I am trying to digitize an old piece of music, and I'm confused by a notation that says B♭ arpeggio (photo below). I'm used to apreggios being a wavy line next to the notes, so I'm not sure which note(s) that it should get attached to.

Also, why is it B♭6? What does the six mean?

The piece written in E♭ major with a 6/8 time signature

B Flat 6 Arpeggio picture

  • The chord symbols you've written onto the score look like they're all mismatches. I can't even explain all of them as if they're for the same transposing instrument.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 9:38
  • Not my chords, and they're not all right. The person who did it tried one key, and then went with another. (Something I'm cleaning up with the digitized version)
    – David
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 13:28

4 Answers 4


B♭6 means B♭-D-F-G (the formula for a major 6th chord is R, W+W, W+H, W, where R is root, W - whole tone and H - semitone).

As for arpeggios and how they are notated - I do not know for sure. I play 2 monophonic instruments and rarely deal with this sort of symbols. I think notation depends on time period and what instrument it was written for (I vaguely remember arpeggios for guitar being notated in a different way).

It's pretty common for jazz and some rock scores to prompt the musician to play a chord or its variation instead of what's on the sheet (it's the first time I see something like that in a classical score). I would assume it prompts you to play an arpeggiated major 6th with your left hand (the bass) instead of 2 B♭'s an octave apart. This is how I would interpret it:

B♭6 arpeggio

  • This is a classical piece. It's in E♭ major with a 6/8 time signature. (I also updated the picture so there's more context, including the key)
    – David
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 16:34
  • @David, it's funny that the only result on Google if you search for "someone had kept it from me" (with quotes) is about herpes. I'll update my answer shortly.
    – Pyromonk
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 22:33

B♭ chord is the first, third and 5th notes of the B♭major scale. That's B♭, D and F.

B♭6 adds the 6th note of the scale. So that's B♭, D, F, and G.

Not sure quite how that fits in with the notation you showed us. But that's what B♭6 means. I guess you know what an arpeggio is?


Its a sixth chord. Basically a sixth chord is a chord with a sixth added on top, Bb6 would be Bb-D-F-G, with C6 it would be C-E-G-A. you could also have a minor sixth chord (Bbm6; Bb, Db, F, G), or a flat six chord (Bbm(b6), Bb, Db, F, Gb), there is also the 6/9 chord which is pretty self explanatory (Bb, D, F, G, C).

Sorry for the late answer, but better late than never!


What does the "6" mean in "Bb6"?

It means to add a major sixth above the root of a major chord. Thus Bb6 is a Bb major chord plus G: Bb-D-F-G, as others have already explained.

The "Bb6 arpeggio" instruction

This is an instruction to the pianist that while the voice part is holding its G (m. 7, beat 5), the piano should play an improvised Bb6 arpeggio as a flourish to decorate and highlight the voice.

The notation is not a common one, but the device of placing an arpeggio like this at a musically significant moment is very common.

Why Bb6?

The initial harmony, on beat 4, is Bb7 — the "7" being the Ab in the voice and piano right hand. However, the arpeggio is to occur when the voice moves to G, so a Bb7 arpeggio would create a clash: Ab against G. Rather, the arpeggio is Bb6 to reinforce the voice's G.

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