I have been playing guitar for a few years and lately I have been studying some music theory. So what is the difference between playing the bmaj chord with the root note in the fifth string (A string) second fret, with root note in the sixth string (Low E string) 7th fret and with the root note in the fifth string 14th position (octave higher than first version). The notes for each chord are

  1. b3, f4#, b4, d5#, f5#

  2. b3, f4#, b4, d5#, f5# and b5

  3. b4, f5#, b5, d6#, f6#

they all have the b note but the second one has a b5 note extra and the third one has the notes one octave higher. Soooo for example if I play the chords in a unspecified c scale (the c scale stars on the middle c which corresponds to the c4 note on piano) - which version of the b chord should I play? There must be a logical answer for this. It can not just be like its the same if you play it in the 5th fret and in the 14th fret...

The same question would apply to the other chords too. I hope I'm not to confusing.

  • Consider editing for grammar and capitalisation. That should make your question easier to read.
    – James K
    Jan 30, 2016 at 23:25
  • Difficult to understand, this, maybe you number the strings from the wrong end, too?
    – Tim
    Jan 30, 2016 at 23:35
  • 1
    I edited your question because your string numbering is the opposite of what most guitarist have been taught. The first string is the skinniest string and is the 6th string if you count starting with the one closest to your head when you play but it's commonly known as the FIRST string. The Sixth String is the fattest string (looks like it should be called the first string because it's the first one you hit if you do a down strum on all 6 strings). Also, I assume when you refer to middle c and c4 and b4 you mean the corresponding pitch on piano. But it's still not clear what you are asking Jan 31, 2016 at 0:40
  • 1
    What do you mean by "if I play the chords in a unspecified c scale"? There are several places on the guitar fretboard where you can play a C major scale (although some start on C3). And by unspecified do you mean either C minor, C major, C melodic minor, C harmonic minor? Specify what you mean by unspecified. Also, there are no chords in a scale. A scale is individual notes. So I don't know what you mean by "the chords in a c scale". Do you mean chords in the key of c? Or do you mean you want to play a scale based on a chord formation? Jan 31, 2016 at 0:50
  • What's the difference? They sound different, right? Well, that's the difference. Jan 31, 2016 at 4:40

2 Answers 2


There is no correct answer as to which chord you "should" play because you can use whichever chord you think sounds best in a given situation.

What you're describing is essentially changing the voicing or the way the chord sounds without changing the chord. There are many, many ways to play the same chord but each one has its own unique sound. Here are just a few different ways of playing the B major on guitar: http://www.guitar-chords.org.uk/b-major-chord.html

And that's not even close to all of them as you can omit notes, skip strings, you can play with a capo or use an alternate tuning on the guitar which provides even more options for different chord voicings, etc. and all of these things change the way the chord sounds and none of them are "wrong" or "correct", they are just different.

To give an analogy, asking which version of a B major chord to play is like asking what color of blue to paint the sky in your painting. In the same way, there is no correct or wrong answer and it's up to you to figure out what color blue you want your sky to be.

I'd say that the only exception here is if you are trying to learn a song written/played by someone else and you want to know the specific voicing of B major they used in their song so that you can sound exactly like the original when you play it. But when you are writing your own material, there is no right answer and it's simply a matter of which version of B major you like.

You should experiment with different versions of the same chord and train your ear to hear the subtle (or not so subtle) changes that they make. You might find that you like the 2nd fret B major for one song but like the 14th fret B major in a different song. Or maybe even just 3 strings instead of playing 5 or 6 strings. Etc.

Overall when learning music theory you should keep in mind that there is no "correct" way. Music theory is not a set of rules that you must follow and obey, it is simply a set of tools to help you create your own music and to better understand other people's music. You can choose to use these tools or not as you see fit. :)


As a supplement to Tekkerue's excellent answer, there are situations where it's very useful to know multiple voicings, specifically different inversions of the same chord for creating moving basslines.

Being able to change shape without changing the chord makes more of the fretboard usable for extending the range of the bassline as a separate voice.

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