Bb Essentials (new)

Playing songs in the Key of Bb Major

Your go-to resource for playing in the key of Bb.

Foundation Knowledge (Must Know)

Diatonic Triads

Chord Name

Chord Spelling


Bb Major (BbMaj)



C Minor (Cmin)



D Minor (Dmin)

F# Minor (F#min)



Eb Major (EbMaj)

G Major (GMaj)



F Major (AMaj)

A Major (AMaj)



G Minor (Gmin)

B Minor (Bmin)



A diminished (Adim)

C# diminished (C#dim)


Main Chords

Chord Name

Chord Spelling

Bb Major (BbMaj7)

see full chart


Bb -Db-F-Ab


Bb7 (or Bb Dominant)

see full chart

F# Minor (F#min)


Bb Diminished or Bb dim

G Major (GMaj)


Bbmin7b5 or D half-diminished

A Major (AMaj)



B Minor (Bmin)



C# diminished (C#dim)


Stacking - Use to have the full sound

Stacking notes simply means to repeat the same notes in a chord. So in the Key of Bb, instead of playing Bb-D-F for the Bb Major (BbMaj) chord above you may play Left Hand: Bb-F-Bb and Right Hand: D-F-Bb it is the exact SAME chord but it will sound fuller. The trick is to only use the notes within the chord. It is up to you to decide WHICH notes should be played twice and WHERE you want to play them. Stacking is an important concept because it is foundation for improvisation. 

Here is an example of Stacking:

Stacking notes simply means to repeat the same notes in a chord. This is a D7 chord, spelled in the chart above

Stacking notes simply means to repeat the same notes in a chord. 

We repeated the same notes. This is STACKED

Inversions - Those cool voicings you HEAR are just inversions of basic chords 

Inversions in a technical sense means to simply remove the note and the bottom and place it on the top. That is called First Inversion.  So since Bb Major is played using Bb-D-F, the first inversion would take Bb at the bottom and place it on top, giving us D-F-Bb. The second inversion takes the D in the last chord, and places it on top. However, I use the term inversion differently. ANY ARRANGEMENT of notes is an Inversion.  Some people call it: First Inversions, Second Inversions, Open Voicings, Drop 2, Drop 3... the list goes on. To simplify it as long as you are not adding additional notes, call it an Inversion.

Here is an example of an Inversion

Here is the Regular D7 chord, look at where the notes are. D-F-A-C

We took the A, shifted it up, F# shifted it down, C shifted Down. The D remained. This is an INVERSION of the D7 chord. *Remember THIS

"Hold up, then using your definition. Stacking and Inversions are just the same thing..."

No.. They aren't

Stacking REPEATS notes. Inversions only REARRANGE them.

This is a powerful and significant concept when understood.

Modes of the Bb Major Scale   

Chord Name

Scale to Use


Bb Ionian

Bb C D Eb F G A 

D E F# G A B C#


C Dorian

C D Eb F G A Bb


D Phyrgian

F# Minor (F#min)

D Eb F G A Bb C


Eb Lydian

G Major (GMaj)

Eb F G A Bb C D 


F Mixolydian

A Major (AMaj)

F G A Bb C D Eb 


G Aeolian

B Minor (Bmin)

G A Bb C D Eb F


A Locrian

C# diminished (C#dim)

A Bb C D Eb F G

Bb MAJOR Chords, Scales, and Extensions

The Main thing you need to know at this stage is the various scales, runs, and lines to use over various chord voicings and how to expand chord voicings by the use of extensions. This stage is characterized by specific runs and movements that the great pianist use but rather it gives you the melodic framework that they took their melodic lines from. 

Playing Scales Advice

Although you need to know your scales. Your scales are only a FOUNDATION for your solos. 

Your solos need melody, not scales. 

Think outside the box when using this scales to form melodies. Melodies come from shape and variation. These scales are your STARTING POINT.

