Playing the B-Flat Chord on the Ukulele

By Ted Parrish, ukulele extraordinaire and co-author of Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus! and Ukulele Tunes, Tips & Jamming.

Beginning ukulele students often have this common experience: You are rolling right along, strumming and singing, you got your C chord down, Am, F, even G. Then you have to play a Bb and you decide to take a break. Forever.

The Bb is the most dreaded beginning chord for the aspiring ukester. Let’s break it down and see why it is so difficult (because it is, you’re right), and the proper way to play this chord so that it will become as easy as the other chords.

The Bb employs what is known as a “barre” (pronounced “bar”). Your first finger has to press down on two strings at once – the first and second strings both at the first fret. This is the barre. Then, your second finger frets the third string at the second fret, and your third finger the fourth string at the third fret. Here is a diagram:Bb chord uke

Most folks struggle with the barre part, and some try to add a pinky in there to use four fingers on the chord, or just try to ignore the first string. But, once you understand how to properly barre, you will be better able to play the chord. Here is the important hint: do not bend your first finger at the first knuckle. You need to straighten, actually even back-bend the first finger a little bit to apply a flat surface to the two strings. Your finger will bend at the second knuckle. Then, arch and curve the other fingers as normal. If you try to barre by bending at the first knuckle, your fingers won’t be able to play the other notes. Here is the wrong way:

Don’t play like this.

And here is a picture of a proper barre, and a full Bb:

correct Bb chord and barre

It takes some practice to get it to sound good, but once you do you will love the Bb. Not just because it is such a useful chord, but because it is a moveable shape you can take up the neck (one fret higher is a B, for example). Good luck, and keep on rockin’ the uke!

11 thoughts on “Playing the B-Flat Chord on the Ukulele

  1. I love you for showing me this!
    It really was discouraging that I simply could not get it. Thank you!

    1. I’m glad we could help! If you like our teaching style, make sure to check out the book that Ted & I wrote, ‘Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus’.

      1. Hi Wayne… immediately after I replied today I went to Amazon and bought the book. I’ve already read it but not too early. It’s excellent and has some very good points in it that I haven’t seen other places. 🙂

        1. Early= thoroughly

      2. I am missing my ring finger..any ideas for me with this chord?

        1. Two things you could try – First substitute your pinky for the ring finger in the chord. This would be preferred, because it will give you the full chord. The other option is to leave the fourth string open for the chord. This makes it a Bb6 chord, which will work for many (but not all) songs.

  2. What do you do if you have an old injury to the second finger if it won’t bend as well as the other fingers. It does bend buthe it makes it problematic for this chord

  3. Thank you! I’ve been trying to get this chord for a long time, but I could never do it right.

  4. This feels impossible to me. I can get the backbend in the index finger to play the two strings but then I cannot seem to get my middle finger down without having the barre rotate and the notes fail to speak. Also it hurts. I really really want to get this but I can’t figure it out. Any tips?

  5. Tips:
    Make sure your wrist is not over-bending on the left hand. A slight bend is perfect. Raise the neck up or down to find the sweet spot. This should address the pain issue. Also, make sure your elbow is at rest next to your body, not “winging” out.
    If the chord sounds “clacky” don’t worry, it will sound better the more you practice this chord.
    Your first finger should be more or less parallel to the frets, but it’s okay if it rotates a little bit.

  6. This is the most frustrating chord…I have tried to execute it every which way, including standing on my head, to no avail. I can’t stop the underside of my middle and ring fingers from touching the E and A strings and making a clunky sound. I feel like an idiot and am so frustrated!

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