Playing chords on guitar can be very simple or extremely hard. It only depends on how you decide to approach learning them. But before I start rambling on about the theory behind guitar chords, let me give you what you came here for, the F#m Guitar Chord Charts.
F#m Guitar Chord Charts
There are two main ways to play F#m on guitar, and the difference between them is to be found in where the lowest root note is located: on the 6th or 5th string.
In the case of the root note on the 6th string, you will find yourself dealing with a bar chord across all six strings. Do you have any familiarity with the CAGED system? Then this is the same as your open Em shape, but you have to think of your index finger as a mobile capo positioned on the second fret.
It’s worth mentioning that it might be a little bit hard to make that sound happen at first, but you don’t have to worry; that’s because you haven’t yet developed enough strength in your left hand, keep at it, and you’ll be capable of playing this chord shape in no time.
A quick tip: if you already know how to play Fm, you only have to move that chord one fret up, and there you go: you are playing F#m!
When playing F#m with the root note on the 5th string, you are using the open Am shape (once again, according to the CAGED system), but you’ll be using your index finger as a “capo” on the ninth fret.
This chord should be a little bit easier to play than the root-on-6th version. You are barring across five strings only, and you have to play two notes with your index finger with this shape instead of four separate notes.
If you have played Bm before, chances are you know this shape already, you only have to move it from the second to the ninth fret, and you’re good to go.
So, if all you wanted to know were two different “pre-packed” traditional guitar chord shapes, you should be satisfied by now. But what if I told you that there are many more ways to play an F#m chord on guitar?
What if most of the notes included in these two shapes were unnecessary? What if everything you needed to play was three notes? If you find yourself intrigued by this, well, get ready for a journey inside the beautiful world of Harmony.
What is a Chord?
Have you ever wondered about what defines a chord? Well, it’s surprisingly pretty straightforward: you are playing a chord every time you play more than one note simultaneously. That’s right; I said every time.
So, theoretically, if you were to jump onto a piano and hit a few random notes all at once… that’s a chord. If you strum your guitar without using your left hand, playing all the open strings simultaneously… that’s a chord. It’s an Em11, by the way.
Ok, that’s cool, but what’s my point? When we’re talking about minor or major chords, one crucial concept is neglected by most
You can have all sorts of different kinds of triads, but let’s talk about major and minor triads only for now. A major triad comprises the root note, the major 3rd, and the perfect 5th, while a minor triad has the root note, the minor 3rd, and the perfect 5th.
Let’s visualize the F# minor triad this on the piano.
This is everything you need to play F#m. Whenever you play the notes F#, A, and C# simultaneously, you’ll end up with some variant of the F#m chord. You can never go wrong. Now let’s pay a little more attention to the first chord I have shown you, with the root note on the 6th string.
When you use this chord shape, you are playing some notes repeatedly, without really adding anything valuable from the harmonic point of view. There are three root notes (F#), two perfect 5ths (C#), and one minor 3rd (A). Now, I have to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this chord, just like with the root on the 5th string version.
Countless songs use these kinds of chords, and it makes perfect sense to play them on guitar. Still, understanding the redundant note choices within “campfire” guitar chords is essential for your progress on the instrument, it will open your mind and drastically improve the way you look at the fretboard.
Let’s now find all the different possible F#m triads, A.K.A. F#m chords, on the fretboard in root position, meaning that, whenever you will play one of these shapes, F# (root) will always be the lowest note, followed by an A (minor 3rd), and finally a C# (perfect 5th). Always in this order, for now.
F#m Voicings in Root Position
The guitar works in mysterious ways. If you’ve been playing for a while, you probably realized that you can find the same notes in multiple places on the fretboard, and you can play different chord shapes depending on where you choose to play said notes. Here is the lowest root position F#m chord played in every possible place on the fretboard.
These voicings might feel weird to play if you haven’t had any previous experience with these sorts of shapes, but believe me when I say that knowing these can make a massive difference in the way you perceive the fretboard. I mean, it will demystify it for sure.
This kind of sound is more associated with piano than guitar, for obvious reasons due to the different natures of these instruments, but you can find lots of examples of these styles of chord shapes used on the guitar. “Snow” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers has an iconic guitar riff in the key of Ab minor, which predominantly uses these sorts of shapes.
John Frusciante (the guitarist in RHCP) can play these chords with the root note on the 6th string because “Snow” is in a higher key than our F#m shapes, but the concept and the overall idea behind the chords are the same.
It’s worth mentioning that the first of these three shapes is part of the bigger barred chord with the root on the 6th string. We are only eliminating the “excess” notes.
The same chords can be played an octave higher in two different places on the fretboard. Take a look at these charts.
Look carefully; both of these shapes are part of bigger chords that we’ve already talked about before. The first is the higher part of the root on the 5th string bar chord, while the second is included in the root on the 6th string F#m, but played one octave above. So, once again, we are excluding the redundant notes, reducing the chords to their primary, pure forms.
I have shown you all the possible ways to play F#m triads in root position on the guitar. Now we can talk about inversions.
