Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Dreaded Barred F


Could anyone give some feedback on how to get a barred F chord good and clean every time?

Very frustrating at times.

Thank You,


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When you find out Jack can you please tell me.

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With pictures or a video of your attempts at it Ben could probably advise you on any problems.

If you just can’t get a clean barre chord, there’s a possibility that your guitar may not be set up properly. For F, my first question would be “Are the nut slots filed properly?” Most guitars come from the factory needing some additional filing on the nut. Just a few runs in the slot with a file can make all the difference in the world.

Check this video around the 30 second mark to see how to check your nut slot height.


I was researching and found this.

Helped right off the bat.

Thank you David.

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Thanks Mark. Need to get a scale with mm. Think I’m fairly close though.

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The real test is fretting the string just past the 2nd fret and then seeing how much clearance you have over the first fret. The string should barely move when you press it down before the first fret. That’s what he’s testing in the video.

I’ve filed several nut slots. I’ve never measured the string height. I just use that little trick to make sure the slots aren’t too high.

OK…Just checked. Looks like my action is good. Dang! Now, I can’t blame it on the guitar.

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LOL! Yup. Sounds like it. I’d say go with Fiddle_wood’s recommendation of posting some video of you trying to hit that chord. There could be something in your grip that’s not quite right. One slight change could be all you need.

Clenching my jaw so hard trying to play it, I think my teeth are going to break. :angry:

Practice, practice, practice.

Though I can play it fairly easily I rarely use it, finding little need for the low F note.

You can always fret one on the low E with your thumb

My bad I thought you were asking about banjo chords, I always seem to have one string or other that goes dead when I want it to ring.

Learning fingerstyle forced me to learn to f properly. Also B, Bm, C#m, and all other bar chords

Learning fingerstyle forced me to learn to f properly. Also B, Bm, C#m, and all other bar chords

Sounds better second tine Gunner

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The F barre chord is one that takes most people significant time. It is kind of back to basics for making the hand do what you want. Make the barre with your fretting hand, pick each string to see if they ring a clean (and correct) tone. Let go with the fretting hand. Repeat. If you watch TV, do little sessions while watching. Do a bunch of shorter, sessions instead of a long session.

Try capoing up 3 or 5 frets. Repeat the above. It should be a bit easier.

Sometimes, mechanics can be improved. Move your elbow down and in so that you are using your whole arm to help pull down onto the strings (instead of your kung-fu grip). Try rotating your wrist so it is more below the neck (not behind it). Once you get it clean, keep experimenting to get to where you can do an F with minimal effort. You shouldn’t have to make a death grip… once you find a good position, work on getting it efficient.

As Mr. Slayer said above, there are alternate ways to make a full F. The one I use most often, and is also super easy to get to from a C shape is what he is talking about. Barre high E and B at 1st fret with index, middle finger on second, ring finger on 3rd fret, wrap thumb to get low E first fret. For me this is much easier than the barre, There are a few options for the A string… A is part of an F major chord, so you can let it ring open, but then the chord isn’t closed, so you can’t move it up the neck (I also don’t like the basic sound). You can pickup the 3rd fret with the ring, either by barring A and D, or moving the ring to A and picking up 3rd fret D with pinky. I prefer to mute the A with my ring (which is fretting 3rd on D) unless I need that particular C note.

Mike, that was some great feedback.

My issue comes from trying to play measure 4 of “How Great Thou Art” and hammering G# to A while maintaining the tone of the F barre.

Tonight, when I practice it, I’m going to capo up one fret and see how it goes.

Thank you for taking the time, Mike.


By the way, great suggestion with the thumb over wrap, Gunnar and Mike.

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