Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nooooo! It’s an F chord…
The chord that everyone has to learn but no one really wants to.
But do ya know what?
It’s useful as heck.
It’s used in loads of chord progressions and it’s the final core major chord that you’ll need to learn.
In this post, I’ll explain the various ways to play an F chord on guitar, with some tips on getting good at them quickly too.
How to play a standard F chord
Alright, so you may be wondering…
What is an F chord, and why does everyone hate it as much as finding the start of a Sellotape?
Well, that’s a great question.
To put it shortly, here is why:
Yuck. Just yuck.
To play this chord, you’re gonna need to learn how to “barre” multiple strings down at once.
Barring is basically a way of using the underside edge of your index finger to press down a bunch of strings at once.
You’ll want to put your middle, ring and pinkie fingers in position first, and then try to squash down the remaining strings using your index finger.
It should look a little like this:
It takes a bit of practice to get each string ringing out cleanly, but soon enough, your pincer muscle will strengthen up and it’ll feel much easier.
Besides, I’ve got a tip on how to build up that muscle later to speed up that process.
Because this shape feels a bit odd, you will notice that it becomes exceptionally annoying when you’re playing a chord progression in a song.
It’s just so different from the other shapes!
But that’s why someone invented this bad boy…
An easier way to play an F chord
Alright, so by now you’ve attempted the F chord and are screaming…
SAM!? WHY IS THIS SO FRICKING HARD? IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY!?
Well, it’s your lucky day, because there is. Sort of. It’s not exactly the same but sounds similar enough to the first one.
I still think it’s important that beginners spend some time learning to play the proper F chord on guitar because it’s better in the long run.
But if you need a quick fix, or have some really quick chord changes in a song, then this is the way bro:
But Sam, you’re missing out a note from the chord, isn’t that cheating?
Yes, it absolutely is!
But hey, it works.
And no one will give a dam whether you use this version or the other version in a song.
Some people will say that you should always use the proper bar chord version.
And to that I’d say…
Yes, it’s super important that beginners learn the proper bar chord version because it’s one of the fundamental chords in guitar and it just sounds the best…
And if you only know the fake F then you are officially a noob…
But in reality, when switching with chords like C and Am quickly, this version is so much more practical.
And because it’s easier to switch to, it’s also easier to get a cleaner sounding chord, making the entire chord progression sound better.
But if you’re playing a chord progression using other bar chords anyway, then the standard F shape is actually the easier option.
Anyway, now I’ll show you the last F shape that you can also use if you wish to.
A third way to play an F chord
I’ll be honest, I never ever use this shape.
I just want to show you it so that you aren’t confused when you see other people playing it.
You only need play the top 4 strings and use 3 fingers, but I still find the previous shape the easiest.
This one just sounds a bit thinner and feels a bit fiddlier but hey, some people might like it:
It just feels like more of an awkward way to place your fingers and you have to mute two strings this time instead of one.
But whatever, it’s still an F and it’ll work fine if you wanna use it.
Common F chord variations…
There are two widely used variations of an F chord on guitar and they shouldn’t take you long to learn to play at all.
The first one is an F major 7th chord.
In some cases, this one is actually even more common than the standard F chord.
And – even better – it’s actually the easiest version to play.
It looks a little something like this:
This chord is used extensively throughout Half a World Away by Oasis, helping to make it sound sparkly and nostalgic.
The other variation of an F chord that you will see, is F minor:
But in the beginning it’ll be really hard to get all four barred notes sounding cleanly.
And you hereby have permission by decree of Sam Olverson at Beast Mode Guitar to just play this one if that one is too tricky at the moment:
And I’ll tell you a little secret…
I actually use this version of F minor more than the full one.
There we go, I’ve said it.
It’s just easier to get that minor 3rd ringing out nice and clearly without needing Hulk-like pincer muscle strength.
I know, I know, it’s not really allowed, but I know how to play the full shape anyway so I’m not a noob.
It’s just that if you have some fast chord changes or are really struggling to get all the notes ringing out in the first one, then this is the one to use.
How to get good at F chords quickly
Ok, so by this point you may have decided to throw your guitar out the window in rage – or worse, become a bassist.
But I’ve got a couple of quick tips for you to help you out and make sure that you absolutely do not become a bassist.
Trust me, guitarists get the girls.
I mean, have you seen the crowd at a John Mayer concert?
The first one is a tip to help you build up that pincer muscle for playing all the barre notes required in F chords…
I find that getting a cheap bouncy ball and doing reps of squishing it between your index finger and thumb like this is a great way to grow that muscle:
Do reps of this regularly and these barred notes will feel 10x easier. Stuff like the full F and F minor shapes just won’t pose a challenge for you anymore.
The second tip is to help with getting better at changing to and from the F chord shapes.
At first, I recommend practicing taking your fingers off the fretboard and placing them on again in the F chord shapes you’re trying to learn repeatedly.
Even just practicing this for a few minutes a day will yield great results.
After this, practice switching between all the different F shapes you’re trying to learn for a couple of minutes E.g. Full F Chord to F minor to F maj7.
Then try playing these in a random chord progression with other major and minor chords.
This helps to make sure that you can use them in a proper song situation.
Although the F chord can prove a challenge in the beginning, learning it will set you up for life.
And once you’ve got good at the full F chord shape, then learning bar chords will be a walk in the park.
We call it the F chord because it makes you want to scream F%$&!
And I’m sure for you it will be no different 🙂
P.S. If you want to learn more about how to play bar/barre chords – like F – and how you can use them to play any chord ever made quickly and easily, then you can check out my post on how to play bar chords by clicking here.