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View Full Version : Why E is one of the most difficult chords?



zztush
09-14-2016, 02:33 AM
Ukuleles belongs to the group of instruments that can be said to be tuned in 4ths same as guitars. That is to say, with the notes of a linear tuning in 4-step intervals as shown below.

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Technically 5th fret barre gives similar notes as the open strings. Hence the 4th fret barre is the highest barre in cowboy chords (low position chords) as shown below (C#m).

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E chord is more difficult than simple 4th fret barre.

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It is actually one of the most difficult chords for us beginners. Let's enjoy practice!

sukie
09-14-2016, 02:45 AM
Or...play it 4447, if you like that voicing. It sounds a bit different, but it's easier. And then one day? Bingo, 2444 will be easy too because you practiced it.

Rllink
09-14-2016, 03:35 AM
Honestly, I have never thought that the E chord was that difficult. I guess I learned to play it before anyone told me that is was. But the first thing, I learned all the major chords by playing through them, and going from D to E, I thought was the easiest transition of them all. I guess that it helps that I have big hands, and I play the D like I would and E with the middle, ring, and pinky fingers. But then I started reading all about the dreaded E chord, and I started wondering what I was doing wrong.

WCBarnes
09-14-2016, 03:49 AM
For me the E chord was all about finding the right fingering. I tried various ways and for the most part would try an E7, or Em to see if they sounded okay in that place of the song, or I would do the 4447 E like Sukie suggested (barring the 4th fret and adding my ring/pinky to the 1st string 7th fret). Then someone suggested using my pointer finger on the 1st string 2nd fret, pinky on the 2nd string 4th fret, ring finger on the 3rd string 4th fret, and middle finger on the 4th string 4th fret. I could finally play the chord comfortably and cleanly!! Now I just need to continue to practice switching to and from that chord... But now I am confident I know how to play it and repetition will make it easier.

PhilUSAFRet
09-14-2016, 03:50 AM
Practice = problem solved

Down Up Dick
09-14-2016, 05:57 AM
Some people learn all the chords that they can, but I didn't/don't. I found E to be difficult, and I don't have much music that uses E, so I just skipped it. I've been playing for 4 or 5 years, and I've never missed it. One can always transpose, or, if you tune to open C (Hi G CEG), E is easy peasy--just a full bar at the 4th fret.

Life's too short to learn difficult stuff that you don't ever play. If you're gonna be a professional, that's different. :old:

johnson430
09-14-2016, 06:37 AM
Practice = problem solved

Agree.
I have just recently started to make a good "ring finger E". It has taken me over a month but I am finally getting it down.
One thing that helped me was something I learned from the UU videos. Aldrine has one video where he talks about bending your finger backwards at the first joint as a exercise to get it used to bending back so one can apply pressure to the 3 top strings while leaving space for the A string. Use your right hand fingers to work the joint back, do it a few minutes a day or while you are watching a video, etc.
It is working for me but the process takes time. And practice.
And everyone should want to improve even if they are not going to be a professional. Knowing how to do something on the uke should be a "quest to conquer" not a lesson in giving up because "it is too hard to do." Pish posh on that.

jimavery
09-14-2016, 07:15 AM
Yes practice is key, as is a "can do" attitude.

For me there's often a compromise to be made between staying faithful to the original composition and playability. Sometimes it helps to transpose to play the song on a ukulele tuned to ADF#B (in which case E major is now the same fingering as what was D major in GCEA tuning).

Often I find a song that defeated me a year or two ago is playable now - that will only remain true if I continue practising and pushing my boundaries though!

frisbee fred
09-14-2016, 08:35 AM
Or, do what I do and pick up the baritone uke whenever there are a lot of E chords in the song ;)

kypfer
09-14-2016, 10:36 AM
The key of E on a gCEA-tuned ukulele is one of those cases where a capo becomes a sensible option and if, having got there, you find it's just a little too high for your voice, voila - slide it down a fret and play in E flat (D sharp).

