One of the most challenging chords to master for beginner ukulele players is the Bb major chord (said “B flat”).
To play a Bb chord, position your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the top g-string, middle finger on the 2nd fret of the C-string, and use the index finger to barre or press down on both bottom two strings at the 1st fret.
With notes on all four strings and a challenging barre position, the Bb chord can be problematic, especially if you have arthritis, but it’s a chord you need to know how to play because it gives you the opportunity to learn a whole bunch of new songs in the key of F, Bb, and more.
I’ve written on playing a Bb chord on ukulele before, but in this video lesson, let’s go a bit more into depth and get three tips and tricks for how to confidently play the Bb chord, and after the video at the bottom of this post, get a fantastic bonus tip from a fellow student for how she tackles the Bb chord with arthritic fingers.
Remember a chord like this one takes practice and repetition in order for your hands and fingers to build the muscle memory required to execute the chord cleanly every time. Take it slow and you’re sure to see improvement!
A Bonus Tip From a Student With Arthritis
After I posted the video lesson on the Ukulele Tricks YouTube channel, I receive an awesome tip from a senior ukulele player who has to get creative with ukulele chords because of their arthritis.
This student says:
Brett – as a senior uke player, my arthritis has bent my fingers, so barring chords is out of the question…. even just holding two strings. I’ve found I have to modify everything. So, for Bb, I just play the GCE strings – so much easier. Equally for the wicked E, which is impossible for arthritic hands, I either substitute with an Em, Em7 or E7, depending on the song. I’ve found that you have to go with what works, and not what is ‘correct’ – best advice given to me by a very pro player.
What this person is suggesting is an alternate Bb chord position that is played like so:
In this alternate Bb position, place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the top g-string, middle finger on the 2nd fret of the C-string, and index finger on the 1st fret of the E-string. Either mute or do not strum the bottom A-string, so it does not ring out.
To mute the bottom A-string, chances are your index finger from the position will be touching or resting on the bottom A-string to prevent it from ringing out. Be careful though not to press too hard or the bottom A-string might buzz. You’ll be required to adjust accordingly to prevent this string from ringing out.
Sometimes thinking about alternate positions can be helpful to tackling those challenging chords. Don’t be afraid to modify chords and look up alternate positions in the Ukulele Tricks Chord Library. There’s no shame in that and at the end of the day you have to find what works best for you!