How to Play the B Chord on Guitar (B Major)

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Playing a B chord on guitar is a bit tricky. There isn't a great way to play it as an open chord (using open strings) without a capo like you can with E, G, D, C, and A.

It's even harder than F!

So what are our options?

How to Play a B Major Chord on Guitar

If you're playing acoustic guitar, the easiest option is going to be capo on the 7th fret and play an E Shape:

B Major E Shape

This gives B, F#, B, D#, F#, B.

You will put your middle finger on the 9th fret of the A String, your ring on the 9th fret of the D string, and your index finger on the 8th fret of the G string.

Another easy option is to capo the 4th fret and play your G shape.

B Major G Capo
Capo B Major

This gives you B, D#, B, F#, D#, and B, or the 1st, 3rd, 1st, 5th, 3rd, and 1st of the B Major Scale.

You will use your middle finger on the low E string, your index finger on the A string, and your ring finger on the high E.

Another way to play the B Major chord is to use a barre chord shape:

B Major Barre Chord

You can play this by barring the second fret, and then stacking your middle, ring, and pinky to grab those middle notes (middle finger plays the 4th fret on the D string).

Even more simply, you can play a power chord by only playing the first three notes in the diagram above, but you'll be removing the third (which is what distinguishes between minor and major).

Most people play that by putting their index on the second fret of the A, their ring finger on the 4th fret of the D, and their pinky on the 4th fret of the G.

Where a B Major Chord Comes From

It's important to know how to build a B major chord — this is what lets you find them all over the neck and is really useful as you get more advanced.

The formula for any major triad, which is a name for a basic three-note chord, is the 1st (root), (major) 3rd, and 5th notes of any major scale.

Remember that you can build any major scale by going using this formula of whole steps (2 frets) and half steps (1 fret).

W-W-H-W-W-W-H

So in the Key of C, that's C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

or C-E-G.

In the Key of B, that's B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B

or B-D#-F#.

Armed with this, you can find B Majors anywhere over the neck! Find your B, say at the 7 fret on the E string, and find your major scale using the formula above — then take the 1sts, major 3rds, and 5ths and stack them together and boom, you've got B Major.

This lets you find cool triad shapes like this:

B Major Triad

Cool right? To discover more tips and the top practice techniques of musicians like Jacob Collier and John Coltrane / discover how you can get better at music faster than ever (for free!), go to weallpractice.com/noted.

Capo vs. Not Capo

There's no wrong or right answer for whether or not you should capo. It is a stylistic choice, which is why you should think about what type of genre and role you are playing within the group. If you are strumming along to a song, it may make more sense to play a capoed version.

If you are playing lead guitar, a power chord or triad higher on the neck may make sense.

Try to listen to the guitar part you are emulating and pick out exactly what voicing (the arrangement of the chord) the person is playing. Hear a whole bunch of notes that sound like an acoustic? Chances are it's a capo, hear just a few notes played on electric? Chances are it's somewhere else on the neck.

3 Popular Songs that Use the B Major Chord

John uses the G shape of the B here, but he grabs the low B with his thumb instead.

Yellow starts with the 7th fret capo version of B.

The Limelight riff includes the B power chord at the beginning.

3 Exercises to Master the B Major Chord

#1 - Off and On Again

Find the B shape you want to get good at. Get your fingers just right so every note rings clearly. As soon as you are playing it confidently, take your hand, shake it out, and get back to it as soon as you can. In other words, restart finding it methodically until your fingers naturally find the correct shape and placement.

#2 - Identify 5 Triads

There are more than 5 ways to play a B Major Triad — especially if you include inversions, but start by identifying the three core notes (B, D#, F#) and then see if you can find five other places to play this around the neck.

#3 - Basic Arpeggio Progression

Set a metronome to 70 BPM. Find your basic E chord shape and play each string from low E to high E every time the metronome beeps. Then, without pausing between beats, switch to A, then to B. Repeat this until you've mastered it, then reverse the string pattern (high to low). This is a basic 1-4-5 pattern in E. You will recognize it.

Good luck!

Written by
Nathan Phelps
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