There really is no need to struggle with things like awkward keys ... a performance is all about results. If you get better results using "D key" chord-shapes and a capo on the second fret, that's the way to play it!

ohmless
09-14-2016, 01:25 PM
I spent a good 6 months learning the E chord shape as an Eb in one of my first songs (Buddy Holly's Peggy Sue). In retrospect, it is half as difficult as the F#m7th chord that has been plaguing me for quite a while.

bnolsen
09-14-2016, 02:48 PM
For me the E chord was all about finding the right fingering. I tried various ways and for the most part would try an E7, or Em to see if they sounded okay in that place of the song, or I would do the 4447 E like Sukie suggested (barring the 4th fret and adding my ring/pinky to the 1st string 7th fret). Then someone suggested using my pointer finger on the 1st string 2nd fret, pinky on the 2nd string 4th fret, ring finger on the 3rd string 4th fret, and middle finger on the 4th string 4th fret. I could finally play the chord comfortably and cleanly!! Now I just need to continue to practice switching to and from that chord... But now I am confident I know how to play it and repetition will make it easier.

I'm envious that your fingers are small enough that you can fret individual adjacent strings. No matter how much I practice i can't get over that physical limitation, even with a 1.5" nut. The best way I can hit this is to use my index finger on the 1st string and my middle finger to barre the other 3 strings. Using my ring finger to barre I end up muting that first string. I also have the curse of being double jointed so that adds more fun.

robinboyd
09-14-2016, 02:55 PM
I spent a good 6 months learning the E chord shape as an Eb in one of my first songs (Buddy Holly's Peggy Sue). In retrospect, it is half as difficult as the F#m7th chord that has been plaguing me for quite a while.

F#m7 is a killer isn't it! I remember I did a song with an Emaj7, an E, and an F#m7 in it a while back. In the end I mastered the Emaj7 and E, but substituted an F#m for the F#m7. It sounded just as good. (the transition was from an A, so it was the ultimate in laziness...)

As for the Eb instead of E, I did a song a while back where I transposed the whole thing down a half step and then brought it back up with a capo, so I ended up playing Eb instead of E. It wasn't just laziness, because I could have mastered it in the original key eventually, but I actually preferred the chord voicings when transposed down. It's worth playing with...

Choirguy
09-14-2016, 03:47 PM
While there is great truth in "practice it and it will come," I want to thank those of you offering tips and suggestions as to what works for YOU. I attended some sessions at the Twin Harbors ukulele gathering (SCIUC) and was really challenged to think about alternative ways to play chords. I've read about it, seeing it in action was another (in particular, playing G with 234 instead of 123 was quite mind-blowing).

And as for difficult chords, I have had students struggle with just C and F if they don't really care about learning them in the first place.

Petey is out here a lot, but I'm going to post his video on D and E anyway.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkz-mLK6fsQ

jollyboy
09-14-2016, 11:45 PM
F#m7 is a killer isn't it!

I play it 5500.

Django
09-15-2016, 02:24 PM
94248I do not hold a ukulele in the classical way. I find that I can bar chords and have more control and freedom by holding it more like a banjo and using a strap, (I can stand up and play with no problem with just the Uke Leash too, it's a great tool). As others have said, you can play the E major by barring the 4th fret and holding down the first string at the 7th fret. A nice thing about having choices is that depending on the chord that came before or comes after, you can often find a fingering that makes the change easy, (or difficult). By holding the instrument as I do here, with my thumb behind the neck, I can turn my hand so that my fingers are about 45 degrees to the fingerboard. This gives me plenty of room to play the E major in the 1st position. The ukulele that I am playing here is a concert size, but it is just as easy with a soprano and I do not have small fingers.

I hope that this help. When I first started playing the ukulele, I experimented with different ways to hold it and my playing advanced much more quickly when I found the technique that worked for me. The efficiency and ease of our playing has a lot to do with our individual geometry. There is proper, and then there is what works. One size does not fit all.

Good luck

Tootler
09-17-2016, 02:15 AM
I have a small hand and have no problem placing three fingers, one on each string, on the same fret. I play D that way. However, I have had a problem with the first position E chord. It's the reach from the finger on the A string, 2nd fret to the other fingers on the 4th fret, even with a soprano. It seems to be connected with the alignment of my fingers as much as the size of my hand. None of the suggested techniques worked.