F#m Inversion Shapes
You should be familiar with the concept of minor triads after reading until this point, but chords come in different forms. Who said that root, minor 3rd, and perfect 5th have to be played only in this order? Well, nobody. Funnily enough, it is very rare to find traditional guitar chord shapes in root position;
I can only think of the basic C Major shape off the top of my head. But don’t worry, chords are represented by the sum of their parts, and the order of the notes inside them will change their sound, but not their inner nature.
So, as long as you are playing F#, A, and C# simultaneously, you are playing F#m, regardless of the order in which these three notes are played.
I will divide these triads by string set. As you’ve probably guessed, we need three strings to play three notes at the same time, and as a result, we can find four different string sets on the guitar:
- 6th, 5th, and 4th (low E, A, and D)
- 5th, 4th, and 3rd (A, D, and G)
- 4th, 3rd, and 2nd (D, G, and B)
- 3rd, 2nd, and 1st (G, B, and high E)
Let’s start with the first string set.
First, we find a 1st inversion triad at the 5th fret. In this voicing, the minor 3rd (A) is the lowest note, followed by the perfect 5th (C#) and the root note (F#) on top. At the 9th fret, we find our 2nd inversion that starts with the perfect 5th (C#) on the bottom.
As you can see, we can’t play a root position triad in the first string set by taking advantage of the lowest F# note that we find at the 2nd fret of the low E string, but we can play the same shape 12 frets (or one octave) higher.
Let’s move on to the second string set.
We start with a 2nd inversion on the second string set (at the 4th fret of the A string), so you’ll find the perfect 5th (C#) on the bottom. This shape is part of the root on the 6th string bar chord.
Moving to the 9th fret, we find one of the root position voicings we’ve already seen before. Finally, we encounter one 1st inversion shape, at the 12th fret, visually identical to the 1st inversion we already found in the 1st string set at the 5th fret of the low E string.
And now, the third string set.
The first shape we see is a root position, which, once again, we’ve already encountered. The 1st inversion in the 3rd string set is located at the 7th fret of the D string, where we find our minor 3rd (A).
According to the CAGED system, the second inversion might look familiar to you because it is based on the A minor shape. It is also part of the root on the 5th string bar chord voicing.
Finally, let’s examine the fourth string set.
The 1st inversion we find at the 2nd fret is, once again, part of the root on the 6th string bar chord. The 2nd inversion in this string set starts at the 6th fret of the G string, and it is based on the D minor shape (CAGED system). We’ve already seen the root position, starting at the 11th fret.
Hopefully, you are now starting to understand better the many possible ways to play an F#m chord on the guitar fretboard, but believe me when I say that the options are almost endless. Of course, you don’t have to memorize all of these different shapes, instead, you should start to think about the single notes within the chords you play.
F#m Spread Voicings
All of the chord shapes that I’ve shown you until now are what people call close voicings, and they are characterized by the fact that the notes within them are as close as they can be. In other words, they are all within one octave of each other, but this is not the only way you can play triads on the guitar.
Let me talk to you about spread voicings, which, as you can guess from their name, are characterized by having their notes spread over more than one octave. You can get these shapes by moving the middle note up an octave. Let me show you what I mean.
You’ve already seen the close voicing that starts with the F# note at the 9th fret of the A string, so there’s nothing new with that, but focus your attention on the A note within this chord. That is indeed the middle note of this shape, and you have to play it up an octave to get the spread voicing of this chord.
You also have to move the C# note from the 6th fret of the G string to the 11th of the D string. In this case, you could also get to this chord by removing the notes on the G and high E strings from the root on the 5th string bar chord shape, but you shouldn’t think about spread chords this way.
Now, just like close voicings, these chords have their own inversions as well. When talking about spread voicings, it’s best not to divide them into string sets because it is always required to skip a string, but it might not always be the same.
Whenever I have to explain these chords, I always refer to the lowest used string to categorize them, so let’s start with the ones with their lowest note on the E string.
The root position with the lowest note on the E string can be found at the 2nd fret. You then move to the 4th fret of the A string, and finally, you have to skip the D string to play the 2nd fret on the G string.
The 1st inversion starts at the 5th fret of the low E string, combined with the 4th fret of the D string and the 6th fret of the G string. The 2nd inversion might be a little bit uncomfortable to play, but it is definitely doable. Start at the 9th fret of the low E string, then jump to the 7th fret of the D string, and lastly, play the 11th fret on the G string.
Now, let’s move to the inversions with the lowest note on the A string.
The 2nd inversion with the lowest note on the A string is quite peculiar because you must string-skip twice to play it comfortably. Start at the 4th fret of the A string, then jump to the 2nd fret of the G string, and finally, jump one more time to the 2nd fret of the high E string.
The root position is the one I’ve already shown you in the spread triad example above. The 1st inversion is at the 12th fret of the A string, played in combination with the 11th fret of the G string, and the 14th fret of the B string.
Finally, let me show you the inversions found when the lowest note is on the D string.
