Whether you’re a beginner or a somewhat more experienced player, learning a new guitar chord is always exciting. Today we’ll be looking at the fraught-sounding Db major, a mainstay of many jazz standards.
What Is the Db Chord?
Db major (said aloud as “D-flat major”) is a flattened version of the D major chord.
Like most chords, the Db guitar chord is made up of a trio of notes: Db, F, and Ab. A D major chord is a triad of D, F#, and A. As you can see, flattening (lowering by a half step) each note in the D major triad will give you a D flat major.
You may see Db written as C#. That’s because Db and C# are enharmonic notes — when you play a Db chord and a C# chord, you’ll hear the same chord both times. Effectively, Db and C# are just different names for the same chord (or note).
Another example of enharmonic notes/chords is Abm and G#m.
You can see and listen to the Db major guitar chord in this video
The Db Chord: Two Ways to Play It
The two most common ways to play the Db guitar chord are both barre chords. If you’re unfamiliar with some of the major chord categories, barre chords require you to “bar” a finger over multiple strings. Open chords don’t.
As a side note, there are plenty of different voicings and inversions of the Db guitar chord. We won’t get into every single one here.
This version of the Db guitar chord uses an E-shape barre chord. It also may be the easiest to play. Especially for newer players, a barre chord played further from the headstock places less stress on the fretting fingers. So if you’re just beginning barred guitar chord practice (and barre chords can be tricky!), this is a good one to start with.
In this version (and other E-shaped or root 6 chords), the lowest note (bass note) is on the 6th string. On the fretboard, you’ll find Db (the root) on the 6th string at the 9th fret.
Here’s how to play the E-shape version of the Db major chord:
- Bar your index finger over all strings at the 9th fret.
- Place your middle finger on the 3rd string (G string) at the 10th fret.
- Place your ring finger on the 5th string (A string) at the 11th fret.
- Place your pinky finger on the 4th string (D string) at the 11th fret.
- In this version, strum all strings.
This version of the Db guitar chord is an A-shape barre chord. A-shaped chords are also called “root 5” chords because you find the root on the 5th string (A string). For this one, the root note of Db is on the 5th string at the 4th fret. Here’s how to play this one:
- Bar your index finger over the first five strings at the 4th fret.
- Place your middle finger on the 4th string (D string) at the 6th fret.
- Place your ring finger on the 3rd string (G string) at the 6th fret.
- Place your pinky finger on the 2nd string (B string) at the 6th fret.
- Mute or skip the 6th string.
The Db Major Chord: The Easy Version
If you’ve started learning barre chord technique, you know that barring chords can be especially hard on your first finger and thumb. If you haven’t yet ventured into the world of the barred guitar chord, simpler fingerings can make your life a lot easier. So if you’re ready to play the Db guitar chord but would rather not place more stress on your fingers, here’s an easier version:
- Place your index finger on the 3rd string (G string) at the first fret.
- Place your middle finger on the 1st string (high E string) at the first fret.
- Place your ring finger on the 2nd string (B string) at the second fret.
- Only strum or pick these three strings! Mute or skip the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you’ve learned the Db guitar chord, you might still have some questions. Here are a few:
A Db major (D flat major) chord is the chord you get when you flatten each note in a D major chord. Db major is made up of the notes Db, F, and Ab, where Db is the root note.
Just like any guitar chord, Db can be played in a number of ways. The two most common are barre chords: one in the E shape (root 6) and one in the A shape (root 5). However, there are plenty of alternate voicings as well as beginner-friendly open versions to practice with, too.
The chords that go the best with the Db guitar chord depend on the key you’re playing in. If you are playing in Db major, Db goes best with Gb and Ab. That’s because the major chords in a major key are the 1st, 4th, and 5th degrees of the relevant scale (in this case, the Db major scale).
When playing in a minor key, major chords are on the 3rd, 5th, and 6th degrees of minor scales. When using the key of Gb minor, Db major is the 5th degree of the scale. So Db goes well with Gbm, A, and D as well.
If you want to learn more about scales, a guitar scales chart can be a big help!
A D flat (Db) guitar chord is Db major. Anytime you see a chord name that is not followed by a lowercase “m” (indicating a minor chord), a 7 (indicating a dominant seventh chord), etc., it’s safe to assume it is a major chord. The Db chord is a Dmajor chord with each note flattened, or lowered by a semitone.
Don’t feel as though you need all of the theory behind the Db guitar chord right away — making sure you understand how it’s played is the most important part. Of course, if you want to learn more, guitar courses and free online lessons go into more detail, and many are very good at teaching guitar theory and how to use it!