The F chord on the guitar

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How to play the F chord in all CAGED shapes

The video lesson above is part of a series looking at the CAGED chords, open-position, as well as barre chord shapes.

There is no F in CAGED, but we do need to include this F chord to complete the picture.

CAGED is only five notes and as you may know, we have seven notes, A B C D E F G. So the F and B are seemingly missing.

So what is an F then? Well, the first thing a guitar player thinks about when we hear F is this big painful chord you see below.

Instead of thinking of this as an F, think of it as an E-shaped F, since it looks like a barred E chord shape.

F chord, in an E shape.
F chord, E shape

It’s really difficult to fret and you don’t catch many professional guitar players using this as the finger placement is so painful.

It seems to be only sadistic beginner teachers that insist upon this big F chord’s existence. Funnily enough, beginner teachers never seem to play gigs, write songs, or record albums…

So, let’s make it less painful and more useful!

  • We can play only the bottom three strings. This is only an F5, as there is no 3rd in this chord
  • We can play the middle of it, strings 2-4, this is a great F chord
  • We can play the top part of it, strings 1-3, another great F chord
  • We can also play strings 1-4, this is possibly the best way
  • Finally, we can play strings 2-5, this could be described as an F/C

I feel that we can use this final fraction whenever we want a big-sounding F, but don’t want to barre this biggest version. I use this in three beginner acoustic songs.

Let’s move up the neck and find the rest of the F chords in the CAGED system, here’s a D shape.

F chord in a D shape.
F chord, D shape

So that’s also hard to fret, right?

  • We can play it as an F5 by ignoring the top string.
  • We can play a complete F by ignoring the 4th string.

Just like with the first F chord in an E shape, we don’t want to play all strings, it’s just painful and stupid.

Once you start extending the D shape, all chords become easier to fret using the full shape. Check the D chord/shape for more on this.

The next shape is a C shape, again the full shape is awkward.

F chord in a C shape.
F chord, C shape

If you don’t want to play this, if it’s too hard, then don’t do it. Let’s break it down into fractions instead.

  • Strings 3-5 are not great but it’s OK.
  • Strings 2-4 are fantastic, in my opinion, the best way to play a triad on the electric guitar
  • Strings 1-3 are really good but this is the same as a D shape

The next shape is the A-shaped F. Here displayed as a Chordacus image. I would go as far as saying this is impossible to play.

F chord in an A shape.
F chord, A shape

Here are the possible fractions.

  • Just string 3-5, that’s an F5, there’s no 3rd.
  • String 2-5, this is a complete F, a little bit tricky.
  • String 2-4, that’s a complete F, great chord.
  • String 1-3, that’s a complete F as well, great chord.

Try playing strings 1-5 as well, it’s awkward, maybe even impossible. Only the sadistic beginner teacher would force you to play this.

The next shape is a G shape. Completely impossible, don’t even try it – But do visualize it!

F chord in a G shape.
F chord, G shape

Let’s find our fractions.

  • Strings 4-6, possible but not great.
  • Strings 3-5 are better, but still not great.
  • Strings 2-4, this one is really good, but it’s the same as an A shape.
  • Strings 2-4 without a 3rd, so that’s an F5 chord, it’s not great,
  • String 1-3, with a 3rd again, it’s not great.

The G shape is the weakest shape for building a simple major chord.

If you’ve seen the G chord/shape video you know this becomes better once we extend the chord. Arpeggios, modes, and all that stuff are just as good as the other CAGED shapes so it’s just the major triad that doesn’t quite do it.

F chord summary

That’s all the F chords. We had the E shape, D shape, C shape, A shape, and G shape, all of these are almost impossible if you believe you must play all strings.

Next time you see an F chord, you know there are five areas in which you can play it and all five must be played as fractions, not the full shape.

To get help moving to and from it, using picking, strumming, and fingerpicking, you need real songs.

Among the beginner songs, we play an F in The Drugs Don’t Work, One More Cup Of Coffee, and Rewind.

As you progress and learn the arpeggios and major scales, all CAGED chords you’ve seen are as F can become:

The F Chord | Related Pages

Guitar chords

The F chord is best seen as one of five CAGED shapes.

You can learn how to build all minor and major guitar chords using the so-called CAGED system.

This is the foundation upon which we learn to extend chords and build arpeggios and modes as well.

The Fm chord

The Fm chord in all CAGED shapes

By now, we’ve completed the CAGED chords and learned how to play any chord, anywhere on the fretboard.

Using the Fm chord, we test if we can see all shapes using the starting point of F in five shapes.

Beginner Acoustic

There are several F chords among the Beginner Acoustic Songs.

This collection of beginner acoustic tunes will teach you how to arrange for one acoustic guitar, as well as how to create a supporting part.

Playing songs will help you with switching between open-position chords and give you the context you need to understand how music works theoretically.

Intermediate Acoustic

There are even more Intermediate Acoustic Songs with F chords.

Most intermediate acoustic tunes can’t be played using just basic open-position chords. We have to move up the fretboard and play CAGED barre chords as well.

We incorporate bass lines, add licks, extend chords, and play vocal melodies. Most importantly, we’ll invent second guitar parts and play these songs together.

About me | Dan Lundholm

Dan Lundholm wrote this guitar lesson about the F chord in all CAGED shapes.

This was a guitar lesson about the F chord in all CAGED shapes, by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and learn guitar with Spytunes.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.


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