EADGBE chord?
August 12, 2007 11:18 PM   Subscribe

On a guitar, in regular tuning, what is the chord you get when you play it open? (basically, what chord is made by playing EADGBE)?
posted by crayolarabbit to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, without the A & D strings it's an E-Minor. It's pretty damned close to an E-Minor 11th.
posted by puddpunk at 11:26 PM on August 12, 2007

Chording on a guitar is screwy because it's so easy to skip octaves and create inversions. For a lot of rather dissonant string combinations, you could choose to write them several different ways.

Basically in order to write a triad chord you have to have a root in mind; the other two notes that come up are the third (either major or minor) and the fifth (either perfect or diminished; the wikipedia article suggests there is an augmented fifth too, but I've certainly never run into such a thing.).

Since there are 2 Es, it makes sense to assume the E is one of the principal notes of the chord. What if the E were the root? Looking around, we see that the G (minor third) and the B (perfect fifth) are present, creating an E minor triad. There are also an A and a D hanging around. The A is the perfect fourth (not the eleventh), and the D is the minor seventh.

This is a screwball chord; if you had to name it you might call it an Em7/4. (Placing one finger on the A string, second fret, creates a nice Em7 chord, arguably the easiest proper chord to play on a guitar.)

Further complicating the matter is the fact that the G and B are actually more than an octave higher than the root, namely the tenth and the twelfth respectively, but no one ever calls them that.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:43 PM on August 12, 2007

This chord namer give seven choices:
  • E 7th Sharp 9th Suspended 4th
  • A/E 9th Suspended 4th
  • A/E 7th Suspended 2nd Suspended 4th
  • D/E 6th Suspended 2nd Suspended 4th
  • B/E 7th Flat 13th Sharp 9th Suspended 4th
  • B/E 7th Sharp 9th Suspended 4th Sharp 5th
  • B/E Minor 7th Flat 13th Double Flat 5th

posted by IvyMike at 11:47 PM on August 12, 2007

As everyone said, there are many things you could call it. Personally, I think it sounds most like A9sus4 or G6/9.
posted by equalpants at 12:41 AM on August 13, 2007

I cannot hear this without immediately recalling It's Been a Hard Day's Night.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:04 AM on August 13, 2007

Since you mentioned it.
posted by sophist at 2:51 AM on August 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

It's probably E minor 11th (but leaving out the 9th), or a second inversion of A 11th (but leaving out the 3rd).
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:46 AM on August 13, 2007

Music degree here: I'd call it an em7#9sus4 (that's E minor 7th, sharp 9th, sus4. Yes, the notes are more than an octave apart, but that really doesn't matter for naming's sake.
posted by fvox13 at 5:42 AM on August 13, 2007

One more: I've heard it called E minor diminished.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:19 AM on August 13, 2007

Wait, wait, I mean E minor 7th diminished.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:23 AM on August 13, 2007

It's not diminished; that would make the B a Bb.

Em11, Em7add11, E7#9sus4 all work if the root is E.

Am11/E or A11/E work if the root is A, depending on whether C or C# is implied for the 3rd. Or A9sus4.

Personally, I think it's an awful chord and shoehorning a name onto it does not work so well, but if one must then I prefer one of the sus4 namings. The chord is almost all 4ths, so acknowledging its "suspendedness" is apt.
posted by Khalad at 6:36 AM on August 13, 2007

And in that vein, A7sus2sus4 even! That might be the best—it really makes explicit the ugly muddiness of the chord. :-)
posted by Khalad at 6:39 AM on August 13, 2007

Am11/E or A11/E work if the root is A,

Since an A11 is what you're playing if you play every string but the low E, this seems like the simplest explanation for it.
posted by LionIndex at 8:14 AM on August 13, 2007

If you stare into the chord long enough, the chord stares back at you.
posted by Aquaman at 8:38 AM on August 13, 2007

I popped in to say what fvox13 said. Also a music degree here.
posted by sourwookie at 8:43 AM on August 13, 2007

Em11 or G6/9 are correct and simplest, although I think the former is most common when referring to this chord. The following is based on calling it an Em chord.

It's not a suspended chord. Suspended chords don't have a third, this chord does (G natural is the minor third).

It's not a diminished chord - it has a minor seventh (D) and a perfect fifth (B).