Scales over a BbMaj7 chord: Bb-D-F-A

Chord Name

Scale to Use

Helpful Tips and Notes

Bb Ionian

Bb C D Eb F G A 

D E F# G A B C#

Let's face it. Using the notes in this order wouldn't sound that exceptional. However, I would still practice using this scale while holding Bb-D-F-A with my left hand. In addition, its not the order that is important. You can start from a different note, which changes it to one of the modes above. You can end on a different note. And you can even skip notes. Remember the goal is to USE the scale to create MELODIES.

Bb Pentatonic

Bb C D F G 

Ahhh the classic gospel go-to run. You NEED to know this one if you need to pull up something really quick over a Bbmaj7 chord and can't think of anything. I think it sounds better descending than ascending. And start on the 6 (the G). Trill up to the G from the F, with the 3rd finger on the G, come down the scale using 3-1-3-2-1-3-1-3-2-1 and so on... for a nice pentatonic flavor over that BbMaj7 chord

Bb Lydian

F# Minor (F#min)

Bb C D E F G A

The classic Lydian Sound. George Russell would kill me for putting this one 3rd instead of 1st. If you are struggling to know when to use this then just think: CMajor over BbMajor. Your ear will have to know when you need that voicing but it is pretty common. Anything you feel like playing a  Cmajor chord with Bb as the root note then try this scale from ANY starting point.


G Major (GMaj)

Bb Lydian Augmented

A Major (AMaj)

Bb C D E F# G A

The 3rd mode of the melodic minor scale contains some unique sounds and voicings. But.. It is more than just a mode. It is a SOUND. I repeat. The Lydian Augmented scale is a sound. You can write a song using nothing but the notes in this scale. It is advanced because it needs to be studied in detail. In the Live Training we studied how Cory uses this mode in the song "yesterday" to come up with various voicings. 

B Minor (Bmin)

BbMajor7 Chord Extensions: Bb-D-F-A

Chord Name

Chord Extension

Helpful Tips and Notes



Ways to play it:


D E F# G A B C#

The most common way to voice a Bb Major chord. This is the first chord listed in the diatonic 7ths in the Key of Bb. Keep in mind that you can use variations and inversions of this chord for slightly different textures. For instance: D-A-Bb-is a great way to voice this chord



The BbMaj9 chord adds only one note to the Bbmaj7 chord. It adds a 'C.' This is why we call it the BbMaj9, because 'C' is the 9th note in the scale.


F# Minor (F#min)


This chord is one of the "brightest" chords you can use (along with the BbMaj13#11). It has a distinct Lydian sound.


Bb C D  F G

See "notes" for another way to voice this chord.

This Popular Jazz chord is actually just the Pentatonic Scale with the notes played harmonically (together) instead of melodically (on at a time). Use a combination of Inversions and Stacking to sound good. A popular way to play it is LH: Bb-D-G   RH: C-F-Bb *notes go from lowest to highest

Suspended Chords - Know the Sus Chords in Bb, Memorize Them

G Major (GMaj)


A Major (AMaj)

Bb Eb Ab C

Alternate Voicings:

LH: Bb Eb F   RH: Ab C Eb

LH: Bb F C    RH: Eb Ab C F

A favorite common voicing among gospel musicians. It actually has multiple uses. For instance take the Bb at the bottom of the original chord on the left and change it to an F and you have an Fmin7 chord. Take the Bb at the bottom and move it up ONE octave and you have a AbMaj(add2). Since it uses all notes from the Ab scale, you should have fun integrating it into your songs.


