The common B chord guitar patterns are some of the more difficult chords to play on a fretboard, mainly because there isn't a good "open" or non-barred way to play them. We will look at dyads and triads here, which make up simpler foundational forms of the B chord and are much friendlier on a fretboard.
Learning the chord this way involves three components:
If we focus on the theory of important voicings and diagrams that take us one interval at a time, we'll learn the B chord and have an easier time applying it.
It's true that chart memorization is involved, but understanding chord construction is far more important and makes the memory process a lot more intuitive. We'll start with some of the more common B chords and then look at dyads, power chords, triads and then seventh extensions, all with a B root note, giving you a ton of different B chords to start with.
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B Major Chord Guitar Diagram
Most chords have an open form that guitarists learn first. Chords like open C and E major come to mind and are easily picked up by beginners. But B doesn't exactly have an "open" form, and almost always needs to be barred if you want to tackle the full major or minor version.
The most common major full form B chord is played with its root at the second fret and all three intervals (major third, fifth and octave) on the fourth fret.
Here's the diagram:
The common, B major chord diagram. (View Larger Image)
It's likely you'll need to barre those three notes on the fourth fret, which is not an easy task if you're just starting out. Instead of tackling this shape right away, let's go back and start with some simple dyads in the key of B.
Dyads in the Key of B
The term "dyad" refers to two notes forming an intervalic relationship. In this case, we're viewing them as chords. It should be noted that this is not universally accepted, as some music theorists have held that you must have three notes to form a chord. We'll call these "intervalic B chords" since they form the base of nearly every other B chord in existence.
As you'll see when we get to triads, most chords (of any note value) are formed by a root, third (major or minor) and fifth. These dyads will give us all of the following pairings:
- Root + perfect fifth
- Root + major third
- Root + minor third
- Root + octave
In almost every instance, a more complex B chord will have one or more of these interval pairings embedded in it. For example, you might recall in the above diagram that we had an octave interval (a high and low B note) as well as a major third interval (B and E flat).
Dyads can also function as standalone chords particularly if you want a more subtle, nuanced form of a chord you already know.
Take the following guitar tab, with a full form B chord followed by a dyad in the key of B, which is simply two B notes paired together:
The dyadic version of the B chord. (View Larger Image)
Both have a root B note, but the one on the right (the dyadic pair) is far easier to play and more nuanced than the full B major. There are a lot of instances where you might substitute the full form of a chord with its more subtle dyadic equivalent.
Here, we'll cover three different dyadic pairings in the key of B.
B CHORD DYAD #1 (octave)
Dyad with a root B on the second fret. (View Larger Image)
B CHORD DYAD #2 (major third)
Dyad with a root B on the second fret and a major third interval (E♭). (View Larger Image)
B CHORD DYAD #3 (perfect fifth)
Dyad with a root B on the second fret and a perfect fifth interval (F♯). (View Larger Image)
While "dyad" might refer to any two notes sounding simultaneously, it's more academic to reserve the title for more consonant interval pairings like the major third, perfect fifth, minor seventh, etc.
Power Chords in the Key of B
There isn't a lot of difference between the dyads we just covered and what you might know as power chords. Moreover, power chord shapes - because they tend to be quite simple and repetitive - are not often covered based on their root or in the context of a particular key. However, here we will cover them that way for the following two reasons:
- It provides context for understanding power chord theory
- It's helpful to identify commonly used notes based on fretboard position
We are looking at power chords to help memorize the fretboard location of the root B, so we can place that power chord when necessary. It also gives us some easy, entry-level application for some of the theory we've just covered. We get to use some of the intervals and dyadic shapes that we've already seen- except this time, we're going to expand them a bit.
B POWER CHORD #1 (fifth + octave)
B power chord diagram with a fifth (F♯) and octave at the second fret position. (View Larger Image)
B POWER CHORD #2 (Fifth + Octave)
B power chord diagram with a fifth (F♯) and octave at the seventh fret position. (View Larger Image)
Triads in the Key of B
A triad is any chord made up of a root, third and fifth. It's also called "stacked thirds" since each interval is a third above the one prior. Being limited to three notes in this arrangement gives you easier ways to play the B chords that don't involve barring. They also provide more variety for each root chord, allowing you to choose from more unconventional, less familiar voicings of B.
We'll cover the most common B major triads, four in total. Note that you can make any of these major triads minor by simply dropping the major third interval down one semitone (fret). In the minor chords section below, we'll cover this more in depth.
B MAJOR TRIAD #1
B major triad at the seventh fret position. (View Larger Image)
B MAJOR TRIAD #2
B major triad at the fourth fret position. (View Larger Image)
B MAJOR TRIAD #3
Second version of a B major triad at the ninth fret position. (View Larger Image)
B minor Chord Guitar Diagrams
The B minor chord we'll start with is similar to the first B major chord shape we covered, with the flatted third interval. This gives us the following notes, assuming the key of B:
B, D and F♯
Agnostic of key, the scale degrees would look like this:
1, ♭3, 5
The flat is added to the third scale degree, giving your chord (or scale) a darker, minor sound. As we mentioned previously, you can adjust any major scale to make it minor by flatting the third interval and vice versa.
B MINOR CHORD #1
B minor chord positioned at the second fret. (View Larger Image)
B MINOR CHORD #2 (Minimized Form)
Minimized version of the B minor chord. (View Larger Image)
B MINOR CHORD #3 (Barre Form)
Barre form of the B minor chord positioned at the seventh fret. (View Larger Image)
B7 Chord Guitar Diagrams
Seventh chords are a type of extended chord, meaning they include an interval that goes beyond the typical root, third and fifth of a triad. Thus, most B7 chords will have at least the following notes:
- Root C
- Major Third
- Perfect Fifth
- Minor Seventh
Note: The B7 chord has a minor seventh interval, while the Bmaj7 has a major seventh interval above the root, meaning the "maj" refers to the type of extension, not the type of third.
Since a minor seventh interval is 10 semitones above the root, the seventh note in a B chord is A.
B7 CHORD #1 (third fret form)
B7 chord at the third fret position. (View Larger Image)
B7 CHORD #2 (eighth fret form)
Upper register B7 chord at the ninth fret position. (View Larger Image)
Handling More Complex B Chords
We limited our B chord guitar diagrams to cover the forms that we believe are most commonly used. Other extensions, suspended chords and more complex voicings have been omitted because they aren't as common. If you want to delve into those more complex voicings, knowing these chords - and the theory behind them - will make that process a lot easier and more intuitive. If you get how chords are constructed, you can add intervals all day long.
We recommend memorizing the patterns. but more importantly, memorizing the theory that explains how we got to and from each pattern.
Do you have questions about B chords, the diagrams we've presented or the theory discussed?
Feel free to drop questions, thoughts or even corrections in the comments section below. Usually Bobby answers comments directly, and we prefer them over email so future readers can benefit from our conversations.
Moreover, if you have some additional insight or cool ideas about how to learn, master and apply the B chord, we'd love to hear about it and possibly even include it in this content.