[Acoustic Guitar Chords] > How to Play the B Chord on the Guitar (Exercises & Variations)
Learning how to play the B chord requires a bit more effort than some of the other beginner guitar chords out there.
But since this is a chord that shows up in countless songs, it’s essential for your guitar-playing and song-writing toolkit.
If you’ve struggled to figure this chord out – don’t sweat it!
This easy guide will walk you through the basic techniques you need to know.
We’ll also look at some variations on the B chord that make it easier for beginners – and show you a few exercises to help you really nail it with a little bit of practice.
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What Is a B Chord?
So what’s the B chord all about?
It’s one of the most essential chords when learning guitar, but it can also be a tricky one due to finger positioning. But, like any new technique, with a bit of practice, the shape will become second nature.
The B chord, also known as the B Major chord, is a mid-range chord. It includes the notes B, D sharp, and F sharp and uses a barre chord structure as opposed to an open chord structure.
A quick reminder – open chords are played with open strings that aren’t fretted, while barre chords include multiple strings pressed down across a single fret of the fingerboard.
How to Play the B Chord on the Guitar
Before we begin, check out this article on chord diagrams so that you’re familiar with reading the diagrams I’ve included in this guide. You might also want to brush up on chord progressions if you’re thinking of incorporating the B chord into some of your chord sequences.
Next, use the 5-step guide and the associated diagram I put together to form a B chord, starting with your index finger.
How to play the B Chord:
- Play a barre chord with your index finger laying across the A, D, G, B, and E strings.
- Place your middle finger on the fourth fret of the D string.
- Place your ring finger on the fourth fret of the G string.
- Place your small pinky finger on the fourth fret of the B string.
- Now that your fingers are in place, strum down with your pick or your thumb, and relish in the excellent sound of the B chord!
Now I know what you’re thinking: this is uncomfortable.
But that’s okay!
It’s like using a muscle for the first time – it takes some getting used to. With time and practice it will feel better – trust me.
I’ve included some exercises down below that you can use to train this movement in your hand and your muscle memory.
B Chord Guitar Finger Positioning Tips
Now we’re on to finger positioning.
Knowing where and how to place your fingers is going to make playing a B chord way less challenging.
It might feel that you’re asking your fingers to go further than they physically can when you’re not used to the barre chord position.
As your index finger remains flat on the barre, it feels like a big stretch to where your other fingers need to go, which is further up along the neck. Countless guitar players have felt this way and have overcome it – and you will too!
- Use the tips of your fingers: Once your fingers are in the right position, make sure to press down hard enough with the tips of your fingers, not the pads. If you’re too gentle with your finger position, you might find that you’re playing a few dead notes or getting some fret buzz.
- Don’t flatten your fingers: Make sure you have an arch in your fingers – this will help you avoid pressing down on other strings.
- Place fingers just behind the fret: As with playing any chord, be sure to place your fingers just behind the fret, rather than on the fret. This helps avoid muted notes and will ensure that your B chord rings out brightly and clearly.
Easier B Chord Variations
As with many things in guitar, there are multiple ways to play the B chord; we’re going to show you a few of the easiest B chord options.
Try a couple out and see which ones feel good for you.
The 3-Note Versions
If you’re looking to scale the B chord back a bit, there are two simple 3-note versions you can try.
Although they may sound a bit thin, they’re still an official B chord, and they’re great for anyone struggling to play the barre chord as they only require three fingers.
Here’s how to do the first one:
Fret and strum only the three highest strings, with the following position:
- Index finger on 2nd fret of the high E string
- Ring finger on 4th fret of the G string
- Pinky finger on 4th fret of the B string
Now that your fingers are in place, strum down on the three strings.
And here’s how to do the second:
Place your fingers in the following position:
- Index finger on the 7th fret of the high E string
- Index finger on the 7th fret of the B string
- Middle finger on the 8th fret of the G string
Again, once your fingers are positioned, strum down on the three strings.
Alternate Versions of the B Chord
You thought you were done with the 3-note versions?
Hardly! There are even more versions of the B Chord for you to try out – I’ve included two more barre chords below.
Give them a try and see if you can hear a fuller sound compared to the three-note versions above.
Barre B Chord in 2nd Position
Position your fingers in the following way:
- Index finger on the 2nd fret of the A string
- Middle finger on the 4th fret of the D string
- Ring finger on the 4th fret of the G string
- Pinky finger on the 4th fret of the B string
Now, strum the four strings down from the A string, and boom – you’ve got a barre B chord!
Barre B Chord in 7th Position
For this barre chord, position your fingers as follows:
- Index finger on the 7th fret of the low E string
- Index finger on the 7th fret of the E string
- Index finger on the 7th fret of the G string
- Middle finger on the 8th fret of the G string
- Ring finger on the 9th fret of the A string
- Pinky finger on the 9th fret of the D string
Now strum six strings from the low E string for a full, huge-sounding B chord!
Exercises to Improve Your B Chord
Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to play this essential chord with both a stripped-back sound and a fuller sound, let’s have a look at exercises you can do to practice playing it:
- Practice consistently. If you can’t dedicate a whole hour every couple of days, then how about 5 minutes every day? Break it down into small, achievable chunks – they’re just as beneficial.
- Practice your chords. Practicing the shapes with your fingers will help you with your finger positioning in the future. It will make the unusual finger positions feel a lot more comfortable. When practicing, make sure the chord sounds good. If it doesn’t, it might be because your finger positioning is off.
- Strengthen your pinky. As you can see in the above examples, the B chord calls for a lot of pinky finger use. It’s not uncommon to have an extremely weak pinky, so it’s important to do exercises that strengthen your pinky.
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