In standard tuning there's no open form of the F chord on the guitar. This makes it one of the more difficult beginner chord shapes to tackle, causing many players to avoid the full F voicings. We can make it a lot easier by looking at some F chord guitar patterns that build the chord up in intervals. We'll look at dyads, triads and common major and minor forms of the F chord so you can learn it in increments.
This is what we call an interval based approach to learning the chord. Instead of going after the full form of the chord, we look at it one interval at a time and build up our knowledge of the chord around intervalic relationships.
To do this, we'll use the following learning tools:
These components will allow us to learn the most usable F chord guitar voicings one interval at a time.
And while it's true that chart memorization is involved, we're relying more on theory and chord construction- meaning we'll gather a far more comprehensive understanding of the F chord. We'll start with a well-known major voicing then drop back into dyads, building up our F chords from that point.
Let's get started.
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The F Major Chord Guitar Diagram
As we mentioned in the opening paragraph, the F chord doesn't have an open or "easy" form that we can default to in a standard tuning. To get a "common" F chord, we'd recommend starting with the triadic version (more on triads later) positioned with its root at the third fret.
This is a major F chord with structural positioning similar to the C chord, meaning you'll be leading with your ring finger on the root note and tucking your other two fingers underneath to grab the additional intervals.
Here's the diagram:
The common, F major chord diagram. (View Larger Image)
F major chord guitar tab with unison and arpeggiated pattern. (View Larger Image)
From a technical standpoint it's an easier shape to start out with. If you're not familiar with this shape, get acquainted with it briefly, then move onto the next section. As we cover dyads and triads we'll parse the theory involved with the F chord so you can play variations that are as complex or as simple as you'd like.
Dyadic F Chords (two notes)
The term "dyad" is used in music theory to indicate two unison notes that might imply a chord. While there are a lot of music theorists that would content you must have three notes to form a chord, we're using dyadic intervals with a root F to establish the beginning of all the more complex F chord voicings. In this regard, they may be best titled "intervalic F chords."
When pairing usable intervals, regardless of the root note, you should start with these four combinations:
- Root + perfect fifth
- Root + major third
- Root + minor third
- Root + octave
All the more complex F chords will begin with one of these pairings. For example, in the below F chord diagram we have a root F paired with a major third, thus forming the base of our F major triad:
Root F and major third pairing. (View Larger Image)
Moreover, dyads can serve as a more subtle and nuanced version of a complex chord in and of themselves.
For example, if you have a full form F major chord like the barred shape in the following tab, you can supplement or replace it with a simple interval pairing like the two F notes at the end of the measure. These are made up of a root F and its own octave at the third fret.
The dyadic version of the F chord. (View Larger Image)
In this section we'll go over three different dyadic F chords covering an octave, major third and perfect fifth.
F CHORD DYAD #1 (octave)
Dyadic octave with a root F on the first fret. (View Larger Image)
F dyad guitar tab with root on the first fret. (View Larger Image)
F CHORD DYAD #2 (major third)
Dyadic F chord on third fret and a major third interval (A). (View Larger Image)
Major third dyad in the key of F, in guitar tab form. (View Larger Image)
F CHORD DYAD #3 (perfect fifth)
Dyad with a root F on the third fret and a perfect fifth interval (C). (View Larger Image)
Guitar tab version of a perfect fifth dyad in the key of F. (View Larger Image)
Keep in mind that the term "dyad" can refer to any two notes sounding simultaneously. However the more academic approach is to reserve that title for common interval pairings- particularly those that we referred to earlier (octaves, minor third, major third and perfect fifth).
Power Chords in the Key of F
The difference between the dyads we just covered and the power chords we're about to cover is subtle. Because of their structural simplicity and movability, power chords are not often taught within the context of a particular key. However we're going to cover them within the confines of the key of F for the following reasons:
- It provides context for understanding power chord theory
- It's helpful to identify commonly used notes based on fretboard position
When it comes time to play a power chord with a root F note, we need to be able to do it quickly. Thus it's extremely helpful to learn not just the shape of the power chord, but the location of it based on the root note. This also gives us an easy way to expand on the theory we've established with dyads, adding a single interval to existing dyadic shapes.
