Popular Songs in E Minor

“Music Theory: Songs and Emotions

in E Minor”


  • Songs in E minor
  1. E minor scale
  2. Chords in the key of E minor
  3. Appreciate by Paul McCartney
  4. Songs of the 80′s, 90′s and later in E minor
  5. Riders On The Storm by The Doors
  6. Songs of the 60′s & 70′s in E minor
  7. Song emotions in E minor
  8. Homework


Popular Songs in E Minor

Hi guys, in my last post I returned to the “popular songs” series under the “music theory” category and showed you a lot of songs in the key of A minor.

This week’s post is a continuation of this series and we will discuss and analyse popular songs in E minor.




Songs in E minor

“E Natural Minor Scale”

The key of E minor has one sharp, F#. E minor is the relative minor of G major which also has F# as its only sharp.

Example 1: E minor is the relative minor of G major


E minor, one sharp F#G major, one sharp F#


So how do we find the relative major of any minor key again? Go up 3 half steps from the minor key. In this case we use E minor as our example so 3 half steps up will be E to F, F to F# and F# to G.

As already mentioned in my last post you can check one of my earlier posts called “How to Use Minor Scales and Keys” where I explain this in detail.

Example 2: E Natural Minor Scale has one sharp, F#


E Natural Minor Scale


“Chords in the Key of E Minor”

To be able to play all the chords in the key of e minor we have to start building these on each degree of the E natural minor scale. Remember that we use triads = three note chords in the example below:


E Natural Minor Scale With Chords








And we are now ready to expand to 7 chords = four note chords:



E Natural Minor Scale With Seven Chords








So we are all set now and can start using examples of songs in E minor.


“Appreciate by (Sir) Paul McCartney”


In spite of his age the former beatle Paul McCartney is still very active in the music industry.  Last year, 2013, he got a new album out called “New” and I’d like to discuss “Appreciate”, one of his best songs (I think):


Quite a remarkable song isn’t it, yet the structure of this techno-pop tune is fairly simple.

First of all there are only 5 chords: E minor, E major, G major, A major and B major

Then when we look at the song form we can divide it into the following sections. There are 4 beats to one bar:


Clip Intro → Song Intro 11 bars (starts where drums enter) → 1st Verse 8

bars → 1st Interlude 4 bars → 2nd Verse 8 bars → 2nd Interlude 8 bars →

1st Chorus 8 bars → 3rd Interlude 8 bars → 3rd Verse 8 bars → 4th

Interlude 4 bars → 2nd Chorus 11 bars → 5th Interlude 4 bars → 4th Verse

8 bars → Paul’s Solo 8 bars → Robot’s Solo 8 bars → Clip Outro


This is the way I think all the sections should be called, however you also can call them differently, e.g. the interludes could be called instrumental verses and the choruses, middle eight’s.

It all depends on how you perceive the chord progression, hooks and lyrics.


Songs in E Minor

One of the great devices used here is going back and forth from minor to major using the same chords, A minor and A major, which create a wonderland-like atmosphere.

The lyrical hook of this song is where Paul sings “Appreciate”. The special thing about this is that it is not a melodic but a semi-spoken hook.



There is a melodic hook too in the interludes:


Paul McCartney - Appreciate Instrumental Hook






Below here you can copy the chord chart of “Appreciate”. Right click, go to “Save Image As…..” and save it in the newly opened window on your computer.

Paul McCartney - Appreciate Chord Chart P1

Paul McCartney - Appreciate Chord Chart P2

Paul McCartney - Appreciate Chord Chart P3








“Songs of the 80′s, 90′s and Later in E Minor”

The Cranberries – Zombie

Taylor Swift - Shoud’ve Said No

Bruno Mars – Money Make Her Smile

Miley Cyrus – Kicking and Screaming

Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer

Linkin Park – Giving Up

Nirvana – About A Girl

Nirvana – Come As You Are

Paramore – Monster

Sam Brown – Stop

Bad Religion – I Love My Computer

Radiohead – Blow Out 

Madonna – You’ll see (sang in Spanish)


“Riders On The Storm by The Doors”


Popular Songs

Besides “Light My Fire” this is one of there most well-known songs.

