The B major chord requires a little more effort to learn than other beginner chords because of the way it’s played, but it shows up in so many songs it’s an essential one to get under your fingers.
By Dan Macy
This article examines how to play the B Major chord. This chord requires a little more effort to learn than other beginner chords because of the way it’s played, but it shows up in so many songs it’s an essential one to get under your fingers. "American Woman" by The Guess Who, "Little Red Wagon" by Miranda Lambert, and "Dream Police" by Cheap Trick are just a few examples of songs that all use the B chord.
We’ll also look at some chord variations and tips on how to learn it.
There are two common ways to play this chord and unfortunately both of them require tricky fingering because they are barre chords. When you're first learning guitar, many of the chords involve open strings. C, A, G, E, and D, for example, all have open strings that ring out when you strum them. Not so with the B chord. This one takes extra finger strength and effort because you have to fret every note in the chord.
The first way to play the B Major chord is in the 2nd position, which looks like this:
Strum four strings down from the A string.
Strum all six strings from from the low E string.
Playing in the 2nd position can be difficult because of the strength and stamina required to fret everything so close to the nut. This position ranks up there with the F Major chord in terms of difficulty, especially on an acoustic guitar.
So, if you're having trouble playing this version you're in luck because there are some alternate ways that don't require as much effort.
The first alternate thing you can do is to take your index finger off the 5th string and place it on the 1st string, so the chord now looks like this:
This version still sounds full enough even though you are not playing the B note in the bass. But if this is still too difficult, we can simplify it even further and give your poor wrists and fingers a break.
Here's another version that adds a little extra flavor and sounds great on an acoustic guitar:
Strum five strings down from the A string. This is actually a Bsus4 chord. The 2nd and 1st strings ring out, adding some extra color. It's easier to finger than the previous version and sounds a little more open. Throw it in to add variety and spice to your playing when you get tired of playing the standard B versions.
If you want to simplify the B chord even further there are two different 3-note versions you can use.
Here is the first 3-note version:
Strum three strings down starting on the G string.
And here is the other 3-note version:
After you've got the fingering down, it's time to practice transitioning to and from the B chord to really master it.
This chord is most likely to be found in songs in the key of E. One simple way to practice it is to work on transitioning from an E chord to a B chord and back again, and also from an A chord to a B chord and back again. For example, play an E chord in the open position for four beats, then the B chord in the 2nd position for four beats, and then back to the E chord.
Just because the two most common ways to play a B require extra finger strength, you shouldn't let it discourage you from learning how to play it. It's a good idea to start learning some easier chords like E, C, or G if you haven't already and once those are under your belt you'll have enough finger strength and dexterity to tackle the B chord. If you're having trouble, remember you can use any of the alternate versions that sound just as good and are much easier to play.
If you'd like to learn how to play even more chords, browse Fender Play's chord library, learn about chord types, and find tips on how to master them.
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