A flat minor, or Abm, isn’t often one of the first chords beginners learn. A lot of new guitarists learn some open major chords, some open minor chords, and some open seventh chords. The Abm guitar chord is a step up as it’s commonly played as a barre chord. Let’s take a look at Abm chords and how to play them.
What is Abm Chord on Guitar?
You probably already know that minor chords have a darker, sadder sound than major chords. And Ab minor seems to mix that sadness with a sense of tension. You don’t hear about it a whole lot, but it packs a real emotional punch when you need it.
It’s also useful to know that Abm chords may sometimes be called G#m (G sharp minor) chords. That’s because Ab and G# are enharmonic notes — they are essentially different names for the same note. However, most people refer to it as Abm.
What Note is Abm?
Abm guitar chords are made up of three notes. Like most guitar chords, Abm is a triad, which just means a three-note chord. If you’re already familiar with some chord theory, you know that all minor chords are made of the root note, a flattened (minor) third, and a perfect fifth. You essentially find the three notes in an Ab major chord and then flatten the third.
We can go into the formula for major scales at a different time. For now, here is the Ab major scale:
Ab Bb C Db Eb F G
The root note, or tonic, is Ab. The third is the third note in the scale (C) and the fifth is the fifth note in the scale (Eb). That means that the notes Ab, C, and Eb make up an Ab major chord.
To get the Abm chord, we just need to flatten the third. “Flattening” the third just means lowering it by a half step. The third is C, and when we flatten it, we get B. However, to make it clear that the third has been flattened, you will often see it listed as a Cb.
So Abm is made up of A, B, and Eb (or A, Cb, and Eb).
Abm Guitar Chord For Beginners
One of the beautiful things about playing guitar is the fact that there are so many different ways to play the same chord. That’s especially helpful as you’re learning, as there’s almost always a simplified way to play a difficult chord.
Easy ways to play the Abm guitar chord
If your definition of “easy” is “not a barre chord,” you’re in luck — there are a few easy ways to play Abm.
For this method, put your index finger on the fourth string at the first fret. Then place your middle finger right under it (third string at the first fret).
It sounds easy, but there’s a catch — you can only play the fourth, third, and second strings. It can be a real challenge to avoid hitting strings both above and below your chord shape. So this one is definitely easier on your fingers; it’s just harder to play.
This method might be the easiest of the two. You’ll need to put your index finger on the first string at the 11th fret. Put your index finger on the second string at the 12th fret. And finally, put your ring finger on the third string at the 13th fret.
Sounds easy, right? This one has a little bit of a catch of its own. When you play it, you don’t use the sixth, fifth, and fourth strings. That means you’re stuck only strumming three strings, and those strings are the highest-pitched of all six. That feature can make it sound tinny and high, especially if it’s in a progression with some fuller-bodied chord fingerings.
The open chord versions of Abm pose some real challenges to newer players, although you are welcome to use them if you prefer. But between the time it takes for you to remember the chord fingerings and remember which strings to mute or avoid, learning the barre chord versions just seems easier to many guitarists.
The two most common ways to play an Abm guitar chord
There are two main Abm chords guitar players learn. Both are barre chords. One is in the E minor shape, while the other is in the A minor shape.
You may not yet be familiar with barre chords and their pattern of shapes. The CAGED system for guitarists explains that there are really only five chord shapes: C, A, G, E, and D. The system works by using the open chord shapes for each, but then putting a bar (with your index finger) in front. That lets you play different chords with the same shape — just just have to move the shapes up and down the neck as needed.
E Minor Shape:
To play this one, first bar your index finger across all strings at the fourth fret. Then, place your ring finger on the sixth fret of the fifth string. Finally, place your pinky at the sixth fret of the fourth string.
With this shape, your root note (Ab) is on the low E string. You strum all six strings. If you have shorter fingers or smaller hands, you might have some trouble reaching them over the fifth fret. Don’t worry if this happens — your hands will usually develop enough strength and flexibility to play the chord comfortably after a while. To help speed things along (and to help avoid pain and potential injury), try stretching your hands before you play.
A Minor Shape:
As the name suggests, this version of the Abm chord is based on the “A minor shape” barre chord. With this one, you make the shape of an open Am chord behind your barre.
If you’re fairly new to barre chords, this may be a less intimidating one to start with. Your root note is on the fifth string, so you don’t need to barre the heaviest string of all.
This shape asks you to go pretty far down the neck: start by barring all strings but the low E at the 11th fret. Your middle finger will go on the second string at the twelfth fret. Then, at the 13th fret, place your ring finger on the fourth string and your pinky on the third string.
But what do you do about the low E? If you manage to actually strum it, it will sound unpleasant. It doesn’t take a whole lot to mute a string, though. Try nudging your ring finger up toward the low E string so your finger is just barely touching the string. That should help deaden it in case you hit it accidentally.
Alternatively, if your hands are large enough, you can wrap your thumb around the back of the neck and use it to mute the low E. However, this is something a lot of guitar teachers discourage.
These shapes might pose a challenge. But once you get accustomed to barring, it actually becomes a lot easier to switch between chords. If you play Abm on ukulele, you’ll find that it’s even harder — you need to use all four fingers!
Helpful Tips for Playing Abm
- Check for buzz
- Don’t press too hard
- develop consistent muting
The transition from playing with all open chords to playing with barre chords as well can be daunting. As you’re learning to play Abm, here are some things to keep in mind:
Check for buzz – If you’ve just started learning barre chords, you probably already know the dreaded buzz that just keeps popping up. Practice holding down the barre chord and then slowly plucking the strings, making sure each one is ringing clearly. If some strings sound buzzy or uneven, you may be applying uneven or insufficient pressure.
Don’t press too hard – The actual amount of force needed to press the strings to the frets is very little. For a lot of newer players, holding the strings down tightly seems like the logical thing to do. However, all it does is cause needless hand strain.
Develop a consistent muting strategy – This one only applies if you’re using the A minor shape. Since you’ll likely need to use the shape for other chords in the future, plan how you want to mute the sixth string. Eventually, it will become second nature!
Why Should I Learn Easy Chords?
If you’ve been playing for a while, you may have forgotten how challenging learning your first chords and rhythm patterns is. Easier chords make it easier to switch between chords, so newer players are able to work on their rhythm patterns.
When you have a feel for easy chords, you can work your way into barre chords. That doesn’t mean you have to stop using easy chords, though — countless popular songs can be played with simple open chords.
Another advantage of learning easy chords is the fact that these chords introduce you to shapes you will need later. For instance, some barre chords are in the “A minor shape” or “E minor shape.” In each one, you are making the shape of an open chord right behind the barre.
Hopefully this introduction to the beautiful Abm chord has opened your eyes to some of the beautiful sonic nuances found in guitar chords. After all, though the names look similar, Abm sounds much different from Am!