How many ways can you play a barre chord? That's an alternate title we considered for this guide, since the Fm7 Chord (F, Ab, C, Eb) is one that comes along with an impressive number of barre voicings when played on guitar.
We'll be taking a look at those many variations, along with Fm7's scant few non-barre voicings, for completeness' sake. Since the Fm7 Chord is also important across multiple musical genres, we'll also be taking a look at a few songs it factors into, and giving you some tips for adding Fm7 to your repertoire and improving your playing.
We begin with the most basic of barre chords -- the Em7-shape -- which, for Fm7 chords, is located at the 1st fret.
It couldn't possibly get more convenient than this, as you'll soon learn:
Yup, that's it -- simplicity at its finest.
While you're here at the 1st fret, though, you have plenty of opportunities to "mix it up" with this seemingly simple barre chord. Fm7 has a wealth of variations that will shuffle up the individual notes you're playing and each offers up a slightly different sound. Here's the first alternative we'll learn:
There are more fingers involved with this voicing, true, but the increased difficulty comes with a more interesting sound. Compared to your normal "Em7-shape" barre chord, this voicing sounds brighter and funkier, allowing for some fun when exploring pop, soul, r&b, and (of course) funk tracks.
You'll have a similar option in this second alternative, but will require a massive stretch to play it correctly:
You see that? Getting your 2nd finger up to the 3rd fret while holding down a solid bar shouldn't be to tricky, but doing all that while also trying to stretch your 3rd and 4th fingers to the 2nd and 1st strings (at the 4th fret, no less) is going to take a good deal of practice if you have smaller/less nimble hands. What you'll get in return, though, is an Fm7 voicing that uses Ab as its highest note -- an inversion you can use to step between different versions of this very chord if you so choose.
You'll notice this voicing is very similar to the first alternative we introduced, so you'll only get a slight difference in the sound.
Still that may be enough to vary your playing in the way you're looking to do so, as might this final 1st fret, Fm7 barre chord alternative:
This is essentially the previous alternative repeated, but you'll notice we've swapped out F as the high note and replaced it with an Ab for a brighter sound. While this will wrap up our Fm7 barre chords at the 1st fret, it's not the end of barre chord and Fm7 in the slightest.
Used in combination, these 8th fret voicings for Fm7 become a powerful tool for funk playing. Alternate between the two, using the 4th finger to "step" between on the 10th fret will unlock the legendary riff to "Soul Power" by James Brown. Strumming 16th notes on these variations will mimic another classic from the Godfather of Soul "Too Funky in Here." These ideas aren't exclusive to the songs we mentioned, mind you. Get creative, and you can use these funk playing secrets in other tunes as well, and increase your range as a guitarist while you're at it.
Rounding out our exploration of barre chords in Fm7, we have this final voicing on the 6th fret to add to your repertoire:
This voicing will give you a sound that's in between your 1st fret and 8th fret barre chords -- something unique to bust out when you want to make a splash.
And while you have plenty on your plate to start practicing, your mastery of Fm7 won't be complete until you get these last two voicings under your belt -- no barre required:
While neither of these voicings will require you to bar the strings, they'll both require you to mute a few select strings to get the sound right, so be sure to practice your subtle touches with your 1st finger, and get your strumming hand precise so you can avoid the strings you don't want to play altogether. With that, you should have more ways to play Fm7 than you know what to do with; next we'll talk about applying those voicings in specific songs to improve your playing.
So you want to start practicing Fm7 in real song situations to help improve? Few chords could be riper for woodshedding in that manner, because you'll find Fm7 featured prominently in songs all over the place.
Let's start with a classic, "Cantaloupe Island" by Herbie Hancock. Beginners to Fm7 are actually in luck if they're practicing the chord using this song, as there are only three chords int total to worry about, and Fm7 gets a bulk of the time. So you'll be able to work out getting to and from this chord without much pressure, and you'll be able to practice alternating between some of those 1st fret barre chord variations too.
Let's say you wanted to practice F minor 7 in a situation where it's just one of many chords, though? If that's the case, you'll want to check out "When I Fall in Love," written by Victor Young and famously recorded by Nat King Cole. You'll find F minor 7 scattered throughout this song, both on the way to playing various Bb chords and combined with a Bb in the bassline as well. It's a slow and sweet tune, so you won't have to hustle too hard to get to and from your Fm7 chords on this one.
Finally, if you're looking for a groovier take on Fm7, try out "This Masquerade," written by Leon Russell and with it's most well-known rendition by George Benson. You'll find Fm7 all over this songs verses, and even have a chance to let loose over Fm7 once the solo section kicks off. For practicing your chops, "This Masquerade" contains all the major elements you need. Don't feel afraid to branch out to even more songs once you've got these three mastered, and, as always, good luck, and happy practicing!
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