Updated: JANUARY, 2018 ● ASK A QUESTION
In this article we show you how to build the B flat chord, starting with a simple B root note and adding one interval at a time, giving us both the easiest and more complex B flat chord voicings.
Other B Chord Guitar Articles
All guitar chords, regardless of difficulty, can be broken down one note at a time and built back up in the same way. In other words, chords can be as full (complex) or as simple as you want them to be. When you see a B flat chord in its fullest form (which is typically displayed with at least four notes), it can be helpful to break it down to the root and build it back up one note (interval) at a time.
In this guitar lesson I'll show you how to break down the B flat chord to its root before establishing dyadic and triadic forms of the chord that can be used in place of the full form versions.
If you're looking for help with a different chord you can checkout the rest of our chord primer lessons.
The Chord Building Process
Once you're finished with this guitar lesson you'll have the following B flat chord options at your disposal:
- Single note root
- Perfect fifth dyad
- Dyad (major or minor)
- Triad (major or minor)
- Full form (major or minor)
To cover this material, I'd recommend having a basic understanding of the following theoretical topics as they relate to the guitar:
If you'd like to brush up on any of these concepts, you can click on the links above. Otherwise, I'll do my best to cover all the important details here- at least enough for you to understand this material.
USING COMPOSITION FOR THE B Flat Chord
We'll use a theoretical method called chord construction or "composition" as we start with the root B flat note and build our chord out from there. As we progress we'll be adding one note (or interval) at a time, until the chord is built into its most full or conventional form.
The following iterations will give you several different B flat chord voicing and note combinations with four different fretboard positions each:
- The root form
- The root plus the fifth
- The root and major third
- The root and minor third
- The root, fifth and minor third
- The root, fifth and major third
- The full form of the B flat minor chord
You can see that we're using the following three basic elements to build all of our chords:
Three basic elements we'll use to build our B flat chords. (View Larger Image)
This means that once we're done covering the material, you'll have over 20 different ways to play the chord including the full form versions. Then, if you want to play the difficult versions you can- however you can also downgrade to the simpler versions as substitutes, using only two or three notes at a time.
Particularly in building and playing chord progressions, it can be easier to play a minimized version of a chord - even a simple dyad - in place of the full, conventional versions of that same chord.
Let's get started with root positions.
Finding the Root Positions of the B Flat Chord on the Fretboard
Every chord derives its name from a single root note.
In the case of B flat, that root note occurs at several prominent locations on the fretboard that are conveniently positioned on lower frets and strings. This makes them ideal for building chords from those locations. Once we find them we can create our B flat chords at each point.
Perhaps, the most obvious place is at the first fret on the fifth string.
Root B flat positioned at the first fret on the fifth string. (View Larger Image)
When most people think about a B flat chord, they understandably default to this location on the fretboard. It's an easy place to remember if and when you need to play a B flat pattern. Let's go ahead and label three other fretboard locations that can serve as root positions for our chord construction.
The four most practical root positions on the fretboard for building B flat chords. (View Larger Image)
It's advisable to memorize these four locations so that your mind defaults to one of them whenever you need to play a B flat chord or even just play something in that key. They're the first lines of defense you have against messing up (or missing entirely) a B flat chord within a given progression or bass line.
Once you've got a handle on the root fretboards positions, and you've done the work of memorizing them, we can start adding intervals. The perfect fifth is up first, which can be identified as an interval that's seven semitones above the root or roughly a 3:2 frequency ratio.
Adding a Fifth to the B Flat Root Note
We'll add a perfect fifth to each root positions at the first, third, sixth and eighth frets. These dyadic pairs will form the bases for our more complex B flat chords. Since there's only a root and fifth, the chord is not a minor or major yet. Rather, it's just consonant. At the same time it can be substituted for a B flat chord just as a bass player would play the root B flat note without any additional intervals.
