F Chord on the Guitar (F Major) – 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory)

The F Major chord is an interesting chord. It’s very popular, mainly because it gets used in other popular keys (for example the key of C). The standard F chord shape (the first one in the picture below) often gets lumped in with open chords, even though technically, it’s not an open chord itself.

In terms of basic guitar chords, the standard F chord shape is probably the most difficult, because of the fact that you have to play two strings with one finger. You can think of this like a mini bar chord. It’s actually a really good way of building up strength in your first finger, before diving right in to bar chords.

Some Quick F Chord Theory

  • The F Major chord contains the notes F, A and C.
  • The F Major chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of the F Major scale.
  • The A Major chord (just like all Major chords) contains the following intervals (from the root note): Major 3rd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th (back to the root note).
  • The F Major chord is the first chord in the key of F Major. The seven chords in the key of F Major are: F, Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, E diminished. 

10 Ways To Play The F Major Chord

If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for F, here they are.

F Major Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard F Chord Shape

The most common way to play the F chord is in the first position of the guitar. It includes the first two strings being barred by the first finger, which makes it a slightly difficult chord to play at first. Although this chord is technically not an open chord (it doesn’t contain any open strings), it often gets grouped with open chords, because it can be found in many keys that include open chords.

F Chord Guitar

Easy F Chord Shape

The easy version of the F chord is identical to the popular F chord, but without the first finger barring the first two strings. Instead, the first finger simply plays the second string and the first string is omitted.

Easy F Chord Guitar

How to Play the F Major Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your third finger on the third fret of the fourth string.
  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the third string.
  • Place your first finger on the first fret of the second string, as well as the first fret of the first string (this will produce a mini barre formation).
  • Strum the first four strings.

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the most common F Major chord shape. These instructions can actually be super helpful when you feel like you’re interpreting the shape incorrectly. By going through the F chord instructions step by step, you can verify that you’re playing the chord correctly.

Barre Chord Shapes for E

The F chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 1st fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 8th fret:

F Barre Chord Guitar

F Major Triads

Most of the time, when we play the F chord, we play the standard shapes, such as the open position F and the barre chord shapes. However, learning the strict root position and inverted triads is a great way of exploring subtle and interesting variations that exist across the fretboard. The F Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:

  • F Major Triad (Root Position) – F, A, C
  • F Major Triad (1st Inversion) – A, C, F
  • F Major Triad (2nd Inversion) – C, F, A

Here are six different ways to play the F Major triad (including inversions).

F Major Triad Guitar

Which Keys Have The F chord in Them?

The F chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of F Major (F, Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, Edim)
  • The key of C Major (C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim)
  • The key of Bb Major (Bb, Cm, Dm, Em, F, Gm, Adim)
  • The key of D minor (Dm, Edim, F, Gm, Am, Bb, C)
  • The key of A minor (Am, Bdim, C, Dm, Em, F, G)
  • The key of G minor (Gm, Adim, Bb, Cm, Dm, Em, F)

Alternative But Useful F Chord Shapes

The following shapes are alternative ways of playing the F Major chord shape. They’re not the most common F shapes, but used enough to include here as interesting alternatives.

Alternative F Chord Shapes Guitar

F Chord Substitutions

The F chord can often be substituted with the F sus 4 chord, the F sus 2 chord and the F add 9 chord. The F chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the F Major 7 chord, the F7 chord, and other extension chords which have F as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the F chord?

The most common and effective scales that can be used to solo/improvise over the F Major chord, or to create melodies for the purposes of song writing are:

  • F Major pentatonic scale – This scale will almost always work over the F Major chord, in any context.
  • F Major scale – This is the ‘default scale’ of the F chord.
  • F Lydian mode – This scale can be used over the F chord in certain contexts to add a jazz flavour.        
  • F Major Blues – This scale is particularly useful in a Blues context.

Further Reading

scales guitar alert