Are you new to guitar chords, and are looking to bolster your chord repertoire? Then you’ve come to the right place! When playing from the open-note position, you’ll find that Major chords like our F Major chord, require very little effort to play, making it an excellent chord to get your feet wet with. As you read on, we’ll not only cover how to play this chord but take a little peek under the hood to understand it a little better, so that you may apply this knowledge to other chords in the future! Let’s dive in!
How to Play the F Major Chord
The F Major guitar chord, in its most simplistic form, carries a bright and happy tone, with many of its variations carrying other more distinct tonal qualities. Let’s try a few of these variations out, and hear the difference:
Chord chart of the F Major chord played from the open note position.
Our first variation is played from the “open note position”. We can determine this is from the open note position due to there being no number to the left of the fretboard, normally indicating our starting fret for our chord.
To begin forming this chord, we’ll be taking our index (1), and forming a “partial barre” over the high E, and B strings on the first fret. In other words, you just need to drape your index finger and cover two strings on the first fret. Next, we’ll be taking your middle finger (2), and placing it on the second fret of the G string. Finally, with your ring finger (3), we’ll be placing it on the D string.
Above our fretboard, you’ll see two “X” marks. This indicates you are not to play these strings when strumming our F Major chord. From the D string to the high E string, give it a nice strum! That’s our F Major chord played from the open note position.
Alternatively, you might choose to change the fingering a little for this chord. For instance, instead of forming the partial barre over the high E and B strings, you might instead decide to use your middle finger (2) on the high E string, and your index finger (1) on the B string. Following this, you’ll need to place your ring finger (3) on the second fret of the G string, and your pinky finger (4) on the third fret of the D string. The choice is yours!
Let’s try another variation:
Chord chart of the F Major chord played from the first fret position.
This more difficult variation of the F Major chord is played from the first fret position. While there are no numbers to the left of the fretboard, indicating a starting fret, we can see that there are no notes left open for this chord.
Let’s get the challenging part out of the way and form a barre on the first fret, using our index finger (1). To form a complete barre, you need to drape your index finger over all of the strings of an individual fret, from the low E to the high E strings. This will feel slightly uncomfortable, but it’ll get a little easier over time. Next, we’ll take our middle finger (2), and place it on the second fret of the G string. Then, taking our pinky finger (4), we’ll position it on the third fret of the D string, followed by our ring finger (3) on the third fret of the A string.
Now, let’s give it a strum from the low E string to the high E string; you’ve now played the F Major chord from the first fret position!
If this variation is too challenging, you may choose to downgrade it to the open note variation we covered before, containing the partial barre.
Chord chart of the F Major chord played from the third fret position.
We’re now on our third variation, which coincidentally starts from the third fret position. We know this is from the third fret position due to the number on the right of the fretboard indicating our starting fret. A number will typically show up at times like this where the chord won’t fit on the chord chart if we started it from the third fret from the open position.
Let’s begin by taking our ring finger (3), and placing it on the fifth fret of the high E string. Next, we’ll take our pinky finger (4), and place it on the sixth fret of the B string. Your middle finger (2), will now go on the fifth fret of the G string. Finally, taking your index finger, we’ll place it on the third fret of the D string. The low E and A strings are muted.
Now, let’s give it a good strum from the D string to the high E string. There’s your F Major chord from the third fret position!
Chord chart of the F Major chord played from the fifth fret position.
This variation begins from the fifth fret of the guitar. Let’s begin by forming a “partial barre” with our index finger (1), draping it over the high E string to the G string on the fifth fret. Next, we’ll be taking our middle finger (2), and placing it on the sixth fret of the B string. Now, we’ll take our ring finger (3), and place it on the seventh fret of the D string. Finally, taking our pinky finger (4), we’ll place it on the eighth fret of the A string. The low E string stays muted.
Giving our guitar a good strum from the A string to the high E string, we can hear how our F Major chord sounds when played from the fifth fret position.
Chord chart of the F Major chord played from the eighth fret position.
For our final variation, we’ll be starting on the eighth fret. Let’s begin with forming a barre with our index finger (1) on the eighth fret, starting from the high E string to our A string. Next, we’ll be taking our pinky finger (4), and placing it on the tenth fret of the B string. Following that, we’ll place our ring finger (3) on the tenth fret of the G string. Finally, we’ll take our middle finger (2), and place it on the tenth fret of the D string. Our low E string stays muted.
From the A string to the high E string, let’s give it a strum! That’s our F Major chord, played from the eighth fret position.
