B Chord Guitar VariationsPosted by Mike Schuck
When guitarists first start learning how to play chords, they usually learn their root, third, fifth, and seventh chord patterns as given in most music books. While these are very important chords for beginners to know, there’s more!
Many advanced musicians add additional chords to their repertoire that go beyond the classic roots, triads, and sevenths. These alternate chords can be any number of notes, and will typically have one or two extra pieces added to it.
These types of chords are known as alternating chord shapes, and every note within the chord is either an extension or compliment to the original shape. For example, if your starting chord was the major second (A minor) then you would need to use the notes G, D, and E as extensions to make a perfect harmony.
This article will discuss some easy ways to practice alternate chord shapes on the bass string. The easiest way to do this is by using a technique called pedal-chromaticism.
The b7 chord
The next most common variation of the classic G major chord is called the b7 chord. This is typically notated as Gb7, or sometimes even just “b7” depending on what key you are in.
The b7 chord replaces the root note of the original G major chord with a new second tone (or raised tone). In this case, that would be the middle-toned pitch B.
This b7 chord has several uses. Sometimes it will be used to create an arpeggio, where you start playing the chords one at a time without stopping between each one. At other times, like in our first example, it will be used as a secondary dominant chord. That means it can be considered a weaker version of the more commonly known tonic-dominant relationship.
In music theory, there are rules about how many tones a given chord should have. A chord with too few tones is usually described as vague or unclear. A chord with too many tones is often seen as boring or unnecessary.
That isn't the case with the b7 chord though. Because it contains only one additional tone, it is always considered important and strong. You may also notice that musicians tend to use lots of b7s in their songs!
Interval chart: Music notes and intervals are two different things. An interval is simply the space between two adjacent notes.
The b9 chord
The b9 chord is one of the most useful chords in guitar music. It’s called the “b-chord” or, more commonly, the “B chord.”
The b9 chord comes after the G major (or sometimes A minor) chord and before the C major (sometimes F# minor) chord. In music, these are often referred to as the first position chords.
The b9 chord is also known as the suspended ninth chord because it has an extra note that sits silently for a few measures until it is resolved. This can add tension and excitement to a song.
There are two common ways to play the b9 chord. You can use either the index finger or the middle finger as your third choice. Both are correct, but some people feel that using the middle finger makes the chord sound better.
Another way to look at it is like choosing between white or chocolate ice cream– which one you choose really depends on what you like! 🙂 Either option is fine, just be sure to know both them well!
And now, here are all three chords built onto each other.
The b11 chord
The next most common variation of the GChord is called the b11 chord. This can be seen in many songs, either as an extended version of the GChord or used independently.
The b11 chords are often referred to as the “Spanish” chord because they resemble some music from Spain. These chords feature one more note than the normal Gchords (the second degree of the guitar scale).
This extra tone is usually the Bb/Db note, but you could also add the A#/Eb note if you wanted to. It all depends on what style of music you want to learn how to play!
There are two reasons that musicians use this chord variant. First, it creates a smoother transition into other chords since there is one more step. For example, when moving up from the GChord to the Am chord, you would normally skip the F# major third interval, but with the b11 chord, you must include it.
Second, many artists like to use the b11 chord as a harmonic device to create tension and resolution. When playing the b11 chord, let yourself feel relaxed, even though the song calls for something else.
As you play through the chord shape, your hands should naturally settle on the index finger, middle finger, and pinky touching lightly on the Bb/Db, Negeion, and then finally the top string, making the b11 chord sound.
The b13 chord
The next most fundamental variation of the GCHD is called the b13 chord. This is done by adding one more note to the original three in the chord. In this case, you add a bass note that is one full step lower than the root.
The first example of the b13 chord we will look at comes from the song I Will Never Let You Down by Ariana Grande!
You can probably guess what the chord is already knowing it’s name, but just in case, let me write out the complete version. It goes like this:
Now that you know the chords, how would you play them?
Well, the second chord we looked at was the Gb7 which has a root of G, a Bass of D and a Treble of A. To play this chord, start with the Root, then move down the bass string as many degrees as there are notes in the treble part, and finally climb up the treble string to hit the top note of the chord (A in this case).
The b15 chord
The next most popular variation of the GChord is called the b15 chord. This one is tricky to navigate because you must be careful what notes you add to it!
The first thing we will do is take our index finger and drop down to touch the third string (Astringed) as well as the fourth string (Open). We make this shape with our left hand, so now we have two fingers that are not in position for the guitar. With our right hand, we pull up from the second fret using our pinky as support until we get a good tone.
Once we have that tone, we lower our middle finger onto the third fret creating an empty space where the ring or little finger could go. Now we can put our index finger back into place making a circle pattern with our thumb and index finger.
We then raise our index finger off of the third fret and play either the fifth or seventh degree of the A major scale, depending on whether we want a higher or lower pitched sound. To fully create the b15 chord, simply press down on the top three strings again.
This creates the bass component of the chord which comes after the name b15! The next note we play is the root of the chord, which is also the highest pitch.
The b17 chord
The next most common variation of the chords we discussed is what guitarists call the b17 chord. This one is easy to do, but may take some practice before you feel comfortable doing it!
To make this chord, you will need to add either your index or middle finger as well as your thumb onto the third string of the guitar – usually referred to as the low-string bass. Then push down on the second and first strings with your other fingers to create an open position for the top part of the chord.
Now roll all five fingers up together until only the ring finger remains touching the bottom two strings. At this stage, pull the ring finger up so that only the pinky touches the remaining strings.
Finally, play the notes in the berry key (see our article about music theory for more information) starting with the root note (the one pressed down at the beginning). These are then followed by the fifth, the third, the second, and finally the bass note.
This chord can be used in many songs, although its most famous use is in the opening bars of Pink’s song Let's Dance.
The b19 chord
The b19 chord is one of the most useful chords in guitar music. It’s called the “b-chord” or, less commonly, the “double harmonic major seventh.” Why have we given it this name? Because when you add the root note to the b19 chord, you get an octave that contains both a minor second (m2) and a perfect fifth (5).
The double harmonic major seventh shape is very common in classic rock songs. Many musicians use it as a starting point for more complex ideas. When playing the b19 chord, try adding the roots of either the m2/A natural Minor or the 5/E Major to see what other notes arise!
There are many different ways to play the b19 chord. This article will go over three variations of the b19 chord using the tonic, mediant, and submediant as relative scales.
The b21 chord
The b21 is one of the most used chords in music. It’s called the “b” or broken down version of the famous root major chord, the A minor pentangle (or shape).
Just like the A minor chord, the bA has five notes, but there are two that get left out. The first is the top note, which is usually either the second highest or the third highest degree of the chord. For the bA, this would be the middle note of the tonal circle, the F.
The second missing tone is the fifth, which is the lowest possible note for the chord. This does not mean that you can never use the low E as a substitute though! That would not make much sense musically.
Instead, when writing songs using the bA chord, what you should do is to instead use an F# as the root, then add your other three tones. This way you preserve the integrity of the bA while also adding some new possibilities to the song.
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