F Major Chord: Introduction
The F Major chord is certainly the hardest “beginner” guitar chord. To play an F major chord, you have to barre the high E and B strings on the first fret with their index finger, a task which most beginners find challenging.
Despite its difficulty, F major is a necessary chord to learn, as it’s used in a large variety of songs in almost every genre. Some notable tunes that use an F Major barre chord include Hallelujah, CCR’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain, and Jimmy Buffett’s Son of a Son of a Sailor. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What notes are in an F Major chord?
The F Major triad is composed of three notes: F, A, and C. On guitar, a standard F Major barre chord is made up, from top to bottom, of these notes:
F, C, F, A, C, F
In the four-note version of the F barre chord that’s popular with less-experienced guitarists, only the bottom four strings are used, so an F, A, C, and another F are used.
On a keyboard you can use as many or as few of these notes as desired. Only one F, one A, and one C are needed for a set of notes to be considered an F Major chord, but only these three notes can be used.
How to play an F Major chord on guitar (Variations)
There are a myriad of ways to play an F Major chord, and they range from the very simple three-note variation to the intermediate-difficulty full barre.
You should learn to play the full F Major chord for several reasons. First and foremost, this chord can be played up and down the neck to produce any major chord, so it’s a good addition to your arsenal as a guitarist.
Secondly, the full six-note F Major barre chord sounds far fuller than any toned-down variation, so your music will sound better when using it.
Let’s look at the different variations of the chord you can play on guitar.
F Major Chord: Simplest (3-Note) Version
This is by far the simplest way to play an F Major chord. Simply press down the first-fret B-string with your index finger, second-fret G-string with your middle finger, and third-fret D-string with your ring finger.
Avoid strumming any strings that aren’t fretted. While this chord won’t produce the most powerful sound, it’s technically an F Major triad, and it can serve as a foundation for playing the more complex variations of the chord.
F Major Chord: Basic (4-Note) Version
With this slightly more complex variation of the F Major chord, you’ll begin to practice barring with your index finger. If you can master this intermediate version, you’ll be well on your way to learning the full F-shaped barre chord.
To play this variation, barre the first-fret High E and B-string with your index finger. Press down the second-fret B-string with your third finger and the third-fret D-string with your fourth.
Once again, you’ll only strum the strings that are fretted. Some guitarists find this variation to be easier than the three-note variation in practice, since it enables you to strum all of the bottom strings rather than stopping before you hit the high E-string.
F Major: Full Barre Chord
This is the most complex version of an F Major chord, and is what most guitarists are talking about when they refer to one.
To play a F Major chord this way, you must barre the entire first fret with your index finger. On top of this, you’ll need to fret the second-fret G-string and third-fret A and D-strings with your third, fourth, and fifth fingers respectively.
F Major Barre: Hendrix (Thumb) Variation
The Hendrix variation of the F Major chord uses the thumb to fret the Low E string, allowing for maximum flexibility. It’s otherwise identical to a standard F barre chord.
Using your thumb as part of a barre may feel awkward at first, but being able to play a chord in this style is an invaluable skill.
Some songs such as Little Wing are nearly impossible to play without knowing how to thumb-barre.
How you should think about an F barre chord
When you get down to it, an F Major chord is really just an E Major shifted down one fret. Since you can’t play the Low E, B, and High E strings open in an F-chord, you must fret them.
This is important to know because it helps you understand how a barre chord works. You can play any major chord under the sun with just an F-shape.
For example, if you wanted to play a C Major chord you could play an 8th-fret F-shaped barre chord.
How to play an F Major chord on piano
On piano, playing an F Major chord is extremely simple since there are no accidentals in an F Major triad.
You can pick and choose which specific keys you use. As long as you’re pressing at least one F, A, and C, you’re playing an F Major chord.
F Major Triad: Root Position
This shape is considered the “root position” of an F Major chord, since the F (tonic) is the lowest note.
F Major Triad: First Inversion
The first inversion of an F Major triad removes the F in the bass and adds it to the top. This means that A is now the lowest note in the chord.
F Major Triad: Second Inversion
The second and final inversion of the F Major triad moves A to the top of the chord. Now the fifth, C, is the lowest note in the triad.
Regardless of which instrument you play, you’ll run across F Major chords very frequently. It’s a good idea to become familiar with every chord, but especially the ones you’ll be using the most.
For this reason, we recommend drilling down on this chord if you aren’t entirely comfortable with it. If you’re a guitarist, learning the barre shape will open the door to an entirely new style of playing.
If you’re a pianist the F Major chord shouldn’t present much of a challenge, so you should have no trouble learning it well.