The length is around 7 minutes but instead of singing all the way through, like “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, the middle sections are filled up with guitar and electric piano solos.



“Riders On The Storm” appears on one of their last albums, LA Woman from 1971:


It is in the key of E minor, however the scale used here is not Natural Minor, as in “Appreciate”, but Dorian.

What is Dorian? The Dorian Mode, as we call this in music theory terms, is build on the second degree (tone) of the major scale. It originate all the way back to the Gregorian Chants which were sang in the Dorian.

So how can we define the Dorian Mode? That is not so difficult. Just start with any major scale, e.g. C major, go one whole step up, which comes to D and play exactly the same notes of the C major scale but start on D (D E F G A B C D).

In this post we are dealing with E minor carrying the Dorian scale. Since its build on the second degree of the major scale, the root (first degree) is D and can you remember how many sharps this scale has? F and C sharp.

Below is a comparison between the E natural minor and E Dorian scales:

E Natural Minor Scale






E Dorian Scale







As you noticed the C becomes a C# in Dorian which gives it a particular mood and atmosphere.

The keyboard player of The Doors, Ray Manzarek, was a great musician and played numerous solos on their songs, leaving a strong food print behind. Below you will find the intro chart of “Riders On The Storm”:


The Doors - Riders On The Storm Intro









Furthermore I also have written out the keyboard part of the first two choruses which come right after the intro. The song form is based on a 12 bar blues which is repeated many times:


The Doors - Riders On The Storm Chorus











I have not written out the song form as in Appreciate since it is too long (7 minutes) and it is based on the 12 bar blues form, which means repeating the same 12 bars over and over.


“Songs of the 60′s & 70′s in E Minor”

Here are some famous songs in E minor from earlier decades:

Queen – We Will Rock You

Chic – Good Times

Chic – Chic Cheer

The Cure – M

Paul Simon – Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover

The Outlaws – Green Grass And High Tides

Led Zeppelin – Communication Breakdown

Monty Norman – James Bond 007 Theme Tune

The Yardbirds – Still I’m Sad

Rolling Stones – Play with Fire

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

The Moody Blues – Nights In White Satin

Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze

The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby


“Song Emotions in E Minor”

Funny enough there is not much written about moods in E minor. Though I did come across some expressions written in ancient times:

Key or mode descriptions from Charpentier’s Regles de Composition ca. 1682: 

effeminate = men who appear to be homosexual and lack strong qualities, amorous = showing feelings of love and romance, plaintive = expressing sadness and melancholy.

From the English translation of Helmholtz’s Tonempfindungen: 

Grief, mournfulness and restlessness

When I read restlessness, immediately “Riders On The Storm” (The Doors) comes to mind where a mad man breaks loose or is on the run.

The term plaintive goes well together with the sad and melancholy moods of “Nights In White Satin” (The Moody Blues), “Still I’m Sad” (Yardbirds) and “Eleanor Rigby” (The Beatles).


Songs and Emotions in A Minor


“Zombie” (The Cranberries) nominates for almost all of the above, it grieves and it is mournful, restless and plaintive.




Try to make an eight bar song consisting of a melody and chord progression. When you need help writing a melody go back to this post:

Three Ways to put Chords under a Melody – The Basics

Below you can print out some score paper to write your song:

Single 8 Staff Music Paper


A recap of today’s post:

  • E minor scale and chords
  • I discussed the song forms and chord progressions of Appreciate and Riders On The Storm
  • I showed a list of songs from the 80′s, 90′s and later in E minor
  • I showed a list of songs from the 60′s & 70′s in E minor
  • I discussed emotions of songs in E minor
  • Homework


If you’d like to download all the scores and charts of this post, you can do so below:

Scores and Charts of Popular Songs in E Minor


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About the Author:

Hans Hansen is the author and founder of “The Music Arrangers Page” and is always happy to share his passion for music arranging. In addition, he is a well experienced piano & bass guitar teacher, specializing in classical, rock and jazz. Any questions you have about music arranging; he is the person to ask. He also likes to invite you to download his Special Free Gift and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter or leave a comment on his blog.

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