Fortunately, I rarely need a E chord and when I have, I have played it 4447 which I can do OK.

However I recently tried it on my tenor, and I seemed to be nearer being able to reach OK without damping any strings, so maybe regular playing has helped to loosen up my fingers in some way, so maybe I should revisit the 4442 form of E again.

zztush
09-19-2016, 01:01 AM
Thank you every one. I've stared this thread in order to discuss why E difficult chord is. But the thread has gone to alternatives instead of E chord itself. Actually I have no problem and I can play E in low position. The reason why I wanted to discuss the reason of difficulty of E Chord is if we saw the reason, we may solve the problem. And I thought I had some clue of it. The difficulty of E is shown in the first post in this thread. It has a barre like form on 4th fret and the first finger on the 2nd fret of 1st string as shown below.

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When I practice new songs on piano, I practice right hand first. Right hand is melody line. Then I practice left hand which works for bass and chord. Finally I try to practice both hand together.
When I practice Travis picking (alternating bass) on guitar, I practice bass line with my thumb of right hand first. Then I practice melody line with my index finger. Finally I try to play both. I used this method to E chord. There are two parts which do not work together easily. I've practiced 4th fret first. Then I added 2nd fret. There is one curious thing happens in this thread. Rlink (#3 in this thread) who has big hands can play E, and Tootler (#18, just above this post) who has small hands can not. Why American vaudevillian can play it and English gentleman can not? The figure below may show you the reason.

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There are two ways for 4th fret on E as shown above. Big hand selected short barre of middle finger (2) on 3rd and 4th strings, because he can not play it with three fingers. On the other hand, small hand selected three finger style which is anatomically almost impossible to play E chord.

Actually I practiced Rlink's way. I practiced short barre first, but short barre was not easy. This short barre has a good analogue with mahjong. Mahjong tile is engraved and experienced mahjong players can read tiles by their thumb. It is called blind tile and often used for cheating.

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I can play blind tile and I think short barre is very similar to it. We need to feel the strings instead of push them and then hear the sound. Use baroreceptor and ear. We need to read the 3rd and 4th strings by middle finger instead of push them and then check the sound. It is like Feeley Meeley.

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Feel it blindly. Feel and push are different. Once I felt the strings, I've got a short barre. Adding index finger on 2nd fret was not difficult. I could play E finally.

Jim Yates
09-19-2016, 08:58 AM
I can play the 4442 EMa chord if that particular voicing is needed, but more often I will play 444X, since the B note is already being played by the 4th string and if I'm just strumming, there seems no need to duplicate it on the 1st string.

F#mi7 2424 I would play by barring the 2nd fret and playing strings 1 and 3 with my pinky and ring fingers. For the 5546 Fmi7 shape, I'd use 2nd and 3rd fingers on the 4th and 3rd strings.

blodzoom
10-06-2016, 12:01 PM
I've been working on E lately and here's my take on the different methods:

Middle finger on 4 and 3, ring on 2 and index on 1 is probably the quickest way to get to playing it but...

bent index on 4,3 and 2 is probably going to give me the easiest changes in and out of it for the long term but...

playing it as 1402 sounds better, so this is what I've been working on and I'm getting pretty close to being able to switch into it consistently.


Am I the only one who thinks it sounds better that way? I'm surprised when people talk about muting strings to get the chord, it seems like a short term solution that will never be as good. On the flip side, if somebody else was playing it, I probably wouldn't even notice. Maybe I just like to make things hard.

zztush
10-06-2016, 12:28 PM
Am I the only one who thinks it sounds better that way?

No. It sounds better that way to me too. Ukulele is short scale instrument. I think I should use strings longer rather than use fretboard large. I try this one too. Thanks.

kaizersoza
10-08-2016, 10:36 AM
I have quite big hands, but not particuarly thick fingers, however I cannot for the life of me get my fingers on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings, I compromised and now I form the E chord by 1st string- pointer finger, 3rd and 4th string barred with middle finger and 2nd string- ring finger, I don't know whether this is right or wrong, but it works for me, it takes a fair bit of practice, but thats what its all about