One of the first things newbie guitarists tend to work on is chords.
For some, it will take a while to be able to play chords. Others pick up the skill relatively quickly.
But as you’re working your way through various chords, you might stumble upon a few that look a little strange. Bm is one such chord.
Bm is what’s known as a barre chord, and it can take a while to feel comfortable playing barre chords.
In this guide, we’ll show you exactly where to place your fingers to be able to play the chord.
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Do You Feel Comfortable With These 8 Chords?
If you aren’t comfortable playing the following eight open chords, I don’t recommend diving into learning how to play barre chords just yet.
The chords are:
A, C, D, E, G, Am, Dm, and Em.
These are going to prove important building blocks to help you play barre chords. I don’t recommend skipping over any of them, because you want to gain a certain amount of comfort level in training your fingers to create different chord shapes before tackling Bm.
In mathematics, you’ve got to learn how to add and subtract before you can multiply and divide.
On guitar, while you can skip steps and still get results, it’s not generally recommended. If you learn all the foundational skills necessary to learning the next skill, it makes things easier.
How To Play The Bm Chord
There are two things you need to know about the Bm chord:
- It requires all your fingers.
- It’s a barre chord.
Firstly, most chords you’ve learned to this point probably only required you to use two or three fingers. When playing a Bm, however, you will need to use all your fingers: index, middle, ring, and pinky.
Secondly, Bm is a barre chord. So, one of your fingers (in this case, your index finger) will need to hold down multiple strings simultaneously. This is accomplished by laying your finger flat across a fret.
It just so happens that this is the best place to start. So, your first step is to lay your index finger across the second fret. You don’t need to cover the sixth string, but all other strings should be covered.
Getting the pressure right can be tricky. Until you get used to this, you may need to apply a lot of pressure so that when you strum the chord, all the notes ring out clearly.
But even if you get this part right, it doesn’t mean the rest is going to be a walk in the park. And the main reason for this is because while your index finger lays flat on the fretboard, your other fingers will still need be curled, as you would with any other chord.
Remember what I said earlier – you’ll be using all fingers for this chord.
I have seen students struggle with this, because they had a tough time curling some fingers while keeping their index straight.
If this proves a challenge, think of it like pointing. When you point, you generally have a closed palm, right? While your index finger is outstretched, your other fingers rest on the inside of your palm. Playing a barre chord is similar.
With your index finger positioned correctly, let’s get your middle finger in place. Your middle finger needs to fret the second string third fret, a fret above your index finger.
Arguably, the last two fingers are the most challenging part, because they will be sitting in the same fret, except on different strings.
Let’s start with the ring finger. Pay careful attention here – your ring finger needs to go on the fourth string fourth fret.
Finally, your pinky can sneak in beneath your ring finger on the third string fourth fret.
If you did everything correctly, you should at least have all your fingers in the right position. That’s a good start.
If this is your first time attempting the chord, there’s a good chance it won’t sound quite right when you strum it. You’ll probably hear some dead notes or off notes. This is normal.
The key is to isolate what isn’t working. It could be that your barre is weak. Or maybe one of your fingers is unintentionally touching a string it shouldn’t be (e.g. middle finger touching the first string). This can cause muting to occur.
Generally, if you hear any muting, you need to ensure your barre finger is applying enough pressure to the fretboard, and your other fingers are adequately curled (this is critical!).
Once you feel like you’ve gotten a good hang of it, break the chord. You want to practice making and breaking the shape (as opposed to holding it for an extended duration), as this will be the best use of your practice time.
Are Bm And B Minor The Same Thing?
Alternatively, you might see a Bm notated this way: B-.
But if you’re hearing “B” and “minor” together in the same sentence, then it’s likely referring to the same thing.
Bm, B minor, and B- are all the same thing.
If you see BM (for example, on a lead sheet), however, that would be a B major. Usually, it would simply be notated as a B though.
How Do You Play An Easy Bm Chord On Guitar?
You’re in luck. I’m going to give you two ways to do this.
