Playing the guitar is challenging – regardless of your experience level. Even veterans struggle with new concepts.
But for the average beginner, few hurdles are larger or more daunting than F major. Playing this barre chord is awkward at first. It’s also painful. And it usually doesn’t sound very good – with all the buzzing and muted strings.
Little wonder that so many beginners quit the guitar specifically at the F chord. And maybe you’re also looking for the exit ramp as well.
Before you give up, however, there’s one more practice strategy worth exploring. This is the technique I used to learn the F chord on guitar. It absolutely works. You can apply this hack to any challenging chord. And best of all, this method is free. Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Gather up All the Chords You Know
You may be a beginner – but surely you know some chords. Almost no one starts with the F barre.
So write down the chords you already know. For demo purposes, we’ll use G, C, D, Em, and Am.
We also need to add our target chord to the list – F major.
Step 2: Collect Songs That Use Our Chords
The next step is to gather up as many songs as possible that use our 6 chords. And you can do that quickly and easily with this free Search Song by Chord tool. If we add G, C, D, Em, Am, and F, we’ll get a list of songs that use those chords exclusively.
Here’s a demo search to show you what I mean.
Any song from this list that uses F major is worth practicing. It’s just a matter of picking 5 or 10 tunes that you really like. So if you’re partial to classic country, for example, you might choose:
• Carry Me Over by Arlo Guthrie
• Streets of London by Ralph McTell
• I Knew Jesus by Glen Campbell
• Arkansas by Emily White
• Bluenose by Stan Rogers
These songs all use chords we already know – plus F major. As such, we can treat them as “etudes” to help us improve at our target chord. This is the same practice technique guitar teachers use in their studios all the time. They choose a “batch” of songs to help their students tackle difficult concepts from multiple angles.
Step 3: Start Practicing the Songs from Your List
Instead of focusing on a single tune (like most beginners do), the next step is to cycle through every song on your list. The order is irrelevant. And you can spend as little or as much time as you want on any given tune before moving to another.
And here’s why.
No matter what song you’re working on, you’re still practicing F major. Some tunes will be slow, and others will be fast. And the melody is always different. But the underlying chords are the same. And as you work through your practice list over the next week or so, the F barre chord will become easier and easier.
It takes time.
But you’ll definitely get there.
And because you’re working on a batch of songs, you won’t ever have to deal with boredom. After all, you have so much variety to choose from. And remember that we only started with 5 or 6 tunes. You could easily create an even larger batch of 15 or 30 songs – all of which use the exact same chords (including F major).
Another great feature of this technique is that you can quickly grow your repertoire by learning just one new chord. That’s a much better return on investment than what you’d get by practicing a single song.
Don’t Let the F Chord Hold You Back
The above technique isn’t a timesaver. If anything, it takes longer. But it can help you attack the F barre from multiple angles within the context of many different songs.
Better still, learning your first barre chord opens up a ton of new real estate on the fretboard. In fact, you can technically play every single major chord using the “F barre” shape.
So if you’re still having a tough time with the F chord, give this strategy a try. Just head over to the Search Songs by Chord tool and start finding music to practice.
Good luck. And happy strumming.
About the Chord Genome Project
The Chord Genome Project is a music search engine that lets you find songs based on the chords they use. Do a search of G, C, and D, for example, and discover hundreds of easy tunes that use those chords (and only those chords).