ROOT PLUS FIFTH
Root positions paired with perfect fifth intervals, giving you four B flat dyads. (View Larger Image)
All four of these chords are dyadic shapes or "dyads" which simply means they're made up of only two notes. Beneath the chord diagram below we'll add a minor third and major third version giving you three different dyadic options at all four B flat root positions.
Here are the diagrams for the four B flat chords we've already tabbed out:
Dyadic B flat chord diagrams with roots and perfect fifths. (View Larger Image)
Root Plus Major Third
Additionally we can create B flat major dyads by adding the major third to the root note.
Root positions paired with major third intervals. (View Larger Image)
Root Plus Minor Third
If we want to create a B flat minor dyad, we simply use a minor third interval instead.
Root positions paired with minor third intervals. (View Larger Image)
Creating Triadic B Flat Chords with a Major and Minor Third
Up until now we've been dealing only with dyadic B flat chords and root notes. With the perfect fifth you have a consonant power chord and the base to our full form B flat voicings, however this is not particularly musical. The major and minor dyads are more musical but they don't have a full sound. All three of those shapes are better suited for power chord duties.
What if we want to thicken up the major and minor dyads without over-complicating the voicing?
In this section, we'll expand our chord composition to these three notes:
- Third (major and minor)
The minor third is one semitone lower than the major third from the root, which means we can take any major chord shape and make it minor by simply dropping the third interval one semitone (one fret space).
We'll add our major third intervals first then make another tab for the minor third voicings.
ROOT, FIFTH AND Major THIRD
Root positions paired with perfect fifth and major third intervals forming triadic B flat chord tabs. (View Larger Image)
Here's the diagram for those four chords:
Dyadic B flat chord diagrams with roots, perfect fifths and major thirds. (View Larger Image)
Root, Fifth and Minor Third (B Flat Minor Chord)
Next we'll drop the major third one semitone, which gives us our minor third in each chord:
Root positions paired with perfect fifth and minor third intervals forming triadic B flat chord tabs. (View Larger Image)
Dyadic B flat chord diagrams with roots, perfect fifth, and minor third intervals. (View Larger Image)
Full Form B Flat Chord
If you've made it this far and you still want to grapple with the more difficult forms of the B flat chord, the four voicings we've tabbed out below are the most conventional and usable options. Since there isn't an eighth fret form equivalent, we've added a different variation of the sixth fret voicing. Again, the reason we've saved these forms for last is because they're the most difficult ways to play a B flat chord on the guitar.
They're located at the same four fretboard locations we originally outlined for our B flat root notes, and have been built on a similar root, fifth and third interval structure- therefore, they shouldn't feel entirely foreign to your hand.
Work through them slowly and see how you do.
While it's helpful to have some exposure to these chord forms, the dyadic and triadic versions of B flat are much easier to work with. We'd recommend defaulting to those simpler variations unless there's a specific reason to go with the full form chords you see here. In most cases, they're just a lot more chord then you need.
Here's a proper guitar diagram with all four of the above full form chord voicings:
Full form B flat chord diagrams. (View Larger Image)
It's helpful to look at guitar chords in the context of structure and chord building, even though it requires some knowledge of music theory (instead of simply memorizing full patterns). Particularly when it comes to difficult chords like B flat, you'll have an easier time mastering it if you start at the absolute most basic element and work your way up from there. And don't be afraid to just play the root note for awhile. It's better to be in the right key and on the right note than to try and grapple with a massive chord shape that you haven't mastered yet.
Instead, start with a single root and add intervals as you improve.
To recap, in the order given, those intervals are the following:
- Root note (start here)
- Perfect fifth
- Minor third
- Major third
- Octaves (if any)
- Full and barre form (end here)
If you're having trouble with a chord, use this incremental process. Not only will you learn the chord in a more functional and usable way but you'll also learn some valuable music theory that you can re-apply to other material.
For questions, disagreements or thoughtful additions to this guitar lesson, feel free to drop something in the comments section below.
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We've also written up an entire article housing all of the online guitar lesson resources and YouTube channels that we recommend. This covers a lot of additional topics should you need further help.
Flickr Commons image courtesy of Kmeron