Every student I have come across has struggled with the F chord… including myself in the beginning. The good news is that the process of learning the F chord will actually teach you many things. It will strengthen your fingers and help you develop better technique. Playing the F chord is sort of a right of passage. You’re going from a beginner to more of an intermediate student.
The two biggest problems you’ll likely encounter are 1) the second string is buzzing, and 2) when you stretch your finger over the first two strings to play the third string it mutes the second string.
Know that these are common and most everybody encounters them in the beginning. The solution in both cases is to just keep making small adjustments and practicing little by little. It also helps to make sure your guitar action is adjusted properly. That means that the strings are the right distance from the neck for optimal playing.
Try not to get discouraged. Know that over time your fingers will get stronger. You’ll also make small adjustments that will help the chord sound better and better. Practice and persistence. Keep coming back at it.
Here are the steps that I go through in the video:
1. 2 Note (Partial) Bar -This is where you play the first two strings on the first fret with just your first finger. This is the most difficult part. Try picking each of the strings individually to make sure there each sounding. Also only press as hard as you need to to make them sound and no harder. Your hand will get tired very quickly if you’re clamping down on the guitar neck with more force than this necessary.
2. Add 2nd Finger – 3 Note Chord – This is where you add your second finger on the third string, second fret. Many students find when they add the second finger that it touches the second string. If this happens just keep making small adjustments until it sounds good.
3. Practice changing F (3 Note) to C – I like to have students practice with the three note F chord first. Practice changing from this chord to a C chord. It’s a good way to get accustomed to fingering the three note F chord over and over. Also the C chord is a common chord to use with the F chord.
4. Bar Chord Exercise – Before playing the full bar F chord practice the Bar Chord Exercise. This will not only help with the F chord but with bar chords in general. I recommend starting this exercise while you’re still working on the partial bar F chord. Perhaps spend a few minutes each day in your practice session working on the bar chord exercise.
5. Full Bar Chord F – The last step is to make the full bar chord F. Finger the full bar chord and check to see that all the notes or sounding. Once you’ve done this for a little while try changing from the full bar F chord to the open C chord.
Guitar Learning Tip
I show in the video several versions of the F chord and for many people the partial bar F chord is a good place to start. However, don’t rule out starting off with the full bar chord. For some this is actually easier once they practice the bar itself. It also opens the door more quickly to playing bar chords up and down the neck. Keep in mind that you’ll actually need all versions of this chord eventually and there’s no wasted learning here no matter which one you decide to start on.
Don’t be one of those people that avoid any song that uses the F chord. You can do this. Just go at it head on. Sometimes your hand may feel sore, especially the muscle between your thumb and first finger. Think of it like working out at the gym. Your muscles get sore for one day but after a few days of rest you’re ready to go back at it.
Persistence is the key. Keep coming back at it a little bit each day. If you need to take a rest because your hand is sore for a day or two that’s okay, but get on with it after that.
If you’d like some help with practicing the F chord I’ve created a 5-minute practice session that many students find helpful. First practice fingering the basic three note and four note chords. Then head over to my F Chord Five-Minute Practice Session