When I was first starting out playing guitar, the most difficult chord I had to tackle was F major.
It sounds like such an easy chord, and for many instruments F is one of the first and easiest keys to learn, but any guitarist knows that learning to play anything in the key of F is quite difficult.
That’s because F is often the first bar chord that guitarists learn, meaning it’s the first chord that requires you to use your finger to cover the entire first fret, while still manipulating your fingers to adjust several other strings further.
Here are a few tips for mastering that first F chord.
Think E…Sort Of
I think the best tip that helped me to really think about learning that chord is to put it into context of another chord I already knew.
For most of you, E major was probably one of, if not the first chord you learned on guitar. It’s fairly straightforward, and one that’s easy to master.
By the way, if you haven’t yet mastered the E major chord, you probably shouldn’t even be trying to play the F major chord.
That said, you might want to think about the F chord in terms of its relationship to the E chord. F, after all, is just one half step higher than E, which means that you can start off practicing the F chord simply by moving your fingers one fret down, and playing the E chord.
Play it, I dare you.
What do you notice? It doesn’t sound at all like a nice open F major chord, does it? No, of course not, because you didn’t bar off the other strings. But, the point is to start practicing the F chord without the finger bar first, just to get the feel of how your fingers fall onto the frets.
Then Add The Bar
Once you have your fingers aligned and comfortable in their respective positions, its time to add back in the bar chord. Usually, you do this with your index finger, which is not only one of the longst, but also one of the strongest fingers for most people.
A huge tip that took me forever to learn is that while you do need to place your finger firmly across the entire first fret, you don’t need to press harder than you need to.
This is where many beginners go wrong. They think they need more force than they actually do. While when you’re first learning to play a bar chord it probably does feel like you need a lot of finger strength, work on practicing with the minimum amount of strength you can, and still get a good sound.
Using less strength makes you less likely to injure your wrist or hand while trying to play the chord, and as you get better at fingering the chord, you may even find that they once elusive bar chord is actually easier than you think!
The question then becomes: why not start off thinking its easier than it is? You might just be able to play it well that much sooner!