Free Guitar Tips

F This Chord!

A Beginner’s Guide to How to Play an F Chord on Guitar

The Beginning Guitarist’s Adversary


A lot of guitar students struggle playing an F chord. I’ve had a ton of method books (cringe!) that always want to teach students the key of C first. While I thnk this is cruel and unusual, eventually you won’t be able to avoid this chord.

Everyone struggles with this pesky chord in the beginning.  I know that I certainly did. Many of my students do, too. So instead of getting mad and yelling about it, try a few of these things that I do with my students.

Sooner rather than later, your going to need that F though. So here’s a few things that I do to ease the learning curve for my students:

1. Make sure you can play a half-decent C chord first. If you can’t, you really need get that chord down!
2. Stop reading internet articles and find a teacher
3. Let me remind you that everyone struggles with this chord when they first learned it. It’s going to be tricky and that there’s nothing wrong with you or your fingers (probably).
4. Make sure your guitar isn’t damaged. If you have a teacher, which you really should, have him/her look your instrument over.
5. Take your C chord and “squeeze” the fingers together together to make a 3-string F or an Fmaj7 with the open high E. NO BARRE!
6. If you got it without the last note, add the barre (you probably don’t got it yet. It’s ok!)
7. Move the chord shape up to the fretboard, somewhere around the 9th to 12th fret region depending on the size of their hand. There’s less tension on the guitar up here, and the frets are spaced closer together.
8. Check the position of your palm. Most beginning students grab the neck, which will flatten the fingers resulting in muted strings. I check to see that the part of the hand where the fingers connect to the palm is ABOVE the neck, not pulled behind it.
9. Break the 5-note chord (x33211) into 3 different chunks: x332xxx or xx321x or xxx211. Any one of these is a fully functioning F chord. You can use one or the other until you are able to play the fuller version. Rotate through the 3 versions of this chord in your practice.
10. When doing the barre, I have my students roll a little bit onto the side of the index finger- using more of the bone than the flesh.
11. If you aren’t making much progress after daily practice for 2 weeks, consider changing to a lighter gauge strings.
12. Take a break from it. If you find your blood pressure rising, remember guitar is supposed to be fun. So play another song or work a different skill for a few minutes.

These are few things that I do to make the F chord more palatable for beginner’s fingers. If it wasn’t clear already, you need to have a trained and experienced guitar teacher that can help you overcome these issues! Reading articles about how to get better at guitar is no substitute for sitting in a room with someone that already knows what to look for. Happy playing everyone!