video lesson

Easy Guitar Hack: The F Chord

If I had a penny for every single time a student or scholar of the guitar came to me and told me that they quit taking guitar lessons or learning guitar because they couldn't get the F chord, I would be able to give my lessons for free. I don't know if it's a Minnesota thing or a St. Paul thing but it comes up a lot.

Many people have stuck with the guitar but skip over complete songs just because it has an F chord. It doesn't matter how head over heels passionate they were about the song, if they found out it had an F chord they dropped it like a bad habit.

Why Is The F Chord So Hard?

Unfortunately, the majority of guitar teaching materials out there give you the information without any consideration to how hard (or interesting) it will be for beginner fingers and brains. The author or publisher has forgotten what it's like to be a beginner. That means that you're going to get full-on bar chords on page 2 in between London Bridge (tacky nursery rhyme) and note memorization (boring subject).

Also, the F bar chord is located on fret 1 which is the hardest place to play a bar chord on the entire guitar neck. The frets are spaced the farthest apart in this area of the fretboard, so fingers need to stretch farther. And it doesn't matter if your hands are big, half of the equation is finger muscle control. The majority of new students have one but not the other.

Is It All Or Nothing?

It's not. And a good teacher knows that most things aren't.

Here's how to break it down into more simple, manageable, and achievable pieces (this is what we do at Rockwell Guitar School) :

A big-boy F major barre chord.

A big-boy F major barre chord.

Lowest note to highest note, the F barre chord on fret 1 contains these notes: F-C-F-A-C-F. So we have 3 Fs, 2 Cs, and an A. As you can see, there are repetitions of the same note. The bare minimum to construct an F chord is 1 F, 1 A, and 1 C. So, you can do without some of the notes in the original example. Leave out the notes on the 6th, 5th, and 1st string. That should leave you with F, A, and C on strings 4-3-2. Play these notes with fingers 3-2-1, respectively.

I'd love to show you how to do it on your guitar in my Shoreview MN teaching studio, but for some of you that's not possible so I'm going to leave you with a handy video:

A Simple Explanation of Drop D Tuning

There are a lot of cool practical things about the guitar. For example: it's portable, any chord or scale shape you learn is moveable, and you can also change the tuning on the fly.

One of the most common alternate tunings is Drop D tuning, but before we talk about that, we need to understand standard tuning.

Standard tuning is, from lowest sounding to highest sounding string, spelled E-A-D-G-B-E. 

In order to get your guitar in Drop D tuning, you need to drop your lowest string (E(The 6th string)) down a step to D. That's all. Then the notes from lowest to highest will be D-A-D-G-B-E.

There are a couple ways to do this. One, you can use a tuner but make sure it's a chromatic tuner. If you don't have a tuner, you can tune the 6th string 7th fret to the same pitch as the open A string, then you will be in Drop D tuning. Or, tune the harmonic on the 12th fret of the 6th string to the same note as the open D string (an octave higher.)

The most common reason to tune to Drop D tuning is to enable power chords to be played with one finger. That's why you'll see a lot of heavier bands using the tuning.

Just as common as Drop D tuning is to tune everything lower by the same amount to get tunings like Drop C#, Drop C, or even Drop B. For example, Drop C# is Drop D with everything lowered by a half step. Drop C is Drop D with everything a whole step lower, and so on and so forth.

The only drawback to tuning everything lower is that it changes the tension on your strings. Try it! Once you start getting into Drop C# territory or lower, your strings start to get really floppy and will have more trouble holding their pitch. But it sounds so badass with the right gear!

Here is a quick and simple video to help you understand:

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