It's not any kind of A chord - it doesn't have an A triad (it needs a C).

It's not a #9 chord. Firstly, you can't have a minor chord with a #9 - a #9 is enharmonically equivalent to a minor third. E7#9 would be a dominant chord (i.e. it would have a major third) with a minor third present as well, which you'd interpret as a #9 to avoid the confusion of having two thirds.

With extended chords, particularly on the guitar, it's common to leave some notes out. All that's necessary to name a chord is the root (and even the root can be left out, depending on the ensemble, if you assume there will be someone else playing it, like the bass), the third, the seventh, and the named note. So if you have to play G13 on the guitar, you can play G B D F E.

So Em11.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:29 PM on August 13, 2007

Note that if you didn't have the 7th (D) but you did have the 11th (A), then you'd call it Emadd11 or Emadd4. But since the 7th is there, you treat it as an extended triad with the 9th missing and call it Em11.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:33 PM on August 13, 2007

Agree with ludwig that it's definitely not diminished (no B flat), and that it's definitely not a #9 (doesn't make any sense in a minor chord, since the G is there already). But disagree that it can't be construed as a kind of A chord just because there's no C. Lots of chords don't voice the third.
posted by svenx at 1:57 PM on August 13, 2007

I'm an idiot and I wish I could delete my earlier comments. Now that I'm fully awake, I clearly remember my guitar teacher telling me that it was E minor 11th.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:03 PM on August 13, 2007

Diane Keaton makes excellent use of this chord in the movie Sleeper:

Rebels are we! (strum open strings)
Born to be free! (strum)
Just like the fish (strum) in the seeeeeea! (strum)

posted by zadermatermorts at 2:13 PM on August 13, 2007

But disagree that it can't be construed as a kind of A chord just because there's no C. Lots of chords don't voice the third.

Well, you could call it A11(no 3rd) if you had a good reason to, like if you treated it as an A dominant chord in context or something. But without context, it's certainly more appropriate to call it an Em or G chord, as it contains both of those triads completely, and the 3rd is essential to chord quality while the 5th is not.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:40 PM on August 13, 2007

The chord does not contain the eleventh interval that everyone's saying it does. Calling that fourth an eleventh is a solecism.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:08 PM on August 13, 2007

I disagree, ikkyu2. Drop voicings are very common on the guitar, or when writing for a horn section, for example. Whether it's a 4th or an 11th doesn't make a difference in the chord quality, so they're generally treated as interchangeable when doing harmonic analysis. You could call it Em7add4 and you wouldn't be wrong, but I think Em11 is just as correct, and it's shorter and more colloquial.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:41 PM on August 13, 2007

Well, ludwig_van, I understand you. I think that what you're mentioning is a kind of shorthand for people who understand what they're doing.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:03 PM on August 13, 2007

Yeah, I mean although there's a handful of correct or valid answers, based on my experience I think one is most likely to run into Em11 in this case in a professional music situation.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:18 PM on August 13, 2007

late to the party, but yeah... Em11

E - Root
A - 11
D - b7
G - b3
B - 5
E - R
posted by eightball at 7:12 PM on August 13, 2007

I've always understood it as this:

(sus) 4 = 1, 5, 4

add 11 = 1, 3, 5, 4

11 = 1, 3, 5, 4, b7

#11 = 1, 3, 5, #4, b7

maj11 = 1, 3, 5, 4, 7

minor11 = 1, b3, 4, 5, b7,
posted by eightball at 7:24 PM on August 13, 2007

I've also always thought of the 4 and 11 as interchangeable. Same as the 2 and 9, and the 6 and 13. The way you name the chord changes depending on if you have the 3rd, and/or the 7th.
posted by eightball at 7:33 PM on August 13, 2007

But they're not interchangeable, eightball. A minor second interval is foul-sounding. A minor 9th is dissonant, but does not immediately assault the ear.

Octaves MEAN something, people! Let's hear it for the octave!
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:51 AM on August 14, 2007

They're not interchangeable in the sense that the difference is audible, but they are interchangeable in the sense that they don't alter the harmonic function of the chord. The difference in sound between the minor 2nd and minor 9th interval is a matter of chord voicing, not harmonic analysis.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:01 AM on August 14, 2007

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