If you’re a fan of Netflix’s show “Stranger Things,” you’re probably aware of the hype around Kate Bush’s 1985 track “Running Up That Hill.” But what made that song so successful in its recent resurgence? Outside of the show it’s associated with, I’d argue that part of the song’s success is that it is written in the key of Bb minor or B flat minor.
If you’re looking to learn how to play the Bb minor chord, you’ve come to the right place, as we’ll explore where this chord comes from, how it looks on the keyboard and in sheet music, the correct fingerings, and how to form its inversions.
Where B♭ Minor Chord Comes From
What Exactly is a Chord, Anyway?
If you’re unfamiliar with chords in general, don’t worry! There are so many new symbols and words you need to know when you’re learning how to play the piano. If you’re asking yourself what is a chord, keep reading for a brief explanation:
Chords are made up of at least two stacked notes which are played together at once to create a harmony. Melodies are the main series or sequences of notes in a piece of music, and harmonies are the notes which bring depth and support the melody.
Each of the columns in the image below are chords, and the notes in each chord should be played at the same time before moving on to the next chord.
The B Flat Minor Scale
Where do major chords come from? As its name implies, the B♭ minor chord comes from something called the B♭ minor scale.
Melodies and harmonies come from particular sequences of tones or notes; these sequences are called scales. There are seven notes in all major and minor scales, though a repeat of the root note, or first note is often tacked onto the end to create an octave.
The B♭ minor scale begins on the note B♭. This scale includes five flats—B-flat, D-flat, E-flat, G-flat, and A-flat. These flats are indicated in the key signature with the symbol ♭ on the corresponding lines and spaces. Instead of playing the white (natural) B, D, E, G, and A keys, should go down a half step and play the black (accidental) B♭, D♭, E♭, G♭, and A♭ keys.
The scales are written to mimic the physical movement of your hands on the keyboard. In other word, as the scale goes up, the notes get higher, or more to the right of the keyboard. And, as the scale goes down, the notes get lower, or more to the left of the keyboard.
You can see the scale in the treble and bass clefs below:
Minor chords come from the first, third, and fifth notes of the minor scale. They are a part of the triad chord family because they each have three notes. Minor chords are named by the root note of the scale. In the B♭ minor scale, the first, third, and fifth notes of the scale are B♭, D♭, and F, so the chord is B♭D♭F, and its name is B♭ minor. This minor chord sometimes appears with the Roman numeral notation i or ia.
Also, you may notice that the B♭ minor key signature matches the D♭ major key signature. This is because these keys are relative majors, meaning that they share the same notes but start at different points along the sequence. If you’re curious about learning how to tell these keys apart when you hear it or when you see it written in sheet music, check out this article.
How to Play the B Flat Minor Chord
Locating the Chord on the Piano
If you’re having difficulty locating the B♭ minor on the keyboard, check out the image below:
To find a B♭ key, look for three black (accidental) keys and go to the key which is farthest to the right. That key is the B♭ key.
To find a D♭ key, look for two black (accidental) keys and go to the key which is on the left. That key is the D♭ key.
To find an F key, look for the three black (accidental) keys again, but this time go to the key which is farthest to the left. Now move to the white key directly below it to the left. That key is the F key.
Playing the Chord and Fingerings
Once you’ve found the keys on the piano, let’s talk about fingerings and what they have to do with playing the B♭ minor chord.
Part of learning to play the piano are skill exercises which help you build muscle memory, work on your hand technique, and play music smoothly and evenly. These fingerings are designed by professional pianists to help you do just that.
They are usually written as numbers (either above or below the notes on your sheet music), and each number corresponds to a particular finger. Thumbs are 1, and pinkies are 5. You’ll see them frequently as a beginner, but as you advance, you’re expected to memorize them, and you won’t often see them unless there’s a highly irregular fingering you should play on a case-by-case basis.
As a beginner pianist, I didn’t pay any attention to fingerings, and it’s one of my greatest regrets. When I attempted to play more complicated music or to play music faster, I always seemed to trip over my own fingers. Eventually, I realized the issue and had to spend months retraining my hands to play chords and scales with the correct fingerings.
If you’re wondering if fingerings are worth it, take my advice and start learning them as soon as possible! You can see the B♭ minor scale fingerings here.
When you’re in the root position of the B♭ minor chord— B♭D♭F—these are the fingerings:
When you find the keys on the keyboard, line up your thumbs, middle fingers, and pinkies on the notes. Make sure that it matches the suggested fingering, then press all of the keys at the same time!
Congratulations! You’ve just played the B♭ minor chord!
B♭ Minor Chord Inversions
Now that you’ve learned to play the B♭D♭F chord in the root position, it’s time to mix it up and figure out the inversions.
Minor triads come with some common variations called inversions because the order of the notes in the chord is rearranged or inverted.
1st Inversion (B♭m/D♭)
For the first inversion, take the B♭, the bottom note of the root position, and move it to the top of the chord. The chord B♭D♭F becomes D♭FB♭.
There are no changes in the fingering when you move from the root position to the first inversion:
The first inversion of the B♭ minor chord is also known as the B♭m/D♭chord because the third note, the D♭, is the lowest note in the chord. It often appears with the Roman numeral notation i6 or ib.
2nd Inversion (B♭m/F)
For the second inversion, take the B♭ and the D♭, the bottom two notes of the root position, and move them to the top of the chord. The chord B♭D♭F becomes FB♭D♭.
Watch out for the fingering changes in the left hand when you move from the root position to the second inversion:
The second inversion of the B♭ minor chord is also known as the B♭m/F chord because the fifth note, the F, is the lowest note in the chord. It often appears with the Roman numeral notation i64or ic.
Tip: If you’re having trouble remembering the first and second inversions, think of the number of notes you need to invert. If you move one note from the bottom to the top of the chord, you’re making the first inversion. If you move two notes from the bottom to the top of the chord, you’re making the second inversion.
While the root position and the inversions are the only “minor chords,” there are other chords which come from different notes in the B♭ minor scale.
It’s time to review what we’ve learned about the Bb minor piano chord.
The B♭ minor chord is made up of the first, third, and fifth notes of the B♭ minor scale, and in its root position, it is B♭D♭F. The chord takes its name from the root note, B♭. This chord has two inversions, D♭FB♭, the first inversion, and FB♭D♭, the second inversion.
When you play the chord and its inversions, double check that you have the correct fingerings and watch out for any changes. Once you have your fingers on the key, play all of the notes simultaneously.
Even though the B♭ minor key and the B flat minor piano chord seem pretty obscure in comparison to other keys and chord, it’s actually a great one to learn, especially if you’re looking to learn a certain popular song.
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