When I was first learning how to play the guitar, I had finally mastered my CAGED chords and was ready to move on to bigger and better things.
In my mind, I was already playing more complicated songs. But when I pulled up the music for a new tune, I dreaded the often challenging Bb chord.
Eventually, I mastered the elusive Bb. Along the way, I picked up some tips that I put together in this guide to mastering the Bb guitar chord for beginners.
The Theory Behind Bb
B flat major (Bb) is a very common chord for the guitar. Many songs are written in the key of F, and Bb is the fourth chord in this key.
General music theory teaches us that chords are built using three notes: the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of a scale.
The Bb scale goes like this: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, and A.
This leads us to understand that the Bb, D, and F notes make up the chord.
If you have a piano handy, play these notes together. It will give you a great idea of the sound you are going for. Thanks to the internet, you can also listen to the chord online.
Now that you have an idea of what notes you need to hit and why. It’s time to try out a couple of different versions of the Bb chord.
Further Reading: Bm Guitar Chord - B Minor
Most Common Bb Shapes
There are two common ways to play the Bb chord: the A shape and the E shape. Both shapes are a little challenging, especially for beginners. Before you learn any shortcuts, it’s good to know what your end aim is.
The A Shape
This iteration of the chord is derived from the A guitar chord. If you aren’t comfortable with that chord yet, take a moment to refresh your memory with this lesson.
For the true Bb chord, you will use a similar shape with your fingers, but with some adjustments.
First, place your first finger in a barre chord in the first fret. It is very important to apply as much pressure as possible to both E strings.
Your next move will be in the third fret.
Place your second finger on the fourth string. Then your second finger on the third string. And last, your third finger on the second string.
Strum all the strings. How did it sound?
If you’re not a fan, try your hand at the E-shape next.
Try Next: The Am Chord on Guitar
The E shape
As you have probably guessed, this version is similar to the E major chord. It helps to begin by placing your fingers in E major shape to refresh your memory. If you need help, refer to this lesson.
Now that you know your starting place, you’re ready to make the needed changes to learn this version of the Bb chord.
As you did with the A-shape, your first move is to place your first finger in the barre chord on the first fret.
Next, you place your second finger on the third fret of the third string. Your third finger follows to the fourth fret of the 5th string. Last, put your fourth finger on the fourth fret of the fourth string.
And strum all the strings. What do you think?
If it doesn’t sound right, don’t fret!
More Chords: The G minor Chord
Barre chords are a technique that is very difficult for most beginner and intermediate players.
But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid all songs with the Bb chord in it until you are a guitar master.
Lucky for you, there are a few shortcuts. These are the Bb guitar chords for beginners that will give you the sound you need without all the techniques.
Let’s see what you think!
Consider: Great Beginner Acoustic Guitars
The A-shape Shortcut
For this shortcut, place your fingers on the second fret as you would for A major: first finger on the fourth string, the second finger on the third string, and third finger on the second string.
Got it? Keep those finger placements in your mind.
Now move your fingers to the third fret. String placement is the same, but you will need to adjust your fingers.
Place your second finger on the fourth string. Following suit, place your third finger on the third string, and your fourth finger on the second string. Still with me?
Now you’re ready to strum. In order to get the right chord, you need to skip the last two strings and mute the first string. It’s more of a strum-pluck motion.
Practice it a few times and see what you think.
If it’s still not right for you, head to our next shortcut.
The Three-Finger Hack
I love the simplicity of this version. You’re going to start with your first finger on the first fret of the first string. Next, place your third finger on the third fret of the third string (Again, so logical). Last, and much less poetically, your fourth finger goes on the third fret of the second string.
How does it look? Do you see the resemblance to the E major shape?
Now you’re ready to strum. This time, you only play the first three strings.
For me, this is a little simpler than the A-shape shortcut. But I know several guitarists who disagree!
Still feel like you can’t get it? Never fear, there’s yet another way.
The Two Finger Bb
If you’re a true beginner, this may be your best bet.
To play this chord, place your first finger on the first fret of the sixth string. Next, take your second finger to the first fret of the fifth string.
With these two finger placements, you’re already good to strum.
Just like the E-shape shortcut, you are only going to strum three strings, but this time, you play the last three: E string, A string, and D string.
Try next: The F chord on guitar
Every beginner benefits from helpful tips to improve. Here are some additional thoughts to help confidently play the Bb chord.
For the A-shape shortcut, you’ll need to mute the first guitar string. If you don’t have a lot of practice with this, it can be a struggle.
In this situation, try using the last finger of your right-hand to deaden the sound. When you strum, keep that pinky resting against the first string. This will stop the vibrations and keep your chord clean.
If that doesn’t work for you, put the first finger of your fret hand to apply pressure to the first string. This will take you one step closer to playing it as a barre chord.
Barre Chord Techniques
Since you know the shortcuts, it can be tempting to rely on them and not work to master the barre chord versions of Bb.
But that’s a short game.
Bb isn’t the only popular barre chord and you’ll encounter more of them as you expand your song choices.
To increase your ability to play any barre chord try these tips:
Tilt your guitar slightly upwards. This will give you a better angle and put less strain on your wrist.
Make sure when you arch your wrist, you also round out your hand.
Use your arm. Pull backward with your left arm on the neck of your guitar. This will give you more pressure and allow you to play the barre chord more easily.
Take it Slow
Every new guitarist wants to rock out immediately. I know this from experience.
But the websites and how-to’s have it right. You need to go slowly and master the basics before you move on to more complicated songs.
There are often shortcuts, just like there are for the Bb guitar chord for beginners. I encourage you to use these wisely. They’ll widen your song repertoire, but you still need to practice the original versions.
It’s the only way you’ll achieve the full sound you need to play the songs you love. Or at least to play them the way you want to.
Practice this chord with the G Major chord next.
What To Play?
Once you have the theory and technique of the Bb chord down, you’ll have a whole host of song options to try out.
My personal favorite is Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and the classic Roy Orbison tune “You Got It.” If neither of those strikes your fancy, then find another one to practice your new skills.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.