A really fantastic thing about the guitar is the number of ways you can choose to play the same chord. However, you might ask yourself, “if they’re the same chord, why not just stick to one variation?” in which case, it’s important to note that there are several reasons you might decide on one variation over another!
- Your skill level as a guitarist. When starting out with chords, it’s good to stick with chords you know you can play or aren’t too difficult. This will help you build confidence on the guitar, and get you to feel comfortable with chords; building muscle memory, and finger strength. When you feel comfortable enough, it can be a good thing to challenge yourself further, and perhaps tackle some barre chords or other more demanding variations.
- Playability with the chord progression. In some cases, you might prefer to have chords that hang around the same fret(s) of the guitar, allowing you to transition from chord to chord with ease. This might be a good idea if you’re new to chords, to get in the habit of transitioning and not disrupting the flow of the progression.
- Its tonal qualities. Variations, unlike inversions, not only take the foundational triad and flip it on its head but sometimes layer two of the same notes to be played enharmonically. This factor can really bring out different tonal qualities in one chord variation, versus another.
- Personal Preference. We all have our favorite chords, which might be dependent on any of the formerly mentioned factors. However, there are no wrong answers, and you can play what you enjoy most.
Building the F Major Chord
The foundation of the F Major chord requires three elements, the key signature, scale, and triad. Let’s start with the key signature of F Major. To figure out the key signature, it can help to consult the circle of fifths for the answer, however, we’ll jump ahead and reveal that the key signature of F Major contains 1 flat, Bb.
Now, if we throw our F Major scale together with our key signature, we get this sequence of notes:
F > G > A > Bb > C > D > E > F
All major scales contain the same sequence of tones (T) and semitones (S) that they always follow. You’ll notice that our F Major scale follows this pattern accurately:
T > T > S > T > T > T > S
Moving on, each note within our scale plays an important role. We call these our various scale degrees. Each degree contains its own name to help musicians refer to them with ease. Here are the various degrees within the F Major scale:
F = Tonic (1st Degree)
G = Supertonic (2nd Degree)
A = Mediant (3rd Degree)
Bb = Subdominant (4th Degree)
C = Dominant (5th Degree)
D = Submediant (6th Degree)
E = Leading Tone (7th Degree)
F = Tonic (1st Degree/Octave)
Taking our F Major scale, we can begin to form a major triad. A triad, in general, is a type of chord containing three notes being played simultaneously. To form a major triad, we need to take the tonic, mediant, and dominant degrees (1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees) of the major scale. Within the F Major scale, this gives us the notes: F, A, and C.
This is the foundation of our F Major chord.
Use of the F Major Chord
There are many widely popular hits that fall in the key of F major, such as “Tom Petty’s – Free Fallin’”, “Pink Floyd’s – Great Gig In The Sky”, and even “Bon Jovi’s – Bed of Roses”. However, when it specifically comes to the F Major chord, hits like “Adele’s – Rolling In The Deep”, “Passenger’s – Let Her Go”, and “Lumineers’ – Ho Hey” use them very well, and are excellent tunes to get started with.
Within the realm of writing your own chord progressions, and defining your own process of writing a song from start to finish, there are a couple of ways you might choose to go about it! One of the most common ways is to make use of our trusty triads and form them on each degree of the F Major scale. Let’s take a look at how this appears:
F Major = F, A, C (1st Degree/Tonic)
G Minor = G, Bb, D (2nd Degree/Supertonic)
A Minor = A, C, E (3rd Degree/ Mediant)
Bb Major = Bb, D, F (4th Degree/Subdominant)
C Major = C, E, G (5th Degree/ Dominant)
D Minor = D, F, A (6th Degree/Submediant)
E Diminished = E, G, Bb (7th Degree/Leading Tone)
This method provides you with the foundation to build your own chord progression within the key of F Major, as they are all compatible. However, to speed the process up, you may even choose to use some trusted progressions to set you in the right direction.
For instance, one of the most common chord progressions used is the I – IV – V progression. Within the key of F Major, this means we’re to play the 1st, 4th, and 5th degrees/chords, which are the F Major, and Bb Major, followed by the C Major chord. Some widely known songs that use this chord progression are “Simon & Garfunkel’s – Cecelia”, “Weezer’s – Beverly Hills”, and even “Steve Miller Band’s – The Joker”.
