The F chord is a very common chord when playing guitar. Some people shy away from songs that contain Fs because they think it involves playing a bar chord. There is a common thought that the F chord is hard. Well, It doesn’t have to be a bar chord and it doesn’t have to be hard.
Common questions and exclamations that revolve around the F chord:
Where is my F chord?
F is too difficult
Do I have to play the F chord?
Do I have to play songs with the F chord?
I don’t want to learn the F chord
F chord is horrible
Show me a song without F
Is F a bar chord?
How many Fs???
Why is F chord so hard
Is F chord hard?
Can’t play F chord
What can I use instead of F chord?
I hope I can help with some of these……
We’ll be exploring the versatility of the F chord and discovering some of the variations you have to choose from around the neck ranging from easy to difficult. The idea is that you know what options you have when looking for an F chord and what effect each different position & inversion will give you. I have some exercises for you at the end so you can drill these shapes into your everyday practise.
Let’s get these hands moving!
1) Fret 1 positions (easy & difficult):
Starting with position 1 (in this case we will only be using frets 1,2 & 3). This is the place where most people will stay. It’s great for acoustic guitar strumming. We have the lower register so a fuller, richer sound. The chord is more accessible if you are strumming open chords in a song (C, G, D etc….) this is the logical F to go for with the same resonance and within the same register.
- Traditional F (half-bar) – this isn’t the easiest, I’ll show you those in a sec, this chord is first so we have a base to start from and this is the most common F you’ll see as a beginner. Using the finger barring 2 strings (B & e), we then play fret 2 G string & fret 3 D string. Watch the position of your first finger here, keep it next to the fret wire, if it moves too far away you will get a buzzing sound.
The next ones in this position we have are much easier:
- Fmaj7 – fret 3 D string, fret 2 G string, fret 1 B string, open e string. This is the easiest F. Although its not a strict F it can be used to substitute for an F in lots of cases.
- F/C – fret 3 A string, fret 3 D string, fret 2 G string, fret 1 B string – strum only the 4 strings you’re pressing down. This is my go-to strum chord for beginners. It’s fairly easy to play but has some lower strings in there so has a much fuller sound than the other 2 above chords. You can also play fret 1 e string to practise barring the two high strings B & e.
- Power chord – fret 1 E string, fret 3 A string, fret 3 D string – this is good for playing the lower bass strings if you can’t play the bar chord below yet. It’s also common in rockier music. It’s a very common shape, one worth learning.
The final one here is the Bar chord (!): this is the hardest.
- F Bar chord- The first finger lays flat across all 6 strings on fret 1, we then play fret 2 G string, fret 3 D string, fret 3 A string. Really your first finger only has to play the low E string and the B & e strings, the other fingers play the strings in between. One tip for this is to lay your first finger slightly on its side away from you and make sure it is as close the the fret wire as possible. If you struggle with this chord go back and practise the traditional F above so you can get used to barring 2 strings at once.
If you notice, the easy versions of the F chord are actually the full Bar chord broken down into parts:
2) Fret 5 position (easy):
- This is a Triad (made of 3 notes). It is reminiscent of the open D Shape which, if we move up the guitar neck 3 frets becomes an F. Fret 5 e string, fret 6 B string, fret 5 G string.
This is a lovely inversion also great if you’re playing along with other instruments and you want your chord to stand out more.
3) Fret 8 position (easy & difficult):
- Triad GBe strings – fret 8 e string, fret 10 B string & G string. Another nice sounding higher version.
- Triad DBG strings. This is reminiscent of the open A chord we all know and love but we play this with all 3 fingers on fret 10 (strings D, G & B) where it becomes an F.
- Power chord – playing A string fret 8, D string fret 10 and G string fret 10. Play only the 3 strings you’re pressing down. This is the same shape as the above power chord but playing different strings and an octave up.
- Bar chord fret 8/A string. First finger bars fret 8 A & e strings, We also play strings DGB fret 10.
The same as the bar chord above we can break that down into smaller versions- the two triads and a power chord.
2 Exercises – How to practise them:
- Play each chord in the order that we learned it one after the other. It will help learn where they are. It will help your ears get used to Fs in different registers/octaves.
- Pick a chord progression you know that includes an F (maybe from a song) and each time you come to the F chord play it in a different variation eg C F G Am
It’s important to find accessible chords when learning and then build up the difficulty as you become more competent. It’s also important to understand that chords in different positions offer different qualities and so if you continue to play guitar it’s worth learning them all.
Remember when you’re playing chords only involving 3 or 4 strings for example make sure you only strum the strings that are part of the chord. If you accidentally hit extra strings it can affect the sound of the chord significantly in a lot of cases.
To what time and effort you would put into learning chords depends utterly on why you’re playing guitar and how much time you have to practise. If you just want to play around and bash out some tunes (as a side note you may have joint, mobility or strength issues to take into account) in these situations play the easy version. Don’t AVOID the F. If you have more time and curiosity then start to work on the half bar and bar chords. If you want to play to a higher standard then you should be learning where all of the places you can find an F are, what they bring the the table in terms of sound, what the inversions are, and find the versions that I haven’t included in this video. There are more Fs on the guitar than I have shown today, try and find them.