitting the open B string—the fifth—as it’s the only note that changes between the two chords. Now try Example 4a, with the chords played on strings 2–4 (and 6, if you fingerpick). Use the fingerings shown, or try the figure with your second, first, and third fingers on strings 5, 4, and 3, respectively, for both chords. 

Example 4b is a variation on the previous figure, adding the note G on string 1. Try barring the top three strings with your first finger; that way you only have to move one finger when you switch between the two shapes. A pretty easy one, Example 5 uses the top three strings around the seventh fret. Just move your first finger down one fret to change the Em chord to Edim.

Example 6 is also played on the top three strings. Many guitarists prefer to play the Em shape as written, barring the top three strings, but I find I get the cleanest sound when I use my first, second, and third fingers on strings 3, 2, and 1. Note that the Edim chord in this example has the same shape as an open D7 chord—but more on seventh chords later.

The Result

Hopefully, you now feel comfortable making Edim chords from Em shapes. This is useful, as again, diminished chords are often used to transition between major and minor chords in songs. One tune that happens to use an Edim chord (in addition to a bunch of other chords that you’ll learn later on) is Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” Thanks for tuning in. Next time I’ll show you a new chord type—augmented.

Kate Koenig
Kate Koenig

Kate Koenig is a singer-songwriter, music teacher, and music journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They have been a regular contributor to Acoustic Guitar since 2017.

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