Dear fellow guitarist,
Showing you the basic shape for playing the F major chord on your guitar is easy.
There you go:
The basic guitar F chord shape:
And this is what it sounds like:
Showing you more ways to shape this chord is also easy, but I’ll keep it to the second half of this post because I want you to understand that…
The Shape isn’t the hard part.
The F chord’s challenge is producing a clean sound from its shape.
Because the shape will require you to do something you probably haven’t done before.
You will need to press on two strings with your index finger simultaneously (Barring across two strings).
If your index finger’s muscle is not strong enough to produce sufficient pressure on both strings, and you haven’t “captured” the proper angle for pressing, the result will be unclean sound and buzzing strings.
Another common problem with this shape is arching your second and third fingers while maintaining the index finger in place.
So, why insist on this shape?
The following way to practice this specific shape will be your bridge to the fuller-Reacher-sounding barre shape that will be your bridge to all barre forms ahead.
In other words,
Here’s a sequential way to master the F chord
Like any technique on the guitar, it only requires a sufficient “adaptation period”.
Let’s start by breaking down the above shape into smaller parts so you can zoom in on each and identify if and where your difficulty is.
Step 1. Use your index finger to fret both the F note on the first string (first fret) and the C note on the second string (first fret) as shown in this image:
Strum both notes and see if you can produce a clean sound.
If you hear buzzes, you have to adjust the angle of your index finger, press harder, or both.
The pain you’ll feel after a few minutes is normal since you are using a new surface of your index finger. Don’t worry; the skin will gradually grow stronger, and the pain will fade away.
If you can produce a clean sound, you will have to “lock” the index finger’s shape before you attempt to add the second finger.
Step 2. Add your second finger to the shape on the A note (third string, second fret) and check if you get a clean sound out of all three notes. Like this:
Usually, the second finger slightly touches the bottom string causing it to be mute.
If this is the case, focus on properly arcing the second finger.
Step 3. Now, add your third finger to the third fret on the fourth string to fret the whole shape:
Sometimes the 3rd finger falls on the second string and causes it to be mute. Again, the answer is in arching higher.
Don’t let the f-chord challenge discourage you!
Listen, I know that the f chord might seem tough to overcome.
As a beginner trying to finger an f chord, I remember that it always resulted in two things: It sounded crappy, the strings buzzed all over the place, and it caused my first finger to sore like someone had hit it with a hammer.
After I finally got it, it felt great because I could play more songs I loved.
Why is the guitar F chord essential anyway?
The thing with the guitar F chord is that you can’t really replace it with a different chord, well, you can but you’ll always feel like something is missing (sound-wise).
The F chord, especially the barre shape, has a unique depth of sound to it because it’s the only shape for an f major chord with a low f note on the bass. (The low f appears only once on the entire fretboard and adds richness to the chord’s sound).
Mastering the F chord will also prepare your hands for the next steps in your chord-playing—for example, barre chords or augmented chord shapes.
Is there an easier F chord?
No, but we can use a substitute chord (“a close relative”) that works instead of the f chord. It’ll only work in some cases…
If you wish to play a song that contains an f chord and haven’t mastered it yet, you can certainly try to use the substitute chord.
This is the Fmaj7 chord. More complicated by name but simpler to shape.
It looks like this:
This is what the basic Fmaj7 chord sounds like:
What’s the difference between the two chords?
As you can see, the difference between the basic F chord and the Fmaj7 chord is in the absence of the short barre (as illustrated above).
This makes playing easier, and you can sometimes replace the two.
If you’re wondering why only “sometimes”, the answer is that they are meant to perform a different musical role and still sound slightly different.
However, this might be an excellent temporary solution for some beginner guitar players.
Should you start with the easier F (maj7) shape?
You can, although I explained why learning the first shape will benefit you further down the road…
Either way, you’ll need to learn the Fmaj7 chord sooner or later.
So, to get you playing songs you love faster, try to replace and use the Fmaj7 chord instead of the f chord.
For some guitarists, this might look like a shortcut, and the thought of a shortcut might bug them, but again, there are cool benefits in starting with the Fmaj7 instead of the F major triad.
Doing so, you’ll gain three things:
- You’ll gradually prepare your fretting hand for the harder guitar F chord forms.
- You’ll add a Maj7 chord to your chord vocabulary, making your playing sound richer.
- Your ear will become more sensitive to chord degrees in the long term. It will enable you to replace one chord with another so your accompaniment will sound more interesting for yourself and your listeners.
For those up for the guitar F chord challenge right from the start, don’t forget to check if your guitar action (string’s height from the fretboard) is balanced.
Because if the strings are too high, you’ll have to put more pressure on them to get the short bar sound.
This can make the guitar f chord seem harder to play than it is.
If other simple chords like Am or E are pretty easy to play on your guitar, and you don’t feel like you have to press hard to make them sound, it means your string’s action is O.K.
What about the F chord barre form?
This short lesson will not be complete if I don’t show you the guitar f chord barre form. For two reasons:
- It’s the natural next step in your guitar playing development after mastering the simple F chord shape and a crossroad that’ll help you move from simple chords to barre chords.
- It’s the richest-sounding F shape on the guitar, so mastering it will make your guitar playing sound richer.
This is the barre form for an F chord:
This is how the F barre form sounds like:
Same as the simple shape for an F chord, the barre shape is extremely challenging.
That’s because of the fact you encounter your fretting index finger with a full barre (index finger presses all six strings at the same time).
That means another adaptation period to let the barring index finger get stronger.
I highly recommend that you gain control over this shape because all other barre forms will become easier to perform after doing so.
Think of it like as if you’re watering a seed.
The barre f chord seed will grow you a rich tree of barre chords.
Listen for yourself
I’ve prepared the next table so you can listen to all forms mentioned in this lesson.
I did this so you can develop some ear sensitivity for each form’s differences in color, richness, and feel.
Simple F chord strummed once
Fmaj7 chord strummed once
F barre form strummed once
Simple F chord note by note
Fmaj7 chord note by note
Barre F chord note by note
The next step:
Now I want you to listen to the simple form next to the barre form so you can understand the difference in sound I was talking about earlier:
See what I mean? Can you hear the difference in “thickness”?
Accompanying yourself singing?
The barre form will give you a fuller sound. Playing a song intro with a band? Try to use a simple shape.
Mastering the three F chord forms, we discussed
Well, actually two F chord forms and a Fmaj7.
Mastering the three will give you a decent ability to play songs.
But what’s next?
What about some F chord forms for more advanced styles of playing?
Styles like Funk or maybe riffs and lines within one of your band’s songs?
This brings us to the more advanced forms known as inversions.
Learning the inversions’ forms is not a must, but I find them very useful, even in my solo playing.
I want to include them here so you can learn and use them to increase your playing level further.
If you feel it’s too much for you right now, bookmark this page and come back fresher later in your journey!!!
Three more advanced forms for guitar F chord – inversions.
Some F chord theory:
- The F chord is a major triad which means it’s built out of three notes: F, A, and C.
- Harmony degrees:
The f chord can appear as a first degree in F major scale, the fourth degree in C major scale, and as a fifth-degree in the B flat major scale.
3. The relative minor of an F major scale is a D minor scale.
Overcoming the F chord challenge is a notable milestone on every beginner guitarist’s journey; it benefits our playing with the ability to play a broader range of songs and adds great tone and color to our playing.
For many, overcoming this challenge is the bridge between being a beginner guitar player to an intermediate.