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Passing the Barre: The Best Way to Play the Big F Major Chord

Updated on September 14, 2011

So you want to reel in Big F. You know, the large F Major chord in first position...yep, the one requiring a full-neck barre (no, a full-neck barre is not a wrestling move. But if you haven't done this chord yet you'll wish it was).

Big F--or F Grandé--is simply an extension of Middle F Major. If you are having difficulty taming that chord, go to my hub, The Best Way to Play the Medium F Major Chord. Once you're done there come right back here to get the grand prize for all your patience, persistence and hard efforts: F Grandé.

The one obstacle between Middle F Major and Big F is the full-neck barre on the 1st fret (full-neck meaning the entire width of the fretboard--all six strings--is to be covered. And the first finger will be doing the covering). To overcome this, all focus should be put towards acquisition of the full-neck barre.

Full-Neck First Finger Barre

Introducing the full-neck barre. It's just not on the 1st fret in this picture.
Introducing the full-neck barre. It's just not on the 1st fret in this picture. | Source

Passing the Barre

In order to get the full-neck barre you have to have enough strength to do so--you have to pass the barre. Once you do this, you then have to get used to adding different combinations of the other fingers to the barre.

So the strategy with this chord is to first get that full barre, then add the remaining fingers in this order: second finger to the 2nd fret, G string; third finger to the 3rd fret, A string; and pinky (4th finger) to the 3rd fret, D string. Expect your fret-hand to take a little time to get used to these difficult requirements (not trying to intimidate, just being honest).

Big F doesn't require all the notes of the barre.
Big F doesn't require all the notes of the barre.

Make sure every note being held down by the first finger on the 1st fret rings clearly. This is good practice, even though you wont need all the notes of this barre for F Grandé. Once you have all the notes of the chord, of course, you won't be concerned about those 'hidden' ones you're not using (the grey part of the big '1' on the diagram to the right).

Specifically this barre accounts for three strings in this chord: F on the low E string; C on the B string; and F on the high E string. In total, the notes of F Grandé are: F C F A C F (from low E to high E).

Strength and Patience

If you are a student of the guitar and a parent as well you might find it interesting that F Grandé requires two things anyone needs for little ones: strength and patience. It will take some time for your first finger to 'bench press' the width of the fretboard. And more time for you to successfully add the remaining notes of the chord with your other fingers.

Watch out for the C note on the B string as this one is the most fickle: it's the first one to give out when the pressure's being put on. Aside from this, the acquisition of Big F is really a waiting game; as soon as you get the barre down--pun intended--and are able to maintain it while adding the other notes, F Grandé will be yours.

Practice Tips

If Big F is simply too much to handle, you should use what I call the 'creeper' strategy. This involves playing a Major barre chord (with the same form as Big F) in another position, then moving it down--fret by fret--to the 1st fret (first position. Remember, wherever your first finger is, that's the playing position you're in). If you are able to hold the chord for at least five seconds, good. Increase the duration to ten seconds, all the while playing the chord notes one-by-one to make sure they're ringing. When you're able to do this you're ready to move one fret towards the target position (first position in this case).

Which fret is best to start 'creeping' on? Depends on your how hard it was to attempt Big F. If F Grandé really seems impossible to you, start creeping in seventh position (which would be afull-fretboard B Major barre chord). If you're feeling more confident, start your creeper strategy in 5th position--a full-neck A Major barre chord--and work your way down to Big F from there. In general, give yourself a couple of weeks at least to accomplish this (or possibly more).

...and here it is!
...and here it is!

After You've Conquered the Big One

Be sure to practice Big F regularly after that first magical day you manage to get all the notes of it to ring clearly for at least 5 seconds. Like any chord it requires precise coordination, but It is more of a feat of strength then anything else. The good news is once you have tamed Big F you've also inherited all of the other full-neck Major barre chords sharing that fingering. So you'll be easily able to do the same chord form in second position; third position; fourth position...up the fretboard until the frets are simply too small to do the chord!

Let me know how it goes, and as usual, ask any question and I'll get back to you soon.


So You've Conquered 'Big F'. Want to Boast a Little?

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