Ab Chord, How to Play A-Flat Major Chord on Guitar

How do you play an A-flat major chord on guitar? As with all chords, there are several ways to do it, and you’ll learn them as you gain proficiency. The Ab chord has an upbeat, almost perky sound, making it essential to music that’s supposed to sound fun and a bit reckless. 

The Challenges in Learning the Ab Guitar Chord

Before we learn how to play A-flat on guitar, let’s take a look at the chord as a whole.

The A-flat chord is enharmonic with G-sharp. They’re two names for the same chord, which might make you wonder why we bother calling anything G-sharp when we have A-flat (or vice versa). Essentially, the A-flat chord uses the “flat” name for the notes (Ab, C, Eb), while the G-sharp chord uses the “sharp” name for the notes (G#, B#, D#). 

Like many of the chords you’re learning, the A-flat guitar chord is a barre chord. But don’t let that frighten you, even if you haven’t begun learning many other barres yet. Besides the barre fingerings, there are ways to play the A-flat chord using the same shapes as other chords, possibly making it easier for you. 

Depending on your level, you might have noticed that some chords’ shapes look like those of other chords. When that clicks in your head and makes its way to your hands, even barre chord fingerings become easier. 

Two different versions of the A-flat chord have almost the same fingerings, but one uses a barre, and one does not. You might feel more comfortable learning the non-barred version first, along with a baby-barred version. You can work your way up to the full barred version as you go. 

How to Play the Ab Chord

The notes that make up an A-flat chord are Ab, C, and Eb. Let’s start with the most common way to play an A-flat guitar chord:

  • Use your index finger to make a barre across fret 4
  • Middle finger goes on the third (G) string at fret 5
  • Ring finger goes on the fifth (A) string at fret 6
  • Pinky finger goes on the fourth (D) string at fret 6
  • Strum downward on all six strings

There are many ways to practice your barres to get comfortable with them, so if you don’t have them yet, never fear. None of this is beyond you.

Baby Barre A-Flat Chord

Like the F-major chord, you can start working on the A-flat chord with what’s known as a baby barre. In this version, you make a barre across two strings instead of four or even all six. 

A baby barre A-flat chord looks like this:

  • Use your index finger to make a baby barre on the second (B) and first (high E) strings at fret 4
  • Middle finger goes on the third (G) string at fret 5
  • Strum downward from the G string only

This version lacks the full-bodied sound of the full barre chord. However, for beginning players, especially those with smaller hands, baby barres are one way to dip your toes into the world of playing barre chords.

Other Ways to Play the Ab Chord on Guitar

You can also play an A-flat chord without the barre:

  • Index finger goes on the second (B) string at fret 4
  • Middle finger goes on the third (G) string at fret 5
  • Ring finger goes on the fifth (A) string at fret 6
  • Pinky finger goes on the fourth (D) string at fret 6
  • Strum down from the A string to the B string

This particular fingering has a similar shape to the F-major guitar chord. It’s just at the fourth fret instead of the first and doesn’t have a barre. 

Suppose you’re comfortable making barres with your index finger, and you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something considerably more challenging. In that case, you can also play the A-flat chord this way:

  • Index finger goes on the fifth (A) string at fret 11
  • Make a barre with your middle finger across the fourth (D), third (G), and second (B) strings at fret 13

Don’t think about it too much if you can’t get it because this is a more advanced version. You will learn it later on, but sometimes it’s just fun to see exactly where your current limits are. 

Moving to and from the Ab Chord

If you’re playing A-flat chords, you’re working on playing in the key of A-flat major. The notes in that scale are: Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, and G. Some of the most common chords you’ll play with Ab are Db and Eb

You’ve probably seen this in other lessons, but that I IV V progression is so common in music that you’ll see it in every key and play it in many songs. In the key of A-flat, Ab is I, Db is IV, and Eb is V. 

After V, writers often go back to I (although they also go elsewhere), and that’s an excellent way to practice it at first: I, IV, V, I, etc. On your guitar, simply move back and forth through those three chords until you’re comfortable. Don’t forget to practice it in other keys with which you’re familiar, too. 

Tips, Tricks, and Practice Techniques for Beginners

We all know the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Nobody’s perfect, and even the best musicians in the world make mistakes on the most rudimentary things sometimes. Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect.

Practice does, however, make things permanent. When you’re practicing your barres, remember to roll your index finger slightly back off the fleshiest part of your finger. Doing that can make a massive difference when it comes to getting a clear, crisp sound. 

However, there are other things you can do, too. Playing your barres slightly closer to the fret bar itself can help eliminate the dreaded buzzing sound you might be getting. 

Practice making barres across three, four, five, and all six strings at different frets, particularly the first, second, third, and fourth frets. Those are the frets where you’ll be making barres most often at this point in your lessons, and it’s a great place to refine your positioning and technique.

As you do that, start working on pressing down on some strings but not others. It will feel awkward at first, as learning instruments do. You’ll get better at it as you practice. 

Learn the A shape barre chord to unlock more chords!

Songs That Use the Ab Chord

A-flat is a very common key, and there are a ton of songs that use it. To get an idea of what it sounds like in music, here are some great songs that use the A-flat chord:

As you work on the A-flat guitar chord, keep in mind the many ways to play it and gradually work on getting comfortable with each one. 

Try more chords:

A# (A sharp) on guitar

A flat minor guitar chord

Am (A minor) chord on guitar

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