The first is using the first, second, and third string group. Place your index finger on the first string second fret, your middle finger on the second string third fret, and your ring finger on the third string fourth fret.
Play these three strings together, and you’ll have a Bm triad. Don’t strum the fourth, fifth, or sixth string while holding this shape though.
The second method is thus. If you know how to play Am, start there. Form an Am chord with your fretting hand. Then, move the whole shape up two frets.
So, you should have: index finger second string third fret, ring finger fourth string fourth fret, and middle finger third string fourth fret.
Again, as with the other “easy” Bm, avoid strumming the first, fifth, or sixth strings while holding this shape.
Even though these are “simplified” Bm chords, it can take a while getting use to them. Be patient. Take your time.
As you can probably guess, these alternatives won’t sound anywhere near as full as a barred Bm, but if you’re playing in a band with other instruments, these shapes should work fine.
What Chord Can I Play Instead Of Bm?
All chords are made up of at least three distinct notes. In the case of Bm, they are: B, D, and F#.
What this tells us is that any inversion of Bm could also be played. Technically, we’ve already looked at some of the possibilities (see How Do You Play An Easy Bm Chord On Guitar?).
Assuming you’re playing B, D, and F# together, regardless of how the notes are stacked, you're good!
If you’re just practicing or having fun playing on your own, then there’s nothing saying you can’t change the key of the song, so you can replace difficult chords with easier ones.
For example, if the song you’re trying to play is in the key of Bm (like 3 Doors Down‘s “Kryptonite”), you could move it a step down to Am, and not have to deal with as many barre chords (the IV chord, F would still need to be barred though).
If you have a capo, you could simply add it to the second fret of your guitar, and play an Am chord. Because of the capo, it instantly becomes a Bm.
If you're all out of options, you could play a B5 or B power chord too. Because it doesn't have the third in it, it's an ambiguous chord that's neither major nor minor. Its sound will be determined by the harmony around it.
The rest is going to come down to the musical situation you find yourself in.
For instance, let’s say you’re playing with just a drummer and bass player. When a bass player plays a note, they’re typically only playing one or two notes at a time, so the chord is “implied.” So, you're not pigeonholed.
If you’re in the key of Bm, for instance, you could get away with playing any chord that belong to the key: Bm, C#°, D, Em, F#m, G, A.
Or, because the bass player's already got the B covered, you could just play a D and F# double stop.
Another workaround would be to pick the notes out of the Bm chord individually (for the duration of the chord) instead of trying to hold down the entire chord.
But in general, there aren’t any substitutes for Bm. The D chord is probably the closest thing there is. You can find workarounds as suggested, but for the most part, you can’t just replace one chord with another without it sounding out of place.
Are There Other Barre Chords?
Yes. One barre chord that beginners tend to learn early on is F. Bm usually comes on the heels of F.
The great thing about barre chords, though, is they’re movable. So, if you move Bm up a fret you get Cm. If you move it up another two frets from there, you get a Dm.
On the road to becoming an intermediate guitarist, you will learn how to play two fifth string root and two sixth string root barre chords.
Bm is a good example of a fifth string root barre chord. As I mentioned, it’s a movable chord, so you only need to learn one minor shape. You’ll want to learn the major chord shape in addition to the minor one.
Likewise, with sixth string root chords, you’ll learn major and minor shapes.
Learn all these shapes, and you’ll have a good head start on barre chords. There certainly are other shapes out there, for practically every type of chord (7, maj7, m7, and so on).
But it all starts with the four shapes mentioned here, and once you’ve gotten a hang of those, most other shapes become easier to play.
Bm Chord For Beginners, Final Thoughts
Learning the guitar isn’t always easy and certain techniques can be incredibly challenging.
But there’s a sense of satisfaction that can come from sticking to the process and mastering something difficult.
In the case of barre chords, it’s usually just a matter of time. When I was starting to learn barre chords, I sat in front of my TV for hours, practicing “Wild Thing” over and over. It felt awkward for a while, but because I was practicing a lot, it didn’t take too long to feel comfortable with the skill.
Commit to the process rather than the outcome, and before you know it, you will get there!