A-Sharp Major / B-Flat Major: The Pollyanna of the Music World
B-flat could also known by its enharmonic equivalent, A-sharp, if A-sharp didn’t have a whopping ten sharps. A key has only seven notes, so some of those sharps have to double up; the sixth note, for example, is F##, which actually makes it a G.
Because these double sharps make everything so darned complicated, and because the same key scored as B-flat has only two flats, guess which key signature most composers are going to pick? It’s because of this that A-sharp is referred to as a theoretical key and usually left to collect dust on the shelf.
A theoretical key is a key that exists in theory but doesn’t get used much because it’s so much easier to just use its enharmonic equivalent; the notes of the scale all sound exactly the same, the key just has a different name and key signature.
The same applies for the chord. If you go to the Uberchord chord finder and type in “A#” you’ll get a chord position and the notes Bb, D, and F. Then type in “Bb” and you’ll get exactly the same chord position and exactly the same three notes.
Why complicate things? Always follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and you can’t go wrong. Today we’re going to follow the KISS rule by showing you the B-flat guitar chord, looking at B-flat’s history and its use in popular music and figuring out how hard it is to play it on the guitar. We’ll also jam through a few of B-flat’s songs and chord progressions.
The key of B-flat major is like that perky girl you know who smiles through life’s tempests, who takes five minutes to get over a breakup, who deals with disappointments by grinning, shrugging, and saying, “Oh well, there’s a brighter world just around the corner.”
The key of Bb was extremely popular among symphony composers of the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras in music, but this may have had something to do with the tenor sax, the soprano sax, the clarinet, and the trumpet, all of which instruments are so important in the symphony orchestra, being Bb instruments. Bb just worked. And it still does.
The B-Flat Major Chord Position on the Guitar: Moderately Difficult— and Immensely Useful
This basic chord position is one of those great shapes, like the F bar chord position, that can be played all the way up the neck to make a host of other major chords. Holding all the strings down makes it less resonant, and it can be tricky to play it clearly, but that’s when you pull out your trusty Uberchord app and let it point you right. Just set up your smartphone and keep playing the chord (you can even program in chord progressions), letting the app show you how to improve.
You can also benefit from taking a look at this article that gives you five great tips on how to learn new chords.
Theory and Practice: The Pattern of the B-Flat Major Scale Explained
The pitches in the key of B-flat major are B♭, C, D, E♭, F, G, and A.
This is the B-flat major scale, with Bb at its root and another Bb, an octave higher, at its zenith. As you can see, the only accidentals are Bb and Eb.
The simple B-flat major chord, which forms the root of the B-flat major scale, contains the notes Bb, D, and F— the first, third, and fifth notes of the key of Bb major. On the guitar, using the basic Bb chord position shown in the diagram above, these notes arrive in this order: Mute, Bb, F, Bb, D, and F.
If bar chords are still tricky for you, you can play just the top four strings of this chord. You can still move this position up the neck, just be sure to keep the two bass strings mute.
Chords and Common Chord Progressions in the Key of B-Flat Major
If you want to use every chord in the key of Bb major, here they are:
Bb, C minor, D minor, Eb, F, G minor, and A diminished
The following are a few chord progressions in the key of B-flat major. (We’ve included the chord progression patterns so you can get used to them and use them for other keys.)
“Serve the Servants,” by Nirvana (verse and chorus)
(All chords are major unless listed otherwise.)
- (Most common) I — IV—V—I: Bb — Eb—F— Bb
- I — V — VI — IV: Bb — F — G minor— Eb
- I — VI — IV — V: Bb — G minor— Eb — F
- I – V – VI – III – IV – I – IV – V: Bb – F – G minor– D minor– Eb – Bb – Eb – F
- (Blues) I – I – I – I – IV – IV – I – I – V – V – I – I: Bb – Bb – Bb – Bb – Eb – Eb – Bb – Bb – F – F – Bb – Bb
- II – IV – V: C minor – Eb – F
- I – IV – V – IV: Bb – Eb – F – Eb
- V – IV – I: F – Eb – Bb
- VI – IV – I – V: G minor– Eb – Bb – F
Songs in the Key of Bb Major: Cheerful, Carefree, Cavalier
As we said at the beginning, the key of B-flat major most often shows a character that’s hopeful, self-confident, cheerful, and cavalier, not blind to the trials of life but not overcome by them either. But sometimes there’s more to it . . .
Artic Monkeys – Do I wanna Know?
The Script – Break Even
Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond
B-flat major can express a range of emotions in response to the tragic absurdity of life and end by saying, “Nothing really matters—” as in Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Avicii – Hey Brother!
And what could be a happier underdog song than Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode?”
B-flat major is already popular, but it deserves your attention, too, because everybody needs a positive pal! Get to know it and you’ll be ready to play some of the best tunes ever made.