Blues in F

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The F position in standard tuning would figure to have very few takers among Country Blues guitarists, for it is tightly closed position leaving very few fingers available for the phrasing of melody. While the I chord, F, is a bit of a challenge, the IV chord, B flat is aggressively awkward to play, with only the V7 chord, C7, being more or less normal and easy to play.

As it turns out, though, the F position was used far more commonly than our initial assumptions would suggest, so it makes sense to examine the F position a bit more closely to see what might make it attractive to a player wanting to do something other than prove a point.

    ● While the B flat chord makes F an awkward key for playing conventional 12-bar blues with a I, IV, V7 chordal vocabulary, raggy progressions that avoid the IV chord sit beautifully in F position. For instance, the commonly encountered I-VI7-II7-V7 progression works out in F to be F-D7-G7-C7, a cinch to play and something that sounds good on the instrument, as well.

    ● The F position lays out beautifully for the playing of bass runs. The octave that runs from the low F note located at the first fret of the sixth string to the F at the third fret of the fourth string is readily accessible to the hand, with easily played chromatic runs available on the fifth string running from the third of the chord on the open A string up to the fifth of the chord, C located at the third fret of the A string, and an analogous run available on the fourth string, running from the sixth, D on the open fourth string up to the root, F, located at the third fret of the D string. This lay-out on the fifth and sixth strings made the F position irresistible to a number of Country Blues players who liked to emphasize bass runs in their playing, like Leadbelly, Luke Jordan and Peg Leg Howell.

    ● F is a very good singing key. For players without a capo who are satisfied employing a simple "boom-chang" accompaniment for their singing, F may prove to be the most flattering key for their voices.

    ● While the F position can be a bit of a handful, it actually sits in a way that uses the left hand beautifully. A person playing in F position can pretty well assign a finger to a fret all the way across the neck, using the index finger to fret notes on the first fret, the second finger to fret notes on the second fret, and the third finger to fret notes on the third fret, no matter what string they are on. This economy in the use of the hand allows for a very quiet positioning and efficiency for the player who is willing to spend time developing some familiarity with the position.

Here is a list of recorded performances by Country Blues guitarists played in F position, standard tuning (allowing for varying the pitch at which the guitar is tuned).

Pink Anderson
In the Jailhouse Now
Try Some Of That

Andrew & Jim Baxter
Georgia Stomp
Forty Drops

Bibb County Highballers
Blue Grass Twist

Blind Blake
Fightin' the Jug
Search Warrant Blues
Doin' A Stretch
Notoriety Woman

Roy Book Binder
King Edward Blues

Gene Campbell
Don't Leave Me Blue Blues
Doggone Mean Blues
Married Life Blues
Fair Weather Woman Blues

Gus Cannon and His Jug Stompers
Prison Wall Blues

Smith Casey, w/Roger Gill, vocals
When I Get Home

Sam