25 June 2008

How Beginner Guitarists Can Sneak Up on the F Bar Chord

The F bar chord is one of the hardest to learn yet is often the first attempted by novice guitarists. It is probably the hardest to learn for two reasons:

1. You have to make the bar at the first fret where the strings are hardest to press down.

2. The frets near the head have the widest spacing. Your other fingers have to stretch more to finger the chord.

But because it is part of the key of C many guitarists try to learn it along with the open C and G chords. This gives many novices the feeling that they can never learn bar chords.

For this reason it is better to start learning bar chords elsewhere on the neck. It is easier to make bar chords further up the neck because the frets are not as widely spaced and it is easier to press down the strings.

A good place to start is the A, D and E chords at the 5th and 7th frets. As you move further up the neck again things get more difficult because the frets are closer together; you have to fit your fingers into a smaller space.

That said, you want to learn that F chord one day. How do you go about it without making things too hard for yourself? The same way as you eat an elephant, of course, one bite at a time. Or rather one step at a time...

F triad

An easy way to get started on the F chord is by playing this little triad. It uses just three notes, the most important of any chord, the root, the 3rd and the 5th.

The advantage of the triad is that you don't have to make a bar to play it but you start to become familiar with the finger positions of your middle and ring fingers. Strum only the three fingered strings, if you strum or pick the first string you play an F Major 7 chord.

Add Two String Bar

The next step is to add a little bar on the 1st and 2nd strings. Use your first finger to press down these two strings. The last part of the finger after the joint holds them down.

Finger E chord with 3, 4, 5 fingers

You can make another approach to the F bar chord if you work from the E chord position. Use your middle, ring and little fingers for the E chord as shown in the diagram below. These fingers replace the usual first, middle and ring fingers.

Play open E chords with this position to get your fingers familiar with the position they will take to play the F bar chord. Your middle finger should be the fixing point around which the other fingers pivot into position.

Two String Bar Again

To take things a step further move this E chord shape up one fret and add the little bar on the 1st and 2nd strings as shown below. You are nearly there, you have five of the six strings covered.

Full Bar

The final step is to play the full F bar chord itself. Continue to place your middle finger as a guide. Rest your index finger across the strings behind the fret and squeeze it onto the fretboard by pulling back your elbow. The two remaining fingers should fall into their usual position that you practiced with the E chord form.

It can take a while to develop the strength to hold the bar down firmly with the index finger. Take your time and let your hand get used to this slowly. Too much rushing here could lead to injury that will slow you up in the long run.

Take courage from this step by step approach to master the F bar chord. Remember, patience and slow practice will pay off fastest in the long run.

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