You’re supposed to play the B, flat!
Oh, wait what? You want me to tune down my B string?
No you idio-…
Hmmm, that doesn’t sound quite right. Meh, onto the stage we go…
Yuck! Everything sounds terrible. You get booed off the stage as people throw their leftover cocktail sticks at you, and one stubs your toe in the process.
That’s not a nice feeling, and it’s all because you didn’t know how to play a B flat (Bb) chord on guitar, tut tut tut… So today I’m going to teach you how to play a Bb chord so that you can own it in chord progressions.
B Flat Major – Open Shape
This is technically cheating because there isn’t really an open shape for Bb. *Please don’t report me to the chord police…
But if playing bar chords isn’t in your repertoire yet and you need a quick fix, then this one won’t harm. Just keep it under wraps, alright?
Anyway, here it is in case you need it:
The reason why this is cheating is that we are omitting the 5th of the chord because it’s a pain to play. So we end up just playing Bb and it’s major 3rd twice instead.
It’s best to get used to the bar chords that I’ll go into first, but still – this will work in a code red situation.
Bb Major Bar Chord – A Shape
Phew, it feels good to be back within the law again…
Even if you don’t know how to play bar chords, then it ain’t that hard and this’ll be a good place to start.
So to make this shape, you’ll want to start by playing an A major chord like this:
At this point, we are using the open A string as our bass note, and from this we build an A major chord.
So to build a Bb major chord, all we have to do is slide this exact shape up a fret and use the Bb on the 1st fret of the A string as our bass note instead.
Notice how this is the EXACT same shape as the A major shape.
Except now, the lowest and highest strings need to be pressed down since they aren’t on the 0th fret anymore.
And to do this, we flatten the underside edge of our index finger across the 1st fret so that it presses down the lowest and highest strings, like this:
Or you can bar with your ring finger too and play it like this:
And BOOM! Just like that, you can play a B Flat (Bb) major chord on guitar.
You Can Use this Shape to Play Other Chords Too
The best part about this is that this isn’t just a Bb major chord shape, oh no no…
This is THE major chord shape for the A string. So if we slide this shape up and use a different bass note, we get a different major chord. *Mind blown…*
E.g. There’s an Eb note on the 6th fret of the A string. So if we slid this exact barred shape up to the 6th fret instead, we’d get an Eb major chord! *Mind even-more blown…*
Ladies and Gentlemen, if you understand that then you officially understand bar chords.
But picture this scenario… You’re strumming a bar chord progression in front of 50,000 people: F major on the 8th fret – pff, easy… Eb major on the 6th fret – I could do this in my sleep… Oh no, is that a Bb major next? But that’s all the way down on the 1st fret! How am I supposed t-…
BAM! You muck up the chord change and the entirety of Wembley Stadium starts throwing their backwashed beers, crumpled ticket stubs and unwanted Christmas presents at you, resulting in utmost chaos, turmoil and consumption of 2nd hand alcohol…
After this day, you’ll never want to receive a Christmas present ever again…
So to avoid that happening, guitar players make an E bar chord shape as well. These are based off E string root notes instead, which gives us a 2nd place to play each chord.
In fact, if we used the Bb on the 6th fret of the E string as our bass note instead, then we wouldn’t even have to change frets when switching from an Eb to Bb chord.
So let’s take a look at it…
Bb Major Bar Chord – E Shape
As I just mentioned, learning the E shape too is pretty important.
So to build this shape, start by playing an E major chord like this:
Then slide this shape up 6 frets to the Bb note on the low E string:
And use the underside edge of your index finger to bar down the strings that would normally be left open again:
Just like magic, there’s your other way to play a Bb major chord.
And like with the A shapes, you can turn this into any kind of major chord depending on which fret and which bass note you choose to build the chord off.
That’s why I recommend learning the notes on the A and E strings when learning bar chords:
That way you can play any major chord using either an A or E string root note on demand.
How to Practice These Chords for Fast Progress
Knowing how to play a B flat (Bb) chord on guitar is great and all, but it’s as useful as a tennis racket in a snowstorm unless it’s in your muscle memory.
So to help speed up the process of learning these chords – you’ll want to use the best method know to man…
Yup, you’ve guessed it – The Switch Method:
WARNING: The Switch Method has nothing to do with the Nintendo Switch...
- Start by playing the Bb chord shapes individually. The A string shape, the E string shape, and maybe even the open shape if you’re feeling naughty.
- Then begin to switch back and forth between these 2 or 3 shapes for a couple of minutes.
- Once this begins to feel comfortable, add another bar chord to the mix, like Eb major – A shape. Then switch between these 3 to 4 chords. Bb – A shape, Bb – E shape, Eb – A shape.
- Then once this feels comfortable, add another chord (E.g. G major – E shape) to complete a set of 4 chords to switch between.
This’ll quickly hardwire these chord shapes into your fingers. You’re also practising switching to them at the same time too, as you would do in a song.
Within a week, all these chords will feel easy as pie.
Another thing you can do to help with playing bar chords in particular, is to do reps of squishing a bouncy ball.
Yup, you heard me correctly. Start by placing it in between your thumb and index finger, and just …well… squeeze.
This works the pincer muscle that we use to bar stuff. Doing reps like this will help strengthen this muscle over time and make playing bar chords loads easier.
Wrapping It Up
The great thing about learning a chord like Bb is that you aren’t really just learning Bb. You are learning a way to play ALL the major chords.
And you didn’t even come here to learn the other chords, but I taught you them anyway… Muhaha! I’m so evil…
But anyway, have a go at some bouncy ball reps and soon enough your pincer muscle will be so strong that you’ll be able to crush Peanut M&Ms between your fingers.
Trust me, you’ll become the coolest guy in town.
I’ve been Sam Olverson
Have fun chording!