Beginners Guide to enhancing guitar chords (part 4).     P.J. Murphy, webmaster,

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Guitar Lessons

If you are a learning guitar player, in the early stages of the process, fingers still smarting, air still turning blue from the swearing as you miss that chord change, these few tips may be of use.  I'm no guitar virtuoso, and certainly not qualified to give guitar lessons ( I leave that to site's like Chris Elmore's ), these are just a few basic ideas to spruce up that clunky sound I remember only too well. Last time we concentrated on the E Minor Chord.  ( ).  As the 'F' chord is probably the single most common reason for first time learners giving up in despair, we'll  just have a look at the F major chord, without worrying about embellishment just yet, and concentrate mainly on how to get past the barrier.

F major chord     133211  or x33211  or xx3211

If you've had a chance to look at my chord transposition article ( ) you'll know that the F chord is basically the E chord shape, transposed up one fret.   ( 022100 plus 1 on each string = 133211 ).  If you place a capo on the 1st fret, and play the E chord, you're actually playing 'F'. My own fascination for transposition originated many years ago, in an attempt to never have to play the F major chord!  But it's there, it features in thousands of great songs, you've just got to stick with it. 


The 'standard' version of the F chord is achieved by playing the E chord shape, all moved up one fret, and barre-ing the 1st fret ( i.e. laying your index finger across all of the strings, on the first fret. )  For learning guitarists, this is difficult to achieve, while avoiding the clunky sound you get from not holding down some of the strings firmly enough, and is also a difficult chord to change to and from, leading to much frustration.  If you really want to achieve your potential as a guitar player, you WILL have to master this at some point.  But.... you can play the chord without the barre until you reach a point where you're ready to tackle it.   The second version above is based on not playing, or muting the 6th string; ring finger on 3rd string, 5th fret;  pinky on 3rd string, 4th fret; middle finger on 2nd string, 3rd fret, and ( no getting away from it ) - index finger simultaneously holding down the 1st fret, second string and the 1st fret, 1st string. 

The 3rd version above is the easiest, just play the bottom four strings.  Try to mute or not play the 6th and 5th strings.

This '2 strings with one finger' is probably the most difficult thing you'll have to master at the early learning stage.  Many guitar tutors deliberately avoid teaching songs with the 'F' chord for the first few weeks.  But there will be so many of your favourite songs which include the 'F' chord, it's important to start practicing it as early as you can.  Try breaking your practice sessions into 'bite-size' pieces.   Guitar playing requirements are:  (a) knowing the chord shapes (b) getting a feel for strum patterns, (c) mastering changing from one chord to another quickly, and (d) synchronising your guitar playing with your singing the songs.  Spend some time practicing the chords  you have most diffiiculty with ( and F will certainly be one of them! ) without worrying about the other elements.  Just do single, downward strums on the chord until you feel you're starting to get a reasonably true sound from each string.  Pick three chords which fit together ( e.g.  C, A minor,  F,    or     C,   F,  G  ) and play 4 downward strums of each in turn, repeatedly.   Relieve the monotony by playing chords you're happy with, while practicing your strumming patterns.  Learn 2 or 3 easy to play songs with simple chords ( preferably songs you quite like - have a browse thru my 1000+ basic versions of great songs! ) - and end your practice playing these songs and singing along.  Mix the pleasure with the pain!  And.... don't give up, you CAN do it.    

Just remember, everytime you say to yourself - 'It's no use, I'll never manage that F chord', listen hard - somewhere in the ether you may hear these words  echoed by every soul who every picked up a guitar - including Hendrix, Clapton, Rory Gallagher .....   they stuck with it......

More next time!

P.J. Murphy
PJ's Guitar Chords & Lyrics Site ( )


Other articles in this series:

Chords1     Chords2     Chords3    Chords5     Chords6     Transposition