Ab Chord on the Guitar (A Flat Major) – 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory)

The Ab Major chord is enharmonically the same as the G# Major chord. It is not possible to play the A flat Major chord as an open chord, so the bar chord versions of Ab are the most popular ways of playing the chord.

Some Quick Ab Chord Theory

  • The Ab Major chord contains the notes Ab, C and Eb.
  • The Ab Major chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of the Ab Major scale.
  • The Ab Major chord (just like all Major chords) contains the following intervals (from the root note): Major 3rd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th (back to the root note).
  • A flat is the first chord in the key of A flat. The seven chords in the key of Ab Major are: Ab, Bbm, Cm, Db, Eb, Fm, G diminished.

10 Ways To Play The Ab Major Chord

If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for Ab, here they are.

Ab Major Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard Ab Chord Shape

The most common way to play the Ab chord is as a root-6 barre chord, barring the 4th fret. Because this is a barre chord, it is somewhat difficult to play and therefore not necessarily the first Ab chord that guitarists learn.

Ab Chord Guitar

Easy Ab Chord Shape

The easy version of the Ab chord is essentially the open A chord shape, but moved back one fret and without any open strings. Because it involves only three strings, it is a much easier shape to play than the standard barre chord shape.

Easy Ab Chord Guitar

How to Play the A Flat Major Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your first finger on the forth fret and barre all six strings.
  • Place your third finger on the sixth fret of the fifth string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the sixth fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your second finger on the fifth fret of the third string.
  • Strum the first six strings.

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the most common Ab Major chord shape. These instructions can actually be super helpful when you feel like you’re interpreting the shape incorrectly. By going through the Ab chord instructions step by step, you can verify that you’re playing the chord correctly.

Barre Chord Shapes for A Flat

The Ab chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 4th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 11th fret:

Ab Barre Chord Guitar

Ab Major Triads

Playing the Ab chord using barre chord shapes is the most common way of playing the chord. However, it is also useful to explore the chord using triads (including inversions). The A flat Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:

  • Ab Major Triad (Root Position) – Ab, C, Eb
  • Ab Major Triad (1st Inversion) – C, Eb, Ab
  • Ab Major Triad (2nd Inversion) – Eb, Ab, C

Here are six different ways to play the Ab Major triad (including inversions).

Ab Major Triad Guitar

Which Keys Have The Ab chord in Them?

The Ab chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of Ab Major (Ab, Bbm, Cm, Db, Eb, Fm, Gdim)
  • The key of Eb Major (Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm, Ddim)
  • The key of Db Major (Db, Ebm, Fm, Gb, Ab, Bbm, Cdim)
  • The key of F minor (Fm, Gdim, Ab, Bbm, Cm, Db, Eb)
  • The key of C minor (Cm, Ddim, Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb)
  • The key of Bb minor (Bbm, Cdim, Db, Ebm, Fm, Gb, Ab)

Alternative But Useful A Flat Chord Shapes

The following shapes are alternative ways of playing the A flat Major chord shape. They’re not the most common Ab shapes, but used enough to include here as interesting alternatives.

Alternative Ab Chord Shapes Guitar

Ab Chord Substitutions

The Ab chord can often be substituted with the Ab sus 4 chord, the Ab sus 2 chord and the Ab add 9 chord. The Ab chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the Ab Major 7 chord, the Ab7 chord, and other extension chords which have Ab as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the Ab chord?

The most common and effective scales that can be used to solo/improvise over the Ab Major chord, or to create melodies for the purposes of song writing are:

  • Ab Major pentatonic scale – This scale will almost always work over the Ab Major chord, in any context.
  • Ab Major scale – This is the ‘default scale’ of the Ab chord.
  • Ab Lydian mode – This scale can be used over the Ab chord in certain contexts to add a jazz flavour.        
  • Ab Major Blues – This scale is particularly useful in a Blues context.

Further Reading

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