F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) - 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory) (2024)

The F Major chord is an interesting chord. It’s very popular, mainly because it gets used in other popular keys (for example the key of C). The standard F chord shape (the first one in the picture below) often gets lumped in with open chords, even though technically, it’s not an open chord itself.

In terms of basic guitar chords, the standard F chord shape is probably the most difficult, because of the fact that you have to play two strings with one finger. You can think of this like a mini bar chord. It’s actually a really good way of building up strength in your first finger, before diving right in to bar chords.

Some Quick F Chord Theory

  • The F Major chord contains the notes F, A and C.
  • The F Major chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of the F Major scale.
  • The A Major chord (just like all Major chords) contains the following intervals (from the root note): Major 3rd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th (back to the root note).
  • The F Major chord is the first chord in the key of F Major. The seven chords in the key of F Major are: F,Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, E diminished.

10 Ways To Play The F Major Chord

If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for F, here they are.

F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) - 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory) (1)

Standard F Chord Shape

The most common way to play the F chord is in the first position of the guitar. It includes the first two strings being barred by the first finger, which makes it a slightly difficult chord to play at first. Although this chord is technically not an open chord (it doesn’t contain any open strings), it often gets grouped with open chords, because it can be found in many keys that include open chords.

F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) - 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory) (2)

Easy F Chord Shape

The easy version of the F chord is identical to the popular F chord, but without the first finger barring the first two strings. Instead, the first finger simply plays the second string and the first string is omitted.

F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) - 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory) (3)

How to Play the F Major Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your third finger on the third fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the third string.
  • Place your first finger on the first fret of the second string, as well as the first fret of the first string (this will produce a mini barre formation).
  • Strum the first four strings.

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the most common F Major chord shape. These instructions can actually be super helpful when you feel like you’re interpreting the shape incorrectly. By going through the F chord instructions step by step, you can verify that you’re playing the chord correctly.

Barre Chord Shapes for E

The F chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 1st fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 8th fret:

F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) - 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory) (4)

F Major Triads

Most of the time, when we play the F chord, we play the standard shapes, such as the open position F and the barre chord shapes. However, learning the strict root position and inverted triads is a great way of exploring subtle and interesting variations that exist across the fretboard. The F Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:

  • F Major Triad (Root Position) – F, A, C
  • F Major Triad (1st Inversion) – A, C, F
  • F Major Triad (2nd Inversion) – C, F, A

Here are six different ways to play the F Major triad (including inversions).

F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) - 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory) (5)

Which Keys Have The F chord in Them?

The F chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of F Major (F, Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, Edim)
  • The key of C Major (C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim)
  • The key of Bb Major (Bb, Cm, Dm, Em, F, Gm, Adim)
  • The key of D minor (Dm, Edim, F, Gm, Am, Bb, C)
  • The key of A minor (Am, Bdim, C, Dm, Em, F, G)
  • The key of G minor (Gm, Adim, Bb, Cm, Dm, Em, F)

Alternative But Useful F Chord Shapes

The following shapes are alternative ways of playing the F Major chord shape. They’re not the most common F shapes, but used enough to include here as interesting alternatives.

F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) - 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory) (6)

F Chord Substitutions

The F chord can often be substituted with the F sus 4 chord, the F sus 2 chord and the F add 9 chord. The F chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the F Major 7 chord, the F7 chord, and other extension chords which have F as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the F chord?

The most common and effective scales that can be used to solo/improvise over the F Major chord, or to create melodies for the purposes of song writing are:

  • F Major pentatonic scale – This scale will almost always work over the F Major chord, in any context.
  • F Major scale – This is the ‘default scale’ of the F chord.
  • F Lydian mode – This scale can be used over the F chord in certain contexts to add a jazz flavour.
  • F Major Blues – This scale is particularly useful in a Blues context.

Further Reading

  • F Major scale
  • How Major chords work
  • Chords page
  • F Major arpeggio
  • F/A chord
  • F/C chord

F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) - 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory) (2024)

FAQs

How many ways to play F chords on guitar? ›

How To Play F on Guitar 4 Different Ways
  • Playing F Using the Open Position. One of the simplest ways to play the F chord is by using the open position. ...
  • Playing F Using the Barre Chord Technique. ...
  • Playing F Using a Modified Barre Shape. ...
  • Playing F Using the D Shape.
Oct 5, 2023

Why is the F chord so hard to play on the guitar? ›

The F major chord is a particularly challenging chord to play on the guitar because it requires you to make a bar or mini-bar (we'll get into this later), which makes it hard to execute cleanly. In this guide, we'll be tackling the dreaded F major from just about every angle so you can master this unruly chord.

Is F major the hardest chord? ›

The six-string F chord is one of the hardest standard chord shape to play on the guitar. When many people try to play the F chord on guitar (and often succeed), it's with far too much struggle and effort than is actually necessary. Even extremely influential guitarists can have a hard time with barre chords.

How to play an F chord without barring? ›

Start with your index finger on the 1st fret 2nd string, 2nd fret of the 3rd string with your middle finger. Then your ring finger and pinky will play the 3rd fret of the 5th and 4th strings respectively. When you're playing this easy F chord on your guitar, you won't play the low or high E strings.

How to tune guitar to F major? ›

Open F Major Tuning

Tune your low E string up to an F, your A string will stay the same, tune your D string down to a C, your G string down to an F, your B string up to a C, and your high E string up to an F.

Why am I struggling to play the F chord on guitar? ›

Play the F Chord on Lighter Strings

If your guitar has fatter strings, playing the F barre chord will be harder. That's because heavier strings require more pressure than lighter ones. So switch to: 10 gauge strings if on acoustic.

What is the most annoying chord on the guitar? ›

Commonly Annoying Chords:

One notorious culprit is the barre chord, which involves using one finger to press down multiple strings across the guitar neck. Additionally, the F major chord, known for its challenging finger placement, often causes frustration.

How do you improve F chord on guitar? ›

Play further up the neck.

Barre chords are easier when played further up the neck. Try fingering an F chord at the fifth fret to start. This will allow you to build up strength in your hand as you work your way back to the first fret.

What is the substitute for the F chord on A guitar? ›

What are some alternatives to the F chord on an acoustic guitar? Fmaj7 is the best substitute. It's easy to finger, at the same spot on the guitar fretboard, at the first fret. F chord seems to be a little harder than most so just use a capo in the first fret and play it like E chord.

Is F Major the hardest chord? ›

The six-string F chord is one of the hardest standard chord shape to play on the guitar. When many people try to play the F chord on guitar (and often succeed), it's with far too much struggle and effort than is actually necessary. Even extremely influential guitarists can have a hard time with barre chords.

How to do F chord with small hands? ›

Just play the top three Strings. Move it up one fret to D# or Eb, move it one more to E, then one more to F. Add four fourth finger to the A on the seventh fret ( D string) and that's a nice little F chord.

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