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The Em 9 Chord

Having recently talked about D9 in Guitar Coach, we thought it would be a grand idea to talk about a minor 9th chord in the open position.

After absolutely no debate, we picked Em9 as it has 2 distinct ways of being played using open strings, both of which have there own unique sound. One is exceptionally easy to play (a great new chord to learn for beginners), the other, however, is a bit more challenging. After reading this article, you will be able to impress your other guitar playing friends by dropping your knowledge of minor 9ths into conversation!!

You can see the how the chords are played in the Guitar Toolkit images below.

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For an extra bit of knowledge (and thereby increase your ability to brag) E minor 9th is also sometimes displayed as Emin9 and E-9.

The full and expansive sound of this chord produces an extremely melodic sound, with the F# note (2nd fret on the top E string) providing it’s “edge” and unique quality. It sounds particularly beautiful when played on the acoustic guitar and this is borne out by the chorus of A Horse With No Name by America, where the first chord is Em9. Although the sound can be expansive, it is also a particularly versatile chord and, more so than other open chords; you can produce a totally different feel when strumming just the G, B and top E strings. Again, it is this F# note that is the major contributing factor to this.

This makes it a terrific chord for songwriters and, although not used as extensively as it should be, there are some classic songs that use Em9. Here are just a few that I have picked out:

  • Horse with No Name
  • Back Home Eric Clapton
  • Blow Out – Radio Head
  • Happiness is a Warm Gun – The Beatles

Chords that sound cool with Em9

The following chord progressions are used within the songs mentioned. Give them a try. Horse With No Name – Em9 to Dmaj9 Back Home, Eric Clapton – Em9 C G Blow Out, Radiohead – F Em9 F Em9 G A G A Happiness is a Warm Gun, The Beatles – Am7 Am6 Em9 Em Try out these chord sequences using both open positions. OK, the tracks may not necessarily play them in position 2, but it will not only improve your ability to play chords in different positions and effect a smooth change, it will also give you a valuable insight into the way the same chord can feel and, somehow, sound different. Enjoy!!!!


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