B Minor (Bmin)

Bb C Eb F G Ab

Alternate Voicings

LH: Bb F Ab   RH: C Eb G

The only difference with the Bb13Sus over the Bb9Sus4 voicing is the addition of the G. This is a full chord that you can get by just mashing a bunch of notes in the Bb dorian scale (except the Db)

Bb MINOR Chords, Scales, and Extensions

Scales to use over a Bbminor7 chord: Bb-Db-F-Ab

Chord Name

Scale to Use

Helpful Tips and Notes

Bb Dorian

Bb C Db Eb F G Ab

D E F# G A B C#

The notes in the Dorian scale work well over any minor chord

Bb Blues

Bb Db Eb E F Ab

The Blues scale is actually the Same as the Minor Pentatonic Scale with an Added E. Please note that the Blues scale is a flexible scale so although you an play it with a Minor chord it works with multiple chord types

F# Minor (F#min)

Bb Pentatonic Minor

Bb Db Eb F Ab

From Pent- meaning 5. This scale has 5 notes, just like the Bb Major Pentatonic. Again this should be a go to scale for quick runs of that minor voicings. It sounds so good when you are able to execute quickly. So start slow and build up your speed.

Bb Aeolian

Bb C Db F Gb Ab

Sure you could practice this scale the regular old boring way. Or you can practice the cool way, with corresponding chords for EACH note!!!


G Major (GMaj)

A Major (AMaj)

Bb Melodic Minor

Bb C Db Eb F G A

A very important scale to know. The Melodic Minor Scale is a PARENT to several important modes: Lydian Dominant, Altered Dominant, Lydian Augmented, etc... You need to memorize this scale. 

B Minor (Bmin)

Bb Locrian 6

Bb B Db Eb E G Ab

You can use this with just a Bb-Ab voicing.  Or a Minor 7th interval. 

Bbminor7 Chord Extensions: Bb-Db-F-Ab

Chord Name

Chord Spelling

Helpful Tips and Notes



D E F# G A B C#

The standard voicing for a Bbmin7 chord 



Add a "C" to a Bbm7. 


F# Minor (F#min)


Add a 'C' and a 'Eb' to a Bbmin7. 



Don't let all the notes fool you. The Bbmin13 is actually not a complicated chord. See it as a Cminor on top and a Bbminor on bottom (Cmin/Bbmin).

G Major (GMaj)

Bb7 (Dominant) Chords, Scales, and Extensions

Scales to use over a Bb7 chord: Bb-D-F-Ab

Chord Name

Scale to Use

Helpful Tips and Notes

Bb Mixolydian

Bb C D Eb F G Ab 

D E F# G A B C#

You absolutely NEED to memorize this scale. It is not only the standard go to scale for a Dominant Chord but it also the foundation of the Dominant Bepop scale which Glenn Gibson and Mike Bereal use so much.

Ionian Augmented (Sean's)

Gb Ab Bb B Db D

This is my favorite scale to use over a Dominant. It has a double augmented second jump between the D and the Gb, It's different and you won't find many musicians using it. Also, consider using run fragments, part of the scale and changing to an Altered Dominant halfway through. There are a lot of combinations you can think of. Notice that I started on the Gb in the Right Hand. The Left Hand can play the TriTone Ab-D. Get Creative!

F# Minor (F#min)

Whole-Tone Scale

Bb C D E F# G# 

Use this scale to resolve to a BbMaj chord. It can be used where you want a Bb7b13 voicing. Ideally 

Altered Dominant / Super Locrian / Diminished Whole-Tone Scale

Bb B Db D E F# G#

To use this scale correctly, make sure you highlight the "color" tones. That means you highlight the Eb the F. Emphasize the Ab if you want a nice flavor since it is the TriTone interval from the root. On the upper extensions you my want to accent Bb (the b13th)

ADVANCED Scales (Limited to Certain Extensions)

G Major (GMaj)

A Major (AMaj)

Lydian Dominant

Bb C D E F G Ab

Use this over a Bb7#11 chord. It's basically a BbMixolydian with a raised 4th.

B Minor (Bmin)

Mixolydian b6

Bb C D Eb F Gb Ab 

More than just a scale! This is an entire structure. Let me say this if you hear something cool on a Youtube Video or MIDI File. Just check to see if this is the scale being used. Yes It can be used with a V7 (F-Eb) or just holding a Bb as the root and it has multiple chord voicings and uses. Songs based off of this scale would be: The Promise (Andrae Crouch, Total Praise (Richard Smallwood), etc...

