A B minor piano chord refers to a triad consisting of the notes B, D, and F# played in unison on a piano. In root position, it is built with B on the bottom, D in the middle and F# on top, creating a minor third with a major third stacked on top of it. This chord can be played in different inversions (i.e. D-F#-B and F#-B-D) and still be referred to as a B minor chord.
Technically speaking, all it takes to play a B minor chord is to play those notes listed above in any combination, regardless of how it is spread out across the keyboard. You could play the very lowest B on the piano, D somewhere in the middle, and F# at the very top, and you would still technically be playing a B minor chord.
However, functionally speaking, that answer isn’t what most people are looking for when they ponder question an about playing B Minor on piano. Most people either would like to play the chord in both hands, or a bass note in the left hand with a complete chord in the right hand.
So, let’s dig a little further into this topic by discussing root position.
What Does a Root Position B Minor Chord Look Like?
“Root position” simply means that we are going to use the note in the name of the chord—the “B” of “B minor”—as the root or bottom of our chord, and build the rest on top of that. To play B minor in root position, you push down the notes B, D and F# (in that order) from bottom to top and in the closest configuration possible.
This chord can also be played in different inversions. This means that you’ll play all of the same notes, but change the order so you are not in root position. There are two inversions possible with a three-note chord.
First inversion is where the root note is moved up to be the top of the chord. This makes the chord go from being B-D-F# to D-F#-B.
Not surprisingly, second inversion involves moving D to the top of the triad. Your configuration goes from D-F#-B to F#-B-D.
Which Fingers Should I Use?
All three configurations—root position, first inversion, second inversion—can be played with just one hand. There aren’t necessarily right or wrong hand shapes or finger combinations when it comes to playing chords, but there are some that will feel better and facilitate playing more easily. The general rule is to just go with what feels the most comfortable and allows you to switch between chords with the most ease.
Sheet music often includes finger number recommendations that appear as numbers floating directly above the notes. The fingers are numbered from 1 to 5 starting with the thumb. If you are coming to piano from something like guitar, it is important to note that the fingers are not numbered the same way (because you don’t use the thumb to fret notes on the guitar, it is not included as a number).
For a root position B minor chord (and for most root position chords), the default hand shape is to play the notes using fingers 1, 3 and 5. For the right hand, this means that 1 (or the thumb) would press down B, 3 (the middle finger) would press down D, and 5 (the pinky) would press down F#.
Obviously, for the left hand playing the same root position chord, the finger numbers are mirrored. To play B minor in the left hand, 5 would press down B, 3 would press down D, and 1 would press down the F#.
TIP: It is common for newer players to turn their wrist at a slightly uncomfortable angle to play chords that contain both white and black keys. To avoid this discomfort, you can instead push your hand slightly farther forward on the keys so that your wrist can be straight. The notes will come out no matter where you push down on the keys.
A common alternative that players with bigger hands might find more comfortable is to use 1-2-4 in the right hand rather than 1-3-5. This can also help with transitions between chords. It gives you a little more room to play nearby notes and switch between chords more easily.
What Does B Minor Look Like In Music?
That answer is going to depend on what specifically you are reading. In chord charts, the quality of the chord is often written in with some kind of shorthand. For instance, if you just see “B” on a chord chart, that means that you are supposed to play a B major chord. If instead you see “Bm” that is telling you to play a B minor chord.
If you are reading in standard notation, as long as it contains the notes B, D and F#, it is a B minor chord. Though, often it will appear in one of the basic inversions discussed above particularly if you are learning a pop song.
Note that in this picture the key signature is D major meaning that that F# and C# are present in the key. This just means that every F and C you encounter will be sharp.
How Do I Know Which Inversion To Use?
If you are reading sheet music in standard notation, the specific inversion will be written out. If, however, you are reading a chord sheet or a lead sheet and the chord symbol is all you have to go with, there are several different things that can impact which inversion to use.
If you are attempting to learn a cover song note for note, then you’ll need to go with the inversion the original performance used. If instead you want to learn the song but aren’t worried about sticking to how it was played originally, then you have two things to consider: facility and tone color.
When considering facility, you only need to think about what inversion would be the easiest to play from your current position on the keyboard. For instance, if you are going from a D major chord in root position to a B minor chord you can accomplish this with very little movement. D major in root position is built D-F#-A and by changing A to a B you can switch from playing a D major chord to playing a Bm chord. (DF#A -> DF#B).
This switch is particularly easy if you use the 1-2-4 hand shape for D major. You can then easily switch to B minor by using your pinky to play B while leaving finger 1 and 2 on the notes they are already on.
Sometimes, however, going to the chord that is easiest to reach doesn’t make the most satisfying music. In the context of a chord progression, certain inversions have a different overall feel. Depending on what is going on in the music, it may sound better to do an inversion that is a little more out of your way.
There are no hard and fast rules for which inversions are going to sound best for a given context. Just go with what sounds best to you and that will likely sound good to others as well.
For someone just starting out with chords, it is often helpful to learn songs with all the chords in root position. This allows you to keep a consistent hand shape that you can move around and makes the chord changes easier to think about. After you have had some practice at those chords, you can then start experimenting with different inversions to see what sounds and feels the best to you.
When Am I Likely To See A B Minor Chord?
You see B minor most frequently when you are playing chords in the key of D major. B minor is the chord built on the sixth scale degree and is commonly used in popular music. The chord progression I-V-vi-IV (or 1-5-minor 6-4) is one of the most commonly occurring chord progressions in popular music.
D major is a fairly ubiquitous key because it tends to be relatively easy for pianists and guitarists and is often easy to sing in as well. If you play enough pop songs you’ll play B minor more times than you can count.
Remember that all it takes to play a B minor piano chord are the notes B, D and F#. Everything else can be altered to suit whatever you are trying to accomplish. If you want to use two hands to play those three notes, go for it. If you like the way chords sound in root position and don’t want to mess with inversions, sounds great.
And if you just want to play with one hand and only do chords in first inversion, more power to you. Go with what feels and sounds best to you.
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