If you’re relatively new to guitar and made your way through open guitar chords, you’ve probably tried your hand at barre chords. When first getting started on barre chords, a lot of new players already begin to struggle with the F chord.
In this lesson, I’ll tear apart the F chord, as played in the E shape barre chord, and give some tips to hopefully make it a little easier. And if you don’t know what I mean by “E shape barre chord,” I suggest you go back and read my barre chord article first for some background!
Why Do Beginners Find The F Chord So Difficult On Guitar?
All in all, an F chord isn’t inherently difficult, it’s often just the first barre chord that new players come across. Personally, I find E shape barre chords, like the F, the easiest to play, but your milage may vary.
Adding to that, the F features in a lot of easy guitar songs with barre chords, so it’s something you’ll likely encounter early on.
All in all, mastering the F chord, and then the rest of the barre chords, can be a huge wall in a new guitarist’s progress. And it can make a lot of people stop playing the guitar all together.
So here’s your first tip: push through the difficulty of this chord. It gets easier afterwards!
F Chord Basics
This will be very difficult at first at it requires a good amount of strength between your thumb and first finger.
The key is to press all the strings firmly so they all ring out. Don’t try and strum the chord at first. Pluck each string individually. If this is your first time playing an F chord on guitar, you likely won’t be able to get every string to ring out. See what’s not ringing clearly and adjust.
If that’s already working for you, great, you can play an F chord. If that’s not working, read on for some handy tips.
Tips For Playing An F Chord On Guitar
It’s likely you’re struggling being able to play an F chord clearly on the guitar, otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far. No problem, that’s what this article is for.
Tip 1: Remember To Keep Your Fingers Arched and Coming From The Top
Other than your first finger, which should be creating the barre, a lot of people have trouble keeping their fingers from muting adjacent strings. The key is to keep your fingers arched and just use your finger tips.
If this is difficult, place your fretting hand on a table and curl them so just your finger tips are touching it. Then, practice lifting each finger and putting it down one at a time. This is an excellent exercise to get your fingers moving!
Tip 2: Play The Same Shape On The Fifth Fret To Develop Strength
One of the biggest hurdles in playing an F chord, and barre chords in general, is developing the strength between your first finger and thumb. Playing the same shape on the fifth fret won’t require as much strength and will allow you to practice the shape while developing your strength.
By playing an E shape barre chord on the fifth fret, you’ll be playing an A chord. But that’s kind of the point of barre chords, they work up and down the neck to play any chord you can think of.
Playing a shape you’re struggling with higher up the neck takes some of the strength out of it and allows you to concentrate on positioning.
If you get board just fingering the chord over and over on the fifth fret, try putting a capo on the FOURTH fret. From there, you can play the same shapes on any chord sheet to play the songs you want to practice, just a few steps higher. It’s great for practice and you’ll actually be playing.
And from there, you can start working down the deck until you get to the first fret and play the F chord properly.
Tip 3: Strengthen Your C Chord
There’s a lot of similarity between a C chord and an F chord. The biggest difference is you’re not doing the full barre with your first finger. So playing a C chord will still help develop some strength between your first finger and your thumb while also getting your other fingers in vaguely similar positions. This allows you to practice arching your fingers so just your finger tips are pressing the strings.
Tip 4: Try A Lazy F
Take a look at my article on the what I call the lazy F. While this shouldn’t be a replacement for learning the full F barre chord, but again, having a few alternative ways of playing an F chord will help you develop your strength while also getting your other fingers comfortably in position.
The emphasis here is to remove the road block that an F chord can present and allow you to keep playing the guitar, having fun and progressing.
Read the full article on the lazy F and all of its forms, but take a look at the chord diagrams below. Try the first shape, using your thumb to fret the E string. Once you’re comfortable with that, move onto the second diagram. Then try the same shape doing a barre across three strings, then four, etc. Eventually you’ll be able to do all the strings.
Just remember, don’t use this as an excuse not to play an F chord in full.
Keep Practicing And You’ll Master The F Chord!
As mentioned, none of these tricks should be used to avoid actually playing an F chord in all of its glory, but they should be used so you can keep playing the guitar and don’t hit a wall. Too often new guitarists encounter barre chords, can’t play them, and give up.
These tricks are designed for you to keep playing, learning songs, and having fun. Because having fun is the most important part of playing guitar.