Dominant Diminished (Half-Whole Scale)


For Advanced Musicians Only!! The dominant diminished scale is more than a scale it is a SOUND. Study the "sound" the notes make instead of studying the notes in order. Also notice that this scale contains 2 diminished 7 chords: Bb-Db-E-G and B-D-F-Ab as well as the Dominant chord: Bb-D-F-Ab.... The scale uses 8 notes which emphasize the b9 #9 and #11. Use carefully!

Bb Dominant7th chord extensions: Bb-D-F-Ab

Chord Name

Chord Spelling

Helpful Tips and Notes

D tritone or Ab tritone

D E F# G A B C#

D-Ab or Ab-D

Use this two note tritone in the left hand as a quick way to represent the Bb7 voicing. In fact, rarely is a Dominant Chord played as listed above (Bb-D-F-Ab), if you are playing a scale or melody with the right hand this would be the GO-TO voicing to play with your left hand.

Bb13(no 5)


The 13th no 5 chord is an important table chord to know for gospel music. Please see the video on Tye Tribbett's "sinking" for a full explanation.



This is the first common extension of the Dominant Chord. The F is unnecessary if you need room. The 'Bb' is unneccesary if you want to play it as a 'rootless' voicing

F# Minor (F#min)



Same as the prior chord but with an added #11 which is the E

Bb9(13) #11


Same as the prior chord but with an added 13 which is the G. Another way to look at this would be Cmajor over Bb7. In addition do not confuse a b5 and a #11. In the #11 it is the Upper Extension that is altered, the 5 remains unchanged. This is why in this voicing the F in the Bb-D-F-Ab remains virtually unchanged. 



A cool way to voice a Bb7 chord. Essentially a Gb Major over Bb7. So you could literally play LH: Bb-D-Ab      RH: Gb-Bb-Db for the same sound



The TriTone Substitution. So if you are playing a Dominant Chord with the right hand, a dissonant voicing to add would be to access the sound of a Major Triad a "Tritone" interval away from the Root. Since means playing lines that have a distinct  EMajor or Bb7. **You must remember not to use this chart literally but to allow the voicings to give ideas and suggestions for accessing various sounds. 



This interesting voicing takes the 9th note, the C, and splits it up and down, playing the neighboring notes around it.



This has a sound that is very closely related to the half-diminished sound. Move the D down a half-step and the entire chord changes to a Bb Half-Diminished voicing. This means that you need to be intentional when using this chord in order to achieve the sound you are looking for





One of Cory's favorites. He used this chord quality on the Intro of "Yesterday." It was an A13b9, but its is the quality that is important not the key. Side Note: If you want to use the chord the way Cory used it to lead to a Bbmajor then you need to play an F13b9, which is F-Eb-Gb-A-D



Essentially an Bminor Over Bb

Bb7 Altered


The chord that is most "out there." Although it is a Dominant Voicing, it contains all of possible color tones and extensions of the Bb7 chord. 

G Major (GMaj)

Bb Half-Diminished Tips

Scales to use with Half-Diminished Chords: Bb-Db-E-Ab

Chord Name

Scale to Use

Helpful Tips and Notes

Bb Locrian

D E F# G A B C#

Bb B Db Eb E Gb Ab

The Locrian scale is the primary scale to improvise with over a Half-Diminished chord. The characteristics of this scale are the b2 and the b5. 

Bb Locrian Nat.2


The Locrian Nat. 2 scale is another scale to improvise with over a Half-Diminished chord. It is the same as the Locrian Scale except the the 2nd degree is natural instead of flat. Hence the name: Locrian Natural 2

F# Minor (F#min)

Bb Locrian Nat.6


The Locrian Nat.  scale is another scale to improvise with over a Half-Diminished chord. It is the same as the Locrian Scale except the the 6th degree is natural instead of flat.