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The Best Way to Play the Small F Major Chord

Updated on September 14, 2011

Taking the Fear Out of the F Major Chord, One Note at a Time.

When it comes to starter chords on the guitar, F stands for fear. That’s right. Whether it’s small, medium, or Grandé, the first position F Major chord—regardless of size—is the most intimidating.

Why is this? The answer is simple: it’s because of the barre on the 1st fret. A barre is simply when one finger holds down more than one note. And any finger can do the barring (or should I say “barre-ing”). For more on barre chords check out this hub, particularly the Basic Barre Chords video that is available about midway down the page.

Ignore The Thumb Placement...(see comment under pic)

The only exception is if you are doing Hendrix style movable Major chords and want some funky interplay between the low E and the top four strings (D to high E), ignoring the A string.
The only exception is if you are doing Hendrix style movable Major chords and want some funky interplay between the low E and the top four strings (D to high E), ignoring the A string. | Source

The Small F Major chord

The note-formula for an F Major chord is F A C. You should memorize this so I’ll say it again: an F Major chord, anywhere on the fretboard, regardless of its size and the order of its notes, is made up of the notes F A C.

The first thing to do to get the small F Major chord in first position is to successfully barre both the high E and B strings on the 1st fret with your first finger (wow that’s a lot of firsts in one sentence). And with practice that won’t be hard to do after a while. The 1st fret barre, when successfully played, will give us the notes F (on the 1st string) and C (second string), respectively. The remaining two notes of the chord are on the G and D strings.

...Continue here for The Best Way to Play the Medium F Major Chord.

Brief Music Theory Detour:

To avoid confusion about the notes that make up an F Major chord and the notes in this particular F chord, I will say again that the notes making up an F Major chord are F A C. But the notes in this version of F are--from the D string to the high E string--F A C F.

High E string: F

B string: C

G string: A

D string: F

Duplication of notes and the order of notes have no bearing on a chord's name. In other words an F chord could be 50 notes big--20 Fs, 20 As, and 10 Cs--with those notes in any order and it would still qualify as an F Major chord.

Get it?

If not send me a message.

OK Back to the Chord...

Once you can repeatedly play the barred notes (F and C) cleanly and without a struggle it’s time to move on to the 2nd fret, G string. This note is A. The challenge here is to maintain the barre while acquiring this new note with the second finger. To get the A note, arch your 2nd finger while barring F and C. It might not look like a dramatic feat but it will take practice—possibly a week or two. But then again maybe not; it depends on your fret-hand and the effort you are putting in.

The next (and last) note to acquire will be the 3rd fret on the D string with your third finger. This is a lower F note. Work at getting this F only after you have secured the other three. Rushing will only lead to frustration (by the way, music is the only field I know of where it’s ok to get an F).

To get the lower F, place your third finger on the 3rd fret of the D string while maintaining the barre on the high E / B strings as well as holding down the 2nd fret of the G string with the second finger.

Now the 1st fret note (F on the high E string) shouldn’t be a worry. But the notes on the B and G strings—C and A—might be difficult to maintain at first. Of course with practice you will be able to successfully fret all four notes, thus conquering the fear and frustration associated with this F chord, and finally making it yours

(…five f-words in the last sentence by the way. Nice).

(Sometime Soon) So You've Overcome Small F...Now What?

As you do your victory dance—or toast, ritual, etc.—keep in mind that this is the lesser of the F monsters. There is a five-note F Major chord, requiring not only the acquisition of an additional note (C), but a change in fingering from the smaller F chord. Finally, the full, six-string version—affectionately called “F Grandé” (think Starbucks) by those who have conquered it—requires the dreaded full fretboard barre.

...But until then, enjoy your current success. By the way, how long did it take you to tame Small F? I’d like to know.

-6 String Veteran

How Well Do You Know Small F Major?

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