How to Play the A# Chord on Guitar

Published Categorized as Chords

In progressing as guitarists and expanding our repertoire, we ought to seek to fill our minds and fingers with as many chords as possible, even those that might not be so prevalent in our music of choice. We never know when it might turn up, and when we least expect it and have time to prepare for it! Learning the chords in this way prepares us for every eventuality, enabling us to perform and improvise in as many settings as possible, with as many different kinds of musicians or in as many different scenarios.

a chord guitar

What is the A# Chord?

Lacking any further signification than this on a chord chart, we would be given to assuming, correctly, that this is a simple triad chord whose root lies on the A#. Thus, we take its notes to be: A# – D – F. The lack of any other symbols, such as that of an ‘m’ for minor, means we are dealing with a major triad.

Those a few steps ahead would be correct in assuming that A# is indeed Bb guitar chord. They operate on the exact same pitch and only differ in terms of their key signatures, but that’s a whole other topic. The important thing to remember is that there is simply no difference between the sound of either of them. It’s more often referred to as Bb in Jazz circles, where the chord is far more frequent owing to the fact that saxophones are transposing instruments that are oft tuned to Bb as a reference. Therefore, those seeking to make waves in these circles, or those simply looking to learn some Jazz standards, would do well to learn this particular chord as soon as possible.

What makes this a rather contentious chord for the guitar is that it is comprised of notes that, at odds with the guitar’s standard tuning, can’t be played quite as easily as other, more simple open chords, like C, or A, or E. They are most frequently constructed using barre shapes which, for all their seeming complexity, are actually just transposed forms of these very same simple chord shapes. They work in much the same way as a capo, which itself adjusts the overall tuning of the guitar, spiritually raising the nut of the headstock however many frets so that you can play these open chords more freely.

The A# chord is one such chord which, though it doesn’t appear quite as much as certain other chords, offers a vital shortcut through which to explore other, related guitar keys and chords.

So, if you’re familiar with this concept and know these simple open chords yourself, then you’re already well on your way to crushing the A# chord beneath your aspiring fingertips.

Below, you will find four ways to play this chord, ranging from two that are more simple, aimed primarily at those still working their experience around simple open chords; and there are another two, more suited for those already familiar with these open chords and wanting to find the A# (Bb) in a barre chord format.

However, no matter your level, I would encourage all to start from the beginning. No matter how adept you might feel you are, and no matter how easy it might feel to play the simpler chord shapes, their placement on the fretboard is rather interesting and has much to say about harmony if you lend it your ears and due diligence.

Translating the A# Chord to the Guitar

Two Finger Shape

Beginning with as little involvement as possible, this two-finger method is a perfect place to start. Though located in a rather unconventional place at the very bottom of the guitar’s pitch range, this can add a characteristic warmth and body to a chordal accompaniment if used and played correctly.

Here, the F will be played on the thickest (E) string using the index finger, the A# (Bb) itself will be found on the A string fretted by the middle finger, and the D will sound on the open fourth string.

If you’re having trouble, perhaps because this area of the guitar is too small for your fingers, try playing it an octave up, if only to get a sense of what these three notes together sound like and mean. Because the lowest note is not the root note A#, we would call this kind of chord an inversion, here of its more standard triad form. As inversions can be very useful in Jazz, where chord changes can be so fast as to require, much like on a keyboard instrument, the inversion of chords in order for the hands to be able to reach them in time, this is a vital concept and chord shape if you are so inclined.

Three Finger Shape

Though a step up from before, the A# chord shape here is still relatively simple. In fact, this shape echoes the A barre chord shape that you will see next, so this is an essential stepping stone in that seemingly chasmic jump to barre chords.

Unlike the previous two-finger shape, this chord isn’t an inversion of the A# chord, the lowest note being an octave of the root A#. In this particular shape, we find this root played by the middle finger on the third fret of the G string, below which is the D fretted by the ring finger on the third fret of the B string, followed by our highest note F, covered by the index finger on the first fret of the high E string.

A Barre Shape

Once you’ve mastered the previous three-finger shape, all that’s left to grasp is the barre shape itself, so before moving any further I would encourage you to practise this by fretting with your index finger the entire first fret, playing this aloud and rectifying any fret buzz by adjusting your grasp. This will certainly be tough at first, and your tendons will have to get used to the tension, but you’ll have it in no time.

With the index finger’s barring of the first fret covering the root on the A string and the F on the top E string, the rest is left to the other fingers: the other F on the third fret of the D string ought to be fretted by the middle finger, below which will lie the octave A# pressed down by the ring finger on the third fret of the G string, similarly culminating in the D sounding directly below by the pinky on the third fret of the B string.

E Barre Shape

Finally, to conclude is the E barre chord shape, so placed for requiring all of the strings being pressed down. However, don’t be alarmed for this follows a similar logic to the previous shape, only this time using the open E chord shape instead of the A shape.

As with the A barre shape, the index finger will be covering multiple notes, in this case three: the root A# on the low E string, its octave on the high E string, and the octave F on the B string. The rest of the notes are divided thus: the ring finger echoing the F on the eighth fret of the A string, the pinky maintaining another octave on the eighth fret of the D string, and the middle finger boldly presenting the sole D note on the seventh fret of the G string.

Final Tones

If you’ve followed this course of exercises in the right order then you should be at least somewhat the wiser on how and where to play and find the A# chord in multiple places on the guitar fretboard. However, the most important thing is almost always to take things at your own pace, spending longer on certain parts as you see fit, and, in lieu of a professional tutor, assessing your progress intelligently to iron out mistakes as soon as they arise. If something doesn’t sound ‘right’ it probably isn’t, so trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

FAQs A# Chord

Where is the A# Guitar Chord?

The A# Chord has many different places all over the fretboard, where it can have root notes on all of the lower strings, or none at all when inverted. So, mastering it will definitely help you out with improving your fretboard techniques. The most common place we might find this chord is barred, with its root on either the A string or E string, so barred on the first or sixth fret respectively.#

How do you use the A#?

You would use the A# much as you would any other chord, when applicable of course. This chord finds itself used often in Jazz music, where its kindred Bb, which is itself the same chord, is the note often tuned to by transposing instruments like saxophones and trumpets.

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 :-)

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