In the following guide, we’re going to take a closer look at the less common, open F tuning. However, if you’re looking for a quick overview read below.
Open F Tuning requires your guitar to be tuned to an F Major chord consisting of the notes F, A, and C. Tune the 6 strings of your guitar to the following: F, A, C, F, C, F from 6th (heaviest) to 1st string.
Continue reading to learn more about how to play in open F tuning, including chords, scales, and more.
Tuning to Open F Major
As discussed above when tuned to open F an F Major chord is produced by playing all of the open strings.
To tune your guitar to F major requires, altering 5 of the 6 strings:
- The 6th string is to be raised one semitone from E to F
- The 4th string is to be lowered a whole tone from D to C
- The 3rd string is to be lowered a whole tone from G to F
- The 2nd string to be raised a semitone from B to C
- The 1st string is to be raised a semitone from E to F.
- The 5th string is unchanged.
Additional Tension on the Neck?
As we can see above, open F tuning requires three strings (6th, 2nd, and 1st) to be raised by a semitone which will increase the tension on the neck from the strings.
In most cases when messing around with alternate tunings, tuning strings up in pitch, by just a semitone won’t be a problem structurally for a guitar. However, action and subsequently, intonation may be affected by an increase in string tension, and it may take the guitar a short amount of time to settle back into standard tuning, especially if you use heavy gauge strings.
Alternatively, a way to tune to open F without increasing tension is to tune your strings to E – Ab – B – E – B – E (from 6th to 1st) and place your capo on the first fret, as demonstrated above.
What about CFCFAC Tuning?
CFCFAC (usually written as CFCFAC instead of open F) is another “Open F” tuning that does not increase string tension, in fact, all 6 strings are lowered in pitch, giving the guitar a “loose” feel.
CFCFAC tuning uses the same interval structure as open G, just lowered in pitch a whole tone.
CFCFAC tuning still incorporates the notes F, A, and C making the open strings an F major triad, however, the order of notes is changed, so the chord diagrams below will not be applicable, unless a major chord that bars the entire fretboard.
In this particular tuning, the 5th note of the F major scale ( C ) becomes the lowest note of the F major chord produced when strumming all 6 open strings, much like a 2nd inversion of F major.
As the open notes still create an F major chord, by barring access all 6 strings’ major chords are produced, however, unlike standard F major tuning (F, A, C, F, C, F) the root note of the chord is found on the 5th string.
CFCFAC tuning was famously used by Jimmy Page on one of Led Zeppelin’s finest songs, “When the Levee Breaks” along with “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” from Led Zepelling III.
The Fretboard (open F tuning)
Below are the notes of the fretboard when tuned to open F.
Open F Tuning Chords
The chords in the key of F Major are as follows:
For more information on chord function and which chords work together, click here.
As with all open tunings, such as open E, Major chords are produced by simply barring across the entire fretboard and following the notes of the chromatic scale up and down the 6th string of the guitar (As demonstrated above for F, Bb, C, and E Major chords).
While there are less complex voicings available for some of the minor chords listed below (Amin7 has a much simpler voicing available for example), it’s useful to learn 1 – 2 moveable shapes (as we have also shown with the E dim chord above) when learning an unfamiliar tuning to allow a more expansive chord repertoire, rather than focusing on individual chord voicings.
The moveable minor chord shape used in the examples above (Gmin, Amin, and Emin) requires a barre with the index finger, just like playing a major chord in an open tuning along with a stretch 3 frets higher in pitch on both the 5th and 3rd strings. This creates a moveable chord shape that follows the notes of the major scale on the 6th string.
7th Chords in Open F Tuning
The majority of the 7th chord shapes below are also moveable, but keep in mind the minor shape requires a bit of a stretch between the index and pinky fingers and the major 7 shapes require the 5th and 6th strings to be muted.
For more information on 7th chords, click here.
Power chords (aka 5 chords) are neither major nor minor due to the absence of the 3rd scale degree from the chord. We can create a movable 5 chord shape by barring the entire fretboard and using our pinky to fret the 5th string 3 frets higher than our index finger, as per the examples below.
Scales in Open F tuning
Below are scale diagrams showing both the Major and minor Pentatonic scales in the key of F major in open F tuning.
Open F tuning (FACFCF) while a less common open tuning, like all major open tunings, lends itself particularly well to blues, especially slide guitar. One of the benefits of playing alternate tunings, especially a less common one such as open F is the intervals you are familiar with when playing in standard tuning change, which in many cases can be just the thing to help you break out of a rut.