Last updated on October 9th, 2023
The Bb chord is a less commonly known chord when first learning to play guitar. The lowercase ‘b’ represents a flat, meaning the note indicated is lowered by a half step.
If you look up how to play a Bb chord (B flat), this might come up as a barre chord on the first fret, starting on the 5th string. This can be a difficult chord for a beginner, but there are many different ways you can play this chord on the guitar.
This post covers 15 ways to play a Bb chord on guitar which you can start to incorporate into your playing. Grab your guitar and let’s get started!
Bb chord theory
Let’s first look at some basic theory to understand this chord.
For example, the Bb Major chord has the chord tones Bb, D, and F.
Here is the formula for Major chords below.
In contrast, minor triad chords contain the chord tones 1, b3, and 5. For example, the Bb minor chord would contain the chord tones Bb, Db, and F. However, we will only be covering the different Major chord variations in this post.
Now that you know what notes belong to the chord structure let’s look at how to read the chord charts.
How to read the chord charts
For the charts below:
- The top horizontal line of the chord chart represents the high E string and the bottom horizontal line represents the low E string.
- The vertical lines separate each fret.
- The numbers in the blue dots tell you which fingers to use on the fretting hand.
- The letters on the right of the charts tell you what notes you are playing on each string.
- Circles on the left represent open strings.
- Red X means to avoid that string.
You can check this link for more on how to read guitar notation symbols.
Bb chord triad
Here is an easy way you can learn this chord by using a simple triad shape. This shape is similar to an open A Major chord except you slide all your fingers one fret higher.
The shape looks like this:
Bb chord triad variation
To expand on the previous shape, you can also add your first finger to the first string like this:
Bb chord on the 5th string (without a barre)
For this shape, you have to make sure to not let the 1st string ring out. You can mute the 1st string letting the bottom part of your first finger lightly touch the string, but not press it down.
Bb chord barre on the 5th string
This is probably the most common chord shape that will show up when looking up a Bb chord. This shape comes from the open A Major chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you barre the 1st fret with your 1st finger.
*Tip: If this chord feels too difficult to play, start the shape higher up on the fretboard around the 7th fret. The tension of the strings is lighter as you press down on chords higher up the fretboard. Then you can gradually shift the shape down as you develop more strength in your hand.
Bb chord triad variation 2
Another easy way I recommend learning this chord is by playing this other simple triad shape. This is very similar to an open C Major chord shape but you move your ring and middle finger down one string and shift the root note to the 8th fret on the 4th string.
The shape looks like this:
Bb chord triad 2nd inversion
2nd inversion means that the 5th degree of the chord is in the bass. This makes the chord sound fuller compared to the last chord we looked at. You can play it like this:
You can also check out this other post for more on how to play chord inversions on the guitar.
Bb chord mini barre
Another step you can take to make the Bb chord sound fuller is to play a mini barre on the 1st and 2nd strings. The mini barre can be hard at first but it will get easier as you continue to review this shape. The chord looks like this:
Bb chord 2nd inversion
This shape is similar to the previous chord except you add the F, which is the 5th degree in the bass. However, you have to rearrange some of your fingers like this:
Bb chord barre on the 6th string
At this point, we’ve worked on different steps to take before getting to this chord because it requires more strength in your fretting hand.
This shape comes from the open E Major chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you barre the 6th fret with your 1st finger like this:
Tip* If this chord is difficult to play, start the shape higher up on the fretboard. The tension of the strings is lighter as you press down on chords higher up the fretboard. Then you can gradually shift the shape down as you develop more strength in your hand.
You may also want to check out 5 tips to get better at playing barre chords on guitar.
Bb chord on the 4th string
This shape comes from the open D Major chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you add your 1st finger. This shape can feel uncomfortable when first learning it but you will get better at it as you keep reviewing it.
Bb chord 5th string variation
Some guitars may not be suitable to play comfortably past the 12th fret but if your guitar has that extra space higher up on the fretboard, here are some other variations you can use for a Bb chord starting on the 5th string, 13th fret.
This shape uses your pinky so if you’re not used to using it, it can feel awkward at first. This shape comes from the open C Major chord except you have to rearrange your fingers when you add your pinky (4th finger).
It looks like this:
Bb chord 5th string variation with a mini barre
This is similar to the previous chord except you can use your first finger to barre the 1st string as well. It looks like this:
Bb chord spread shapes
The following chords are called spread shapes because of the wider space between some of the notes within the chord shape. Because these chord shapes skip a string, they are more suitable for a finger picking style of playing. You might also hear these chords in a more classical music context.
To go more in-depth, check out this post on how to play spread triad chords on the guitar.
Bb spread chord on the 6th string
Bb spread chord on the 5th string
Bb spread chord on the 4th string
Most of the Bb chords we covered here where in root position, meaning the root note is in the bass. However, you have even more variations if you use different chord inversions. This is when you play a chord with notes other than the root in the bass.
It’s good to know many possibilities of playing the same chord because you have more flexibility to move around the fretboard. Also, you can use different chord variations when you need a certain note at the top to help define a melody that you are playing over.
I hope this helped you understand how to play an Bb guitar chord or learn new ways of playing it. You can also try shifting these shapes to play other Major chords on the same string.
All the best,
JG Music Lessons