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

The B Major chord is a common guitar chord. Despite its common use in Pop songs, there are no practical ways to play the B chord as an open chord. It is therefore played very commonly as a bar chord in the second fret.

Some Quick B Chord Theory

  • The B Major chord contains the notes B, D# and F#.
  • The B Major chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of the B Major scale.
  • The B 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).
  • The B Major first chord in the key of B. The key of B contains the following chords – B, C#m, D#m, E, F#, G#m, A# diminished.

10 Ways To Play The B Major Chord

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

B Major Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard B Chord Shape

The most common way to play the B chord is with the root note on the second fret of the fifth string. This is almost the same as the root-5 barre chord shape for B, but in this example, the first finger only plays the bass note and does not extend down to form the ‘barre’.

B Chord Guitar

Easy B Chord Shape

The easiest version of the B chord is the three-note triad, played on the first three strings of the guitar. Learning the easy B shape can be useful if you’re just starting out and need to play B for a song that you’re learning. Often, by learning these easy versions, you can get by until you learn the more common (but harder) shapes.

Easy B Chord Guitar

How to Play the B Major Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your third finger on the third fret of the third string.
  • Place your forth finger on the second fret of the third string.
  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the first string.

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

Barre Chord Shapes for B

The B chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 7th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 2nd fret:

B Barre Chord Guitar

B Major Triads

Most of the time, when we play the B chord, we play the standard shapes, such as the open position B and the barre chord shapes. However, learning the strict root position and inverted triads is a great way of exploring subtle and interesting variations that exist across the fretboard. The B Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:

  • B Major Triad (Root Position) – B, D#, F#
  • B Major Triad (1st Inversion) – D#, F#, B
  • B Major Triad (2nd Inversion) – F#, B, D#

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

B Major Triad Guitar

Which Keys Have The B chord in Them?

The B chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of B Major (B, C#m, D#m, E, F#, G#m, A#dim)
  • The key of F# Major (F#, G#m, A#m, B, C#, D#m, E#dim)
  • The key of E Major (E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m, D#dim)
  • The key of G# minor (G#m, A#dim, B, C#m, D#m, E, F#)
  • The key of D# minor (D#m, E#dim, F#, G#m, A#m, B, C#)
  • The key of C# minor (C#m, D#dim, E, F#m, G#m, A, B)

Alternative But Useful B Chord Shapes

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

Alternative B Chord Shapes Guitar

B Chord Substitutions

The B chord can often be substituted with the B sus 4 chord, the B sus 2 chord and the B add 9 chord. The B chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the B Major 7 chord, the B7 chord, and other extension chords which have B as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the B chord?

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

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

Further Reading

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