If you’re learning the guitar, you’ve probably already discovered just how hard learning to play the F major chord can be. Perhaps your strings buzz, or maybe it feels awkward. If only you could avoid it altogether. How do you move past the frustration and learn how to play it?
The Challenge of the F Major Chord
Lots of people learn what’s known as the “full barre” version of this chord first. It involves stretching your index finger across all six strings of the guitar while playing the rest of the chord with your other fingers, which is standard for barre chords.
However, that’s often an awkward way for beginners to learn chords. Trying to learn a full barre F major guitar chord when you’re just a beginner can lead to all sorts of frustrations, like that annoying buzzing sound your other strings make across your frets.
The most important thing to remember when learning a musical instrument is building a solid foundation. So when you’re learning the F major chord, you should learn easier versions while still working on the full barre chord.
Even though the barre chord may be difficult, it is vital to learn. Keep practicing, and master the easier versions in the meantime.
An easier barre chord to try first could be C minor, so give it a go, too!
There Are Several Fingerings for the F Major Chord
But how do you play an F major chord, then? Good news: You have several options, one of which involves just three fingers:
- Index finger: second string (B) on the first fret
- Middle finger: third string (G) on the second fret
- Ring finger: fourth string (D) on the third fret
- Strum down from D to B, and you’ve played an F major chord
No stretching, no barres, no awkwardness. Just a simple three-note, F major chord.
This will work well when you’re just starting to learn chords and perhaps beginning to get into short, beginners’ guitar pieces.
The Baby Barre
Another way to play an F major guitar chord is with what’s known as a “baby barre,” which is when you cover two strings with one finger instead of all six. These fingerings are slightly more advanced than the three-finger chord, but you should still be able to learn them fairly easily. One example goes like this:
- Index finger: first (E) and second (B) strings on the 1st fret
- Middle finger: third (G) string on the 2nd fret
- Ring finger: fourth (D) string on the 3rd fret
- Strum downward on the strings
Once you’ve mastered these two ways of playing one of the most dreaded guitar chords, you can start working on the full barre fingerings.
An easy barre to try: C major third fret
The Barre F Major Chord
Even though you might be able to play an F major chord very well using the two fingerings above, you may still struggle with the other option: a full barre chord. Using one finger across all six strings can be difficult for beginners.
The fingering is as follows:
- Index finger laid across all strings, from the sixth string (low E) to the first string (high E) on the 1st fret
- Middle finger: third string (G) on the 2nd fret
- Ring finger: fifth string (A) on the 3rd fret
- Pinky finger: fourth string (D) on the 3rd fret
- Strum down all six strings
Tips and Tricks for Beginners Struggling with the F Chord
Yeah. We get it. That isn’t easy. It’s buzzing; you’re having problems pressing down your index finger properly, the positioning feels completely unnatural, etc. We’ve got some tips that may help you out, though.
Try Different Guitars or Strings
Practice the full barre on an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar with nylon strings to get comfortable with it. Here’s why: The first position F major chord places your index finger is very close to the headstock where the strings are hardest to press down.
Because of that, you should work with an instrument on which the strings are forgiving. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can try it on an acoustic guitar with metal strings if you’d like.
Don’t Ignore the “Buzz”
Every one of us who has ever learned a musical instrument knows how terrible we sounded as beginners. This is no different, particularly with the F major chord. Like the grinding sound a beginning violinist makes as they learn how to draw the bow across the strings, your strings may buzz and sound awful.
Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, start by stretching only your index finger across all the strings and strumming, working on positioning until you can play without hearing a buzz. Work your way up the frets doing this to get more comfortable with this, then add one more finger at a time until you can play the full barre chord without a buzz.
This works for other barre chords, too. Remember to switch between barre chords and others to gain dexterity.
Learn the Fingering Further up the Neck
If you play the full barre chord up at the fifth fret instead of the first, you might find it much easier to play. This is actually an A major chord, but you’ll be able to build your hand strength this way before you move back down to where the F major chord is.
Try next: The F#m (f sharp minor) guitar chord
Moving to and from the F Chord
Some common chords that come before and after an F major chord are C major, B-flat major, and G major.
You can work on moving from the F major chord to those chords and back. You can also practice moving from C major to F major, and then to G major. That’s a fundamental chord progression you’ll see in a lot of music, like Blink 182’s “All The Small Things.” Run through it until you’re comfortable with it.
There’s a lot about playing instruments that involves muscle memory, and focusing on simple, common chords and easy progressions is an excellent way to teach your fingers what to do. Then you can start learning simple songs.
Songs That Use the F Major Chord
Guess what? Many songs use the standard C, F, G chord progression that you can practice when you’re ready to move on to the next steps of your education. Even better, they’re fun. They include:
- Twist and Shout by the Beatles
- Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
- Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel
- Sloop John B by the Beach Boys
- Down on the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival
You can also run a Google search for “easy three-chord songs” and find tons more. Many have arrangements available for free or cheap that you can use for practice. And have fun with it!
The Difference Between F Major and F Major 7
Guitarists sometimes play an F major 7 chord instead of an F major chord. The F major 7 chord leaves the first (E) string open, giving you a different sound than a standard F major chord.
No matter how you play it, the F major chord is F, A, and C. However, the F major 7 chord leaves the first (E) string open, giving you F, A, C, and E. This chord has identical fingering to the three-note F major chord we discussed above, but we had you stop strumming at the second (B) string.
For the F major 7 chord, you’ll strum down from the fourth (D) string to the first (E) string.
An F major scale is F, G, A, B-flat, C, D, E, F. That E is the seventh step, giving the F major 7 chord its name. When you’re first learning how to play an F chord, it’s best to stick to a regular F major chord. Then you can start playing around with the F major 7 chord and learn where it does and does not work.
Try these chords next:
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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