Practice Tip #17
How to play F#m (F sharp minor)
Print-friendly version of this lesson
For a print-ready PDF of this lesson, become a supporter on my Patreon page. For a few bucks a month, you get access to PDFs of all my new lessons.
In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to play the F#m chord (F sharp minor). This is usually one of the very first barre chords you’ll run into while learning how to play ye olde guitar - the others being F-major and B-minor. Unlike those two chords, you’re only using 3 of your left hand fingers for the F#m - which makes it more approachable for beginners, I would argue. I’ll teach you how to play it, show a simplified version, and give a through practice exercises you can use to get fully comfortable with this chord. Let’s do it!
How to play the chord
In tablature form, the chord looks like this. From thickest to thinnest strings, the frets we’ll playing are 2-4-4-2-2-2. Your left index finger is going to play all of the 2nd fret notes, by barring them. Your left hand’s ring and pinky fingers will be used on the 4th fret notes.
E –––2–––– <= left index finger (barred) B –––2–––– <= left index finger (barred) G –––2–––– <= left index finger (barred) D –––4–––– <= left pinky finger A –––4–––– <= left ring finger E –––2–––– <= left index (barred)
Simplifying F#m: 4-string version
If the full 6-string version is giving you a hard time, I recommend starting by just playing the thinnest 4 strings. From thickest to thinnest string (of the 4 strings), this would be 4-2-2-2. Note, your left ring finger is what you’ll use on the 4th string - which is different from you use in the full 6-string version (where your pinky plays that note).
E –––2–––– <= left index finger (barred) B –––2–––– <= left index finger (barred) G –––2–––– <= left index finger (barred) D –––4–––– <= left ring finger A –––––––– E ––––––––
Simplifying F#m: power chord version
Another angle you could take in simplifying F#m is to only play the thickest 3 strings. This is beneficial because no barring is required at all! Also, utilizes the very helpful “power chord shape” that is often used on the thickest 3 strings. The shape looks like this. It could be used to replace a 4- or 6-string version of F#m, though it won’t sound as full. Finally, I should note that all power chords are neither major nor minor (because they only have the root and the 5th, lacking the “third” tone which determines major vs. minor).
E –––––––– B –––––––– G –––––––– D –––4–––– <= left pinky finger A –––4–––– <= left ring finger E –––2–––– <= left index finger
Building up barre chord strength
If you find yourself totally stumped by the barring technique, here’s some advice. First, check out the video I made Barre Chord Strength Training, where I show you the practice exercise that I used to finally get over the barre chord hump. Understand that it may seem impossible at first! Don’t let that stop you.
The exercise I outline in that video involves barring just 2 strings (with your left index finger) at a time, until you’re comfortable with it. Then, barre 3 strings… be able to play the 3 strings clearly, over and over. Then go to 4 strings, then 5, etc. This will take a few days (or weeks) - but even a few minutes of practice every day will get your muscles where they need to be. Persistence is the most important thing here.
E –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– B –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– Start off on the far left, only barring G ––––––– –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– 2 of the strings. Then add the 3rd string D ––––––– ––––––– –––2––– –––2––– –––2––– (etc). Find the place where you start to A ––––––– ––––––– ––––––– –––2––– –––2––– have trouble, and focus on improving that E ––––––– ––––––– ––––––– ––––––– –––2––– before moving on.
Fingerpicking exercise using F#m
Here’s a fingerpicking exercise you could use to move between A, F#m, D, and E. See my video lesson for reference. Even if you strummed these chords (instead of fingerpicking), the practice benefit would remain the same. The main idea here, when learning something new, is to mix it up with other things you already know - hopefully in ways that sound pleasing to the ear. Because playing one chord over and over is going to get old, fast.
