Music Theory

Playing the E minor Scale on Piano

By Hannah Kendall
Playing the E Minor Scale

Learn how to play the E natural minor piano scale! Explore notes, chords, finger positions, and fun songs in the key of E minor

The E minor scale has been used in many genres. Whether in rock, pop, or jazz, the scale is often used to convey intense, powerful emotions. Learning the E minor scale can help with transposition, composition, sight reading, and improvisation. Knowing this key will improve your technical skills, creativity, and overall connection with music. Have fun experimenting with this key!

Interested in learning how to play minor scales on the piano? Learn the fingering for each scale with our free download here. To learn more about all kinds of piano scales, check out our All Piano Scales Guide: Major, Minor & More! For even more piano resources, sign up for our Premium membership

What does it mean when a song is in the key of E minor?

When a song is in the key of E minor, it means that the composition revolves around the E minor scale as its tonal center. This tonal center may also be referred to as the tonic or root note. 

When a song is in the key of E minor, it often starts and resolves on the E note. The note E is like an anchor that gives the song a sense of stability and completion.

Music in E minor can feel reflective, mournful, or even intense and dramatic, especially in the case of many classical music pieces. However, it’s also used in many other genres of music and can convey a wide range of emotions depending on how it’s used.

What are the notes of the E minor piano scale?

The E minor scale consists of the following notes: E, F#, G, A, B, C, and D. 

Notes of the E minor scale

The key signature of E minor has one sharp, which is F#. This means that every time an F is written in the music, it should be played as an F# unless otherwise indicated.

E minor key signature

What is the relative major of E minor?

In music theory, the relative major of a minor key is the key that shares the same key signature but starts on the third degree (or step) of the minor scale. The relative major of the E minor scale is G major.

How to play the E minor scale on piano

To play E minor on the piano for your right hand, place your fingers like this:

Right hand finger positions for the E minor scale on piano:

1 on E
2 on F sharp
3 on G
Cross under 1 on A
2 on B
3 on C
4 on D
5 on E

Left hand finger positions for the E minor scale on piano:

5 on E
4 on F sharp
3 on G
2 on A
1 on B
Cross 3 over to C
2 on D
1 on E

Practice the scale slowly and repeatedly to help you become comfortable with the fingering and the feel of the scale in your hand.

Want to watch and learn how to play a two octave E minor piano scale, along with E minor arpeggios? Check out this lesson from Mr. Hoffman.

What are the chords of the E minor scale?

The E minor chord is the i chord, or tonic, and is made up of E – G – B.

The next chord built on F# is the ii° chord, or supertonic. It is a diminished chord made up of F# – A – C. 

Our next chord is the III chord, or mediant. This one is a major chord, and has G – B – D.

The next chord is the iv chord, or subdominant. It’s a minor chord, and has A – C – E.

The v chord, or dominant, is a minor chord, and has the notes B – D – F#.

The next chord is the VI chord, or submediant, and it’s major in quality. The notes in this chord are C – E – G.

The final chord in E minor is the VII chord, or subtonic, and the notes of this chord are D – F# – A.  

Chords using the E natural minor scale and chords using the E harmonic minor scale

Examples of songs in E minor

Listen to these songs in the E minor scale. Take note of the emotions and sounds this key evokes. 

  1. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen 
  2. Elfin Dance Op. 12 No. 4 – Edvard Grieg 
  3. In Church – Ludwig Schytte
  4. The Hope  – Israeli National Anthem 
  5. Dragon Night – Joseph Hoffman 

Want to learn all of the minor scales on piano? Download our free Guide to All Minor Scales now

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