F POWER CHORD #1 (fifth + octave)
F power chord diagram with a fifth (C) and octave at the first fret position. (View Larger Image)
Power chord in the key of F in guitar tab form. (View Larger Image)
F POWER CHORD #2 (Fifth + Octave)
F power chord diagram with a fifth (C) and octave at the eighth fret position. (View Larger Image)
F power chord guitar tab with root positioned at the eighth fret. (View Larger Image)
Triadic F Chords (root, third and fifth)
Now that we've looked at power chords made up of three notes, we can expand on our three-note chord archive by covering triads with an F root note. Triadic chords are formally defined by having the following three components:
- Major or minor third
- Perfect fifth
This grouping might also be referred to as "stacked thirds," since each note is the third of the note that precedes it. Triads form the base for a lot of what you do on the fretboard and are a foundational piece of chord-building theory. It's particularly important, especially if you continue into chord extensions (seventh, ninth chords, etc.), that you have a firm understanding of triads.
Assuming the key of F, triads also give us many different alternatives to the single F chord shape we learned initially. And they're often simple from a technical standpoint, as they are made up of only three notes.
In this section we'll cover the four most common triadic F chords, all in a major key.
Note: You can make any major triad a minor triad by simply dropping the major third interval one semitone (one fret down). We'll talk more about this process and minor chords in the next section.
F MAJOR TRIAD #1
F major triad at the eighth fret position. (View Larger Image)
F major triad guitar tab at the eighth fret position. (View Larger Image)
F MAJOR TRIAD #2
F major triad at the 10th fret position. (View Larger Image)
F major triad (guitar tab) at the 10th fret position. (View Larger Image)
F minor Chord Guitar Diagrams
We have covered minor chords indirectly, via the triads in the above section, but it's beneficial to give some additional attention to the theory of minor chords and provide you with some of the more common F minor chord voicings. If we stick with the triadic note grouping with an F root note, a minor triad gives us the following three notes:
F, A♭ and C
If you were to ignore the key of F, you could write this out as a generic series of scale degrees:
1, ♭3, 5
In music theory, this is as if to say, "Give me the first, flatted third and fifth scale degree." This is why you can create a minor chord by simply "flatting" the major third interval. To make the chord major again you would simply bump that flatted third back up one semitone.
Keep this theoretical functionality in mind as you go through the following F minor chord guitar diagrams and tab sheets.
F MINOR CHORD #1
F minor chord positioned at the third fret. (View Larger Image)
F minor chord guitar tab at the third fret position. (View Larger Image)
F MINOR CHORD #2 (Barred Form)
Barred version of the F minor chord at the first fret position. (View Larger Image)
F minor barre chord guitar tab at the first fret position. (View Larger Image)
F7 Chord Guitar Diagrams
Now that we've established a familiarity with the triadic F chord, we'll have an easier time conceptualizing the process involved with creating extended F chords. For this we'll look at the F7 chord, which can be thought of as an F major triad with a minor seventh interval added on top.
Every F7 chord will have the following components, with the exception of the perfect fifth since it's a less crucial and often omitted tone:
- Root (F)
- Major Third (A)
- Perfect Fifth (C)
- Minor Seventh (E♭)
Note: The F7 chord has a minor seventh interval, while the Fmaj7 has a major seventh interval above the root, meaning the "maj" refers to the type of extension, not the type of third.
Based on our intervals chart, a minor seventh is 10 semitones above the root. If our root is F, that means our minor seventh would fall on E♭.
F7 CHORD #1 (third fret form)
F7 chord at the third fret position. (View Larger Image)
F7 chord in guitar tab form at the third fret position. (View Larger Image)
F7 CHORD #2 (eighth fret form)
Upper register F7 chord at the eighth fret position (note that the perfect fifth interval has been omitted). (View Larger Image)
F7 chord in guitar tab form at the eighth fret position. (View Larger Image)
Handling More Complex F Chords
The F chords we've covered here as we focus on certain aspects of music theory are some of the simplest and most common forms. Other extensions, suspended chords and more complex voicings have been left out because most guitar players won't get as much use out of them. If you want or need to study those more complex F chords, knowing these simpler voicings - and the theory behind them - will make that process a lot easier and more intuitive. If you can understand how chords are constructed you can add intervals and extensions as much as you want.
We'd recommend memorizing the patterns, but more importantly, memorizing the theory that explains how we got to and from each pattern.
Do you have questions about F chords, the diagrams we've presented or the theory discussed?
Feel free to drop questions, thoughts or even corrections in the comments section below. Usually Bobby answers comments directly, and we prefer them over email so future readers can benefit from our conversations.
If you have some additional insight or cool ideas about how to learn, master and apply the F chord, we'd love to hear about it and possibly even include it in this content.