The root position starts at the 4th fret of the D string, played together with the 6th fret of the G string and the 5th fret of the high E string. The 1st inversion has two notes played at the 7th fret, respectively on the D and B strings, and its highest note is found at the 9th fret of the E string.
The 2nd inversion will probably be uncomfortable to play because it stretches from the 11t fret on the D string to the 14th fret on the G and E strings, but once again, it is perfectly playable when you get used to it.
Spread voicings can generally open up the sound of chords that are usually very harmonically simple and basic, just like a minor triad. Some of the best guitar players around use these voicings a lot.
For example, Eric Johnson uses spread triads as arpeggios that he plays during his solos, while John Mayer uses these voicings extensively to craft riffs, just like in the case of “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room”.
So, we have talked about many different ways to play F#m on the guitar, ranging from the two most straightforward options to some very good-sounding spread inversions. I want to give you a few easy tips to make your F#m chords even more colorful right away.
F#m Chords Extended (with Open Strings)
Adding extensions to guitar chords can be a tricky concept to master, but, in some keys, we have the advantage of open strings, and, luckily for us, F#m chords sound great when you add open E and B strings to them.
This works because the E note is the minor seventh in the key of F# minor, while the B note is the fourth (or eleventh). So, if you take any of the chord shapes that I’ve shown you before and play that together with the open E and B strings, you will get very colorful F#m11 chords.
Let’s look at some of these chords played with their lowest note on the E string.
These chords have a full and well-rounded sound. I have used spread voicings because when you play them with their lowest note on the E string, you won’t have to play any fretted notes beyond the G string, leaving the B and E strings open and available for you to play.
Actually, it is absolutely essential to play (or mute) the G string when playing an F#m chord this way because an open G is probably the worst sounding note to play against chords in this key. Things change when you want to incorporate open strings into chords with their lowest note on the A string.
Let’s take a look at them.
I encourage you to experiment with these chords, both with the ones with their lowest note on the E and the A string. You can play them one after the other to add variations to your F#m rhythmic guitar playing, and you’ll be able to turn a relatively dull and static chord into something much more dynamic and musical in itself.
If you are interested in making your chords sound more exciting, you need to add some sort of movement within them. I want to leave you with a few cool (and easy) chordal licks based on some of the shapes I’ve shown you so that you can play around with them and, hopefully, come up with your personal ways of adding movement to your chords.
3 Easy F#m Chord Licks
This first lick is based on one of the spread voicing shapes I showed you earlier. It is an arpeggiated version of a root position chord with the lowest note on the E string, with the open B and E strings, and a ninth (G#) used as a passing tone to make the chord more colorful.
I stole this lick from the extraordinary blues guitar player Eric Gales, and if you want to hear this phrase in the context of an actual performance, you can go check out his live rendition of “Star Spangled Banner” at around the 1:13 mark.
This second lick is based on one of the first two chords I showed you, the bar chord with the root note on the 5th string, and it represents an easy way to add movement to this elementary chord.
You can take advantage of the fact that you’re already barring down with your index finger by alternating the F#m bar chord with the chord you get when you bar down the 9th fret. B, E, and G# are the notes inside the E major triad, and when you play that with the F# note in the bass, you get a very colorful F# suspended chord, with the 11th, 7th, and 9th in the key of F# minor.
You can easily play the same kind of lick, but backward, just like this.
This third example is exactly the same lick as the previous one, but you’re starting with the F# suspended chord which then goes to the regular F#m. Obviously, you can alternate the different versions of this lick back and forth to create even more movement.
Let me answer some of the questions you might have on your mind after reading this article.
Question: Do I Have to Memorize All of These Chords?
Answer: If you want to, you absolutely can. Anyway, I believe you should learn the notes on the fretboard and simultaneously learn a few basic shapes to give meaning to them. Learning chords just as visual shapes without understanding the notes that constitute them would be like learning a new word without knowing what it means.
If you associate chords with the notes inside them, it might be a slower process at first, but you’ll be glad you did that in the long run.
Question: Can I Choose to Play Any of These Chords Instead of a Regular F#m?
Answer: Theoretically, yes, you should be okay every single time. There might be some songs that don’t work as well with some of these, but you can always try your favorite F#m voicing and if it doesn’t work, switch to a different one. No big deal.
Question: Some of the Inversions don’t Sound Like F#m to Me. Why?
Answer: It’s natural at first, and you should not be worried. Our ears are inclined to assume that the lowest note of a chord is the root note but don’t worry, if you’re playing in a band (or to a backing track or recording), it’s the bass player’s job to play the actual root note and give context to what everybody else is playing on top of it.
As I said at the beginning, playing chords on the guitar can be very tricky or extremely simple, it all depends on how you choose to approach it. I suggest you memorize the two basic bar chord shapes I showed you first, so you will be covered when it’s time to play a song that has F#m in it.
Anyway, I strongly encourage you to learn the notes on the fretboard together with some essential harmony so that you can start your incredible journey in the world of chords.
Remember: you don’t have to think about chords like they are some sort of set-in-stone hand shapes because they can be much more than that, and why would you deprive yourself of them? You can start by having fun with all these possible F#m chords that I’ve shown you!
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