The B chord is the bane of the beginning guitarists existence. Typically, when you start learning guitar, you learn your basic C, A, G, E, D chords. Otherwise known as "cowboy chords". They are easy to form for beginners, unlike the B chord.
The B chord is generally, a young player's first foray into the wonderful world of barre chords. A barre chord is simply when you use one finger (usually your index finger) to fret multiple strings at once while making the chord shape with your remaining fingers.
Today we will cover a few variations of the B chord along with some complimentary chords you can play with it.
How To Play The B Chord
In the above diagram, you can see the proper way to make a B chord is with your:
- index finger (1) fretting strings 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or A, D, G, B, e along the 2nd fret
- middle finger (2) fretting the F# note on the D string at the 4th fret
- ring finger (3) fretting the root B note on the G string at the 4th fret
- pinky finger (4) fretting the D# note on the B string at the 4th fret
Variations Of The Chord
The above B chord is the most common version. However, you can play it on various sections of the guitar neck. In fact, some of these positions may be easier to play.
In this diagram, you can see a much easier, 3-string version of the B chord. You just place your:
- index finger (1) on the F# note on the high e string at the 2nd fret
- ring finger (3) on the root B note on the G string at the 4th fret
- pinky finger (4) on the D# note on the B string at the 4th fret
- you do not play the E, A, or D strings
If you are playing barre chords further down the neck, you can try this formation using the E-chord shape.
In this diagram, you use the E-chord shape while barring on the 7th fret. The proper formation for this version is with your:
- index finger (1) fretting strings all 6 strings along the 7th fret
- middle finger (2) fretting the D# note on the G string at the 8th fret
- ring finger (3) fretting the F# note on the A string at the 9th fret
- pinky finger (4) fretting the root B note on the D string at the 9th fret
One more simplified version is using the F chord shape also on the 7th fret.
Using the F chord shape you place your :
- index finger (1) on the 2 and 1 or B and high e strings at the 7th fret
- middle finger (2) on the D# note on the G string at the 8th fret
- ring finger (3) on the root B note on the D string at the 9th fret
- you do not play the 6 and 5 or low E and A strings
The Theory Behind It
As you may already know, the B chord is made up using notes from the B major scale. The major chord is made up of the I, III, and V notes on the major scale.
The B major scale looks like this:
Using the above diagram, you can see where the notes of the B major scale fall in sequence. So the I, or the root note, is a B. The III, or 3rd, is a D#, and the V, or 5th, is an F#.
As wonderful as a single chord may sound, it isn't much fun to just strum one chord. You will probably want to play some other chords along with it.
A fun thing to do is just pick a progression using the numbers of the scale. For example, an incredibly common chord progression in pop and rock music is the I - V - vi - IV progression. Translated to the B major scale would be B - F# - G#m - E.
Note: Anytime you see the scale numbers in lower case (eg: vi Vs VI) it means you play a minor version of that chord.
The way you would play the above chord progression is:
A Couple B Chord Variations
If you want to add a little flavor to your B chord, you can also play a B7, Bm, or a Bm7. Now, a Bm or Bm7 will not sound great with all the of the same chords as a B or B7, but it can give you something fun to play around with and practice your transitions.
Songs That Have The B Chord
Here are some popular songs across multiple genres that have a B chord in them:
- Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen
- I Really Like You by Carly Rae Jepson
- Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash
- Teenagers by My Chemical Romance
- Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam
- Paperback Write by The Beatles
- When Love Comes To Town by U2
Hopefully, you found this helpful. The B chord can be a difficult chord to learn. But as we said earlier, its generally the gateway into barre chords which opens up a whole new world of playing possibilities.