Another common chord progression, particularly loved by the Beatles is the I – vi – IV – V progression. This consists of four chords, slightly different than our aforementioned progression, whereas this contains a submediant chord between the tonic and subdominant chords. To hear this progression in action, you might look to some Beatles songs, such as “A Hard Day’s Night”, or “Please Mister Postman” among others. However, in the key of F Major, this progression would consist of the chords F Major, D minor, Bb Major, and C Major. Some popular songs following this progression are “Fun’s – We Are Young”, “Leona Lewis’ – Bleeding Love”, and even “All American Rejects’ – Gives You Hell”.
If you’re interested in tackling a Jazz chord progression, you might look to the ii- V – I progression, commonly referred to as the “two-five-one turnaround”. This makes use of seventh chords, which offer a lot of tension, and color, which can be a great way of spicing up those major and minor chords. In the key of F major, our progression would consist of G minor 7, C7, and the F Major 7 chords.
In summary, using what you may know about scale degrees can make this process even easier, however, the second method may be more desirable if you’d rather work with a proven template if this is still new to you.
F Major VS F Minor Chord
How does the F Major chord differ from an F minor chord? Let’s first take note of their parallel key relationship. This means that while they share the same tonic note, F, they contain different key signatures. F Major contains one flat, Bb, while F minor contains four flats, Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db. This differs from the relative key relationship that F Major shares with D minor, where they share the same key signature, but have different tonic notes.
Let’s throw together our F minor scale:
F > G > Ab > Bb > C > Db > Eb > F
Minor scales contain their own set of tones (T) and semitones (S) like our Major scales do:
T > S > T > T > S > T > T
To form a minor triad, just as before, we’ll take our tonic, mediant, and dominant degrees of the F minor scale (1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees), and stack them on top of each other. This gives us the notes: F, Ab, and C.
If we take the same degrees of the scale for both major and minor triads, how are they different? It’s all in the intervals used to build them!
F Major Triad
- Major 3rd – Between the 1st and 3rd degrees. F > A.
- Minor 3rd – Between the 3rd and 5th degrees. A > C.
- Perfect 5th – Between the 1st and 5th degrees. F > C.
F minor Triad
- Minor 3rd – Between the 1st and 3rd degrees. F > Ab.
- Major 3rd – Between the 3rd and 5th degrees. Ab > C.
- Perfect 5th – Between the 1st and 5th degrees. F > C.
Now, let’s try playing the F minor chord so we can hear the difference!
Chord chart of the F minor chord played from the first fret position.
We’ve gone over the F Major, and F minor chords, but f you wish to take things further with the F chord, there are plenty of other F chords out there you may choose to learn:
- F# Major – Consists of an F#, A#, and C# triad. One of the more simple ways of playing this chord is on the 4th fret. In fact, if you look at the shaping of the F Major chord’s third variation we had gone over, all you need to do is transpose that same chord shape up a fret to get your F# Major chord.
- F# Minor – Consists of an F#, A, and C# triad. From the 2nd fret, you can form a partial barre with your index finger over the high E, B, and G strings. Finally, place your ring finger over the 4th fret of the D string. Keep the low E, and A strings muted, and give it a strum!
- F Major 7 – Consists of the notes F, A, C, and E. This chord only requires three fingers to play, from the open note position. Place your index finger over the 1st fret of the B string, your middle finger over the 2nd fret of the G string, and your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the D string. Keep the low E, and A strings muted, but the high E string open.
- F Minor 7 – Consists of the notes F, Ab, C, and Eb. To play this chord, use your index finger to form a barre from the high E string to the low E string, on the 1st fret. Following that, place your pinky finger on the 4th fret of the B string. Finally, place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the A string.
- F Sus 2 – Consists of the notes F, G, and C. From the 1st fret, form a partial barre with your index finger, covering the high E, and B strings. Keep the G string open. Next, use your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the D string. Keep the A and low E strings muted. Now give it a strum. That’s your F suspended 2nd chord.
- F Sus 4 – Consists of the notes F, Bb, and C. From the high E to the low E string on the 1st fret, form a barre. Next, put your pinky finger on the 3rd fret of the G string, and your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the D string. That’s your F suspended 4th chord
And there are many more you may choose to learn!
The F Major chord is an excellent chord to segway into more challenging chords and their variations. However, it’s important to be patient, as it can take time to develop the necessary finger strength to nail those barre chords. It can even help you, in the long run, to improve your knowledge of chords, and understand how the fretboard is a series of shapes and patterns; the CAGED system can be a great tool for this. What songs will you decide to learn? What new challenges await you after learning this chord? Remember to have fun, pace yourself, and keep on rockin’!