E –––––––––––––––––––––––2––––––––––– B ––––––2––––––––2–––––––3–––––––0––– G ––––––2––––––2–––––––2–––––––––1––– D ––––2––––––4–––––––0–––––––––2––––– A ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––––– A F#m D E
How learning F#m makes an A-major barre chord easier
As I show in the video lesson, there’s a very useful technique that is unlocked if you get the F#m barre under your control. Specifically, you can use just your left index finger (barred on the 2nd fret of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings) to play an A-major chord. Note, you’re only playing the middle 4 (of all 6) strings. This frees up your left middle and ring finger to add flourish notes - as I show in the tab below. Many, many, many songs use this technique! Again, see my video lesson for reference.
E ––––– E ––––– B ––2–– <= left index (barred) B ––3–– <= left middle G ––2–– <= left index (barred) G ––2–– <= left index (barred) D ––2–– <= left index (barred) D ––4–– <= left ring A ––0–– A ––0–– E ––––– E ––––– A A*
Songs that use the F#m chord
There are obviously many songs that use this chord. Here’s the first few lines of a few that come to mind - where F#m is part of the main chord progression. If you know either (or both) of these songs, I wanted to share them as an example of something to strive for - i.e., being able to play through these chord progressions, F#m included, to
Tuesday’s Gone by Lynyrd Skynyrd:
A E F#m D ...Train roll on..... on down the line, won’t you A E D ...Please take me far... away A E F#m D ...Now, feel the wind blow..... outside my door, means I’m A E D ...I’m leaving my woman... at home
Lookin’ Out My Back Door by Creedence Clearwater Revival:
A F#m Just got home from Illinois, lock the front door, oh boy D A E Got to sit down and take a rest on the porch A F#m Imagination sets in, pretty soon I’m singing D A E A Doo, doo, doo... lookin’ out my back door
I hope this was helpful for you. As always, it’s best to see my video lesson for reference. Please let me know what questions you have, and until next time - best of luck!
Enjoy this lesson? Buy me a beer!
If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider donating to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it). Thanks!
Subscribe to my YouTube channel
Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!
Recent video lessons:
📝 Print-friendly PDFs now available for all new lessons I make, including all those listed below. Get a free sample »
- Slap strumming basics (percussive rhythm technique)
Dect 8, 2018
- How to practice with a backing track, feat. Tennessee Whiskey (Practice Log #7)
Dec 1, 2018
- Playing A-major with big fingers or a small fretboard
Nov 27, 2018
- E-major backyard groove (feat. Posters by Jack Johnson)
Nov 21, 2018
- How to play F#m (F sharp minor)
Nov 18, 2018
- Spicing up a 2-chord song feat. Tennessee Whiskey (Practice Log #6)
Nov 15, 2018
- Adding pinky accent notes to a chord progression (Practice Log #5)
Nov 11, 2018
- Adding pentatonic licks w/ strumming in A-minor (Warm Up #9)
Nov 8, 2018
- Maybe It's Time from A Star is Born
Nov 4, 2018
- Palm muting basics
Oct 31, 2018
- "One Horse Town" riffing on A-minor and C (Warm Up #8)
Oct 28, 2018
- Transitioning between Em7 - D/F# - G (Warm Up #7)
Oct 24, 2018
- "Pretty Woman" lick, played 4 ways
Oct 13, 2018
- Shallow by Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga
Oct 11, 2018
- Mudfootball G-D7 shuffle (Warm Up #6)
Oct 7, 2018
- A-minor murder ballad groove (Warm Up #5)
Oct 2, 2018
- How to play Fadd9
Sept 27, 2018
- Blaze Foley country strumming (Warm Up #4)
Sept 25, 2018
- Acid Tongue by Jenny Lewis
Sept 22, 2018
- "Sultans of Swing" chorus lick (Warm Up #3)
Sept 19, 2018
- Learning how to Travis Pick with "Clay Pigeons"
Sept 13, 2018
- Lady May by Tyler Childers
Sept 7, 2018
Monthly email updates
If you want to keep posted of new lessons over email, sign up for my newsletter. I'll email once a month with a digest of all my new videos. I promise: no spam.