Last updated on January 30th, 2024
A common question many beginners ask is why the F chord is so hard to play on guitar. If you look up this chord, it might come up as a barre chord on the 1st fret, starting on the 6th string. Admittedly, this is quite a difficult chord for a beginner.
However, there are many different ways you can play the F chord on guitar and it doesn’t have to be as hard as you may think.
We’ll first go over some basic chord music theory and then cover 13 ways to play an F chord which you can start to incorporate to your guitar playing.
Grab your guitar and let’s get started!
F chord theory intro
For example, the F Major chord has the chord tones F, A, and C.
Here is the formula for Major chords below.
In contrast, minor triad chords contain the chord tones 1, b3, and 5. For example, F minor chord would contain the chord tones F, Ab, and C. However, we will only be covering the different Major chord variations in this post.
Now that you know what notes belong to the chord structure, let’s look at how to read the chord charts.
How to read the chord charts
For the charts below:
- The top horizontal line of the chord chart represents the high E string and the bottom horizontal line represents the low E string.
- The vertical lines separate each fret.
- The numbers in the blue dots tell you which fingers to use on the fretting hand.
- The letters on the right of the charts tell you what notes you are playing on each string.
- Circles on the left represent open strings.
- Red X means to avoid that string.
You can check this link for more on how to read guitar notation symbols.
Simple F chord
The first way I recommend learning this chord is by playing a simple triad shape. This is very similar to an open C Major chord but you move your ring and middle finger down one string.
The shape looks like this:
F chord with C in the bass (F/C)
This shape makes the chord sound fuller compared to the last one we looked at. Technically, this an F chord in 2nd inversion which means that the 5th degree of the chord is in the bass. You can play it like this:
You can also check out this other post for more on how to play chord inversions on the guitar.
F chord with a mini barre
Another step you can take to make the F chord sound fuller is to play a mini barre on the 1st and 2nd strings. The mini barre can be hard at first but it will get easier as you continue to review this shape. The chord looks like this:
F chord with a mini barre (C in the bass)
This shape is similar to the previous chord except you add the C, which is the 5th degree in the bass. However, you have to rearrange some of your fingers like this:
F chord barre on the 6th string
This is the chord you will often see when searching for an F chord online or in a book. At this point, we’ve worked on different steps to take before getting to this chord because it requires more strength in your fretting hand.
This shape comes from the open E chord shape except you have to rearrange your fingers as you barre the 1st fret with your 1st finger.
Tip* Before even trying this on the 1st fret, start the shape higher up on the fretboard around the 7th fret. The tension of the strings is lighter as you press down on chords higher up the fretboard. Then you can gradually shift the shape down as you develop more strength in your hand.
Here is the chord:
If needed, you can check out these 5 tips to get better at playing barre chords.
F chord barre on the 5th string
This is another barre you can use on the 5th string which to me is still easier than the previous chord. This shape comes from the open A chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you barre the 8th fret with your 1st finger.
*Tip: If you can’t get the note on the 1st string to sound clear, you can play this chord without the barre and only play the notes from the 5th to the 2nd string (as you’ll see in the chart after this one). You can come back to this chord shape as you develop more strength in your fretting hand.
F chord on the 5th string (without a barre)
This chord is similar to the previous chord, except you can play it without the barre which can be much easier to play. However, you have to make sure to not let the 1st string ring out. You can mute the 1st string letting the bottom part of your first finger lightly touch the string, but not press it down.
F chord 5th string variation
This is another chord variation you can use starting on the 5th string. This shape uses your pinky so if you’re not used to using it, it can feel awkward at first. This shape comes from the open C chord except you have to rearrange your fingers when you add your pinky (4th finger).
It looks like this:
F chord 5th string variation with a mini barre
This is similar to the previous chord except you can use your first finger to barre the 1st string as well. It looks like this:
F chord on the 4th string
This shape comes from the open D chord except you have to rearrange your fingers as you add your 1st finger. This shape can feel uncomfortable when first learning it but you will get better at it as you keep reviewing it.
F chord spread chord shapes
The following chords are called spread shapes because of the wider space between some of the notes within the chord shape. Because these chord shapes skip a string, they are more suitable for a finger picking style of playing. You might also hear these chords in a more classical music context.
To go more in-depth, check out this post on how to play spread triad chords on the guitar.
F spread chord on the 6th string
F spread chord on the 5th string
F spread chord on the 4th string
All these chords were mostly in root position, meaning the root note is in the bass. However, you have even more variations if you use different chord inversions. This is when you play a chord with notes other than the root in the bass.
It’s good to know many possibilities of playing the same chord because you have more flexibility to move around the fretboard. Also, you can use different chord variations when you need a certain note at the top to help define a melody that you are playing over.
I hope this helped you understand how to play an F guitar chord or learn new ways of playing it. You can also try shifting these shapes to play other Major chords on the same string.
All the best,
JG Music Lessons