5 Ways to Play the B chord on Guitar

Published Categorized as Chords
B major variation 5

There are many ways to play the B chord on guitar. Below are 5 of those ways.

Learning how to play the same chord in different ways and around different parts of the fretboard is a great way to add to your repertoire and can really help you to change the flavor of a song, help to add some uniqueness when writing songs and gives you some options when improvising.

To clarify: When I say “B”, I mean B major.

B Chord Variation 1: Open B Variation 1

Most people don’t typically play an open B. B is usually played as a barre chord (see variation 3 below) as the go-to for most people. But you can play B in the open position without using a barre chord.

This first variation of the open B chord isn’t really an open chord – but it’s close to that open position on the fretboard.

This is played by:

  1. Placing your 1st finger (index finger) in the 2nd fret of the High E string
  2. Placing your 2nd finger (middle finger) in the 4th fret of the D string
  3. Placing your 3rd finger (ring finger) in the 4th fret of the G string
  4. Placing your 4th finger (pinky) in the 4th fret of the B string
B major open variation 1

Only the D, G, B and High E strings are strummed when strumming this chord. I like to bring my thumb over the top of the neck to mute the Low E and A strings so that I don’t accidentally play them and so that I don’t have to think as hard about my strumming hand.

B Chord Variation 2: Open B Variation 2

Another variation you can use in the first position is a little bit more difficult to play but it has a different flavor and makes use of the open B string. There are a couple of variations within this variation.

This is played by:

  1. Placing your 1st finger (index finger) in the 1st fret of the D string
  2. Placing your 2nd finger (middle finger) in the 2nd fret of the A string
  3. Placing your 3rd finger (ring finger) in the 2nd fret of the High E string
B major open variation 2

Here you don’t strum the Low E string and you need to either mute the G string (either with your pinky or by flattening out your index finger) or place your pinky finger in the 4th fret of the G string (quite a stretch!).

This chord is best used for finger-picking and not strumming, in my opinon, because even muting that G string can still bring in that discordant character so, unless that discordance is what you’re after, it doesn’t necessarily sound good strumming.

The other way you could play this to give it yet another flavor, is to give it an F# bass.

This is played by:

  1. Placing your 1st finger (index finger) in the 1st fret of the D string
  2. Placing your 2nd finger (middle finger) in the 2nd fret of the Low E string
  3. Placing your 3rd finger (ring finger) in the 2nd fret of the A string
  4. Placing your 4th finger (pinky) in the 2nd fret of the High E string

Here you would strum all of the strings but you’ll need to flatten out your index finger a little to mute that G string.

B Chord Variation 3: Barre B

The Barre B chord is the most played of the B chords and can be played in two main positions.

The A string Barre B” is played by barring the 2nd fret and creating the open A shape in the 4th fret. All the strings except for the Low E are strummed when strumming this chord.

If you aren’t sure about how to play barre chords check out the link below.

>>How to Play Major Barre Chords on Guitar

How you create the A shape is up to you. Personally, I find more difficult to put all 3 of my fingers into the 4th fret so I make that A shape by barring the D, G, & B strings in the 4th fret with my 3rd finger (ring finger).

The “E string Barre B” is played by barring the 7th fret with your index finger and making an open E shape in the 8th and 9th frets. This chord adds an extra B into the chord (6th fret high E string) that’s an octave higher than the highest B in the “A string Barre B”.

>>How to Play Bm Chords on Guitar

So whilst people often consider these two barre chords exactly the same, there is a slight difference and a subtly different flavor.

B Chord Variation 4: Higher up the fretboard

This variation gives a B chord option that is higher up the fretboard. It has a significantly different flavor to the Barre chords we just learned. This chord almost has a ukulele feel to it (IMO).

  1. Place your 1st finger on the 9th fret on the D string
  2. Place your 2nd finger on the 11th fret on the G string
  3. Place your 3rd finger on the 11th fret on the high E string
  4. Place your 4th finger on the 12th fret on the B string

Don’t strum the Low E and A strings when you are strumming this.

B major variation 4

You can also bring in a F# bass by barring the A and D strings with your 1st finger. I find that this (and without the F# bass) sounds best when fingerpicking or flat-picking but you can strum it too.

B Chord Variation 5: Mid Fingerboard

Now a nice easy one to finish.

  1. Place the 1st finger in the 7th fret of the B string
  2. Place the 2nd finger in the 7th fret on the high e string
  3. Place the 3rd finger in the 8th fret on the G string
  4. Place the 4th finger in the 9th fret on the D string

Strum only the D, G, B and high e strings. This is the same shape as is used for an open F chord.

B major variation 5

The other way you can play it is by barring the B and low e strings with your 1st finger and using your 2nd and 3rd fingers for the other 2 notes. This frees up your pinky to do other things.

Another variation is to barre the B and high e strings with your 1st finger and use your 2nd finger in the 8th fret on the G string, your 3rd finger in the 9th fret A string and your 4th finger in the 9th fret on the D string. This gives you a B with an F# bass.

Thanks for Reading

I hope this post has given you some new options for playing the B major chord. A

re there any other ways that you like to play the B chord? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Try these pieces out:

FAQs How To Play B Chord on Guitar

Is there an easier way to play the B chord?

If you are struggling to get your head and fingers around the B chord in any of its forms, then try to make sure that you have learned some other open chords first. Even if you feel you have learned all of the important ones (C, A, G, E, and D), make sure that you can play them with your eyes closed. Once you have these chords under your belt, then you should have enough knowledge to properly tackle the big scary B chord. One of the simplest methods for learning the B chord is to play it in its barred form, typically using the shape of an A open chord or E open chord, moving either up the fretboard until they turn into a B chord.

How to play B Major in guitar easily?

One of the easiest ways to play a B major (or at least to conceptually get your head around how to play one considering that you cannot play it in an open shape without a capo) is to use a barre shape. You will have the most luck at first using an E barre shape or an A barre shape. These function much like a capo, but instead of a capo, you use your finger to barre the entire width of the fretboard, momentarily affecting the tuning and temperament of the guitar. Of course, it might take a little longer than your mind for your fingers to catch up with such a maneuver, but keep at it!

Is there an open B chord on the guitar?

Just as there is no open F chord on the guitar, there is technically no open B chord either. Of course, you can use a capo to modify the pitch of the guitar, enabling you to play an open chord that sounds like a B. By placing a capo on the 2nd fret, for example, you can play an A shape and hear a B – likewise with the capo on the 7th fret with an E shape. You can, though, play a B7 in an open. Place your index finger on the 1st fret of the D string. Then, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the A string. Place your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the G string. Finally, place your little finger on the 2nd fret of the high E string.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

2 comments

  1. I can play most cords but i have short fingers and am having a problem playing the B cord what is the best way can i learn to play that cord

    1. Hi Lonnie

      Thanks for your message.

      I would experiment with the different variations and see what feels best for you. The go to for most is playing this as a barre chord, but if you aren’t comfortable playing bar chords then maybe something like Variation 5 would be more comfortable. It does mean you’re getting quite far away from the first fret which is where you might be playing most of your other chords – in which case it’s probably not ideal. Maybe you would find variation 2 easier – and it’s closer to other open chords, if that’s what you’re using for your other chords.

      Hope this helps

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