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

The Bb Major chord is a common chord on the guitar. It is the 4th chord in the key of F (a very popular key), which means it get used quite a lot. The most common ways of playing it are on the first fret as a root-5 bar chord and on the 6th fret as a root 6 bar chord.

Some Quick Bb Chord Theory

  • The B flat Major chord contains the notes Bb, D and F.
  • The Bb Major chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of the Bb Major scale.
  • The Bb 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 Bb Major chord is the first chord in the key of Bb. The chords in the key of Bb are: Bb, Cm, Dm, Eb, F, Gm, A diminished.

10 Ways To Play The Bb Major Chord

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

Bb Major Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard Bb Chord Shape

The most common way to play the Bb chord essentially the root-5 Bb barre chord, played on the first fret. Often, as in the example below, the first finger does not actually form a barre, but instead simply plays the root note.

Bb Major Chord Guitar

Easy Bb Chord Shape

The easy version of the Bb chord is played on the first three strings of the guitar. Learning this simplified shape can be a good way to start using the Bb chord if you find the barre chord versions too challenging.

Easy Bb Chord Guitar

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

  • Place your first finger on the first fret of the fifth string.
  • Place your second finger on the third fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your third finger on the third fret of the third string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the third fret of the second string.
  • Without strumming the sixth string, strum the first five strings.

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

Barre Chord Shapes for B Flat

The Bb chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 6th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 1st fret:

Bb Barre Chord Guitar

Bb Major Triads

Playing the Bb 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 B flat Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:

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

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

Bb Major Triad Guitar

Which Keys Have The Bb chord in Them?

The Bb chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of Bb Major (Bb, Cm, Dm, Eb, F, Gm, Adim)
  • The key of F Major (F, Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, Edim)
  • The key of Eb Major (Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm, Ddim)
  • The key of G minor (Gm, Adim, Bb, Cm, Dm, Eb, F)
  • The key of D minor (Dm, Edim, F, Gm, Am, Bb, C)
  • The key of C minor (Cm, Ddim, Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb)

Alternative But Useful B Flat Chord Shapes

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

Alternative Bb Chord Shapes Guitar

Bb Chord Substitutions

The Bb chord can often be substituted with the Bb sus 4 chord, the Bb sus 2 chord and the Bb add 9 chord. The Bb chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the Bb Major 7 chord, the Bb7 chord, and other extension chords which have Bb as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the Bb chord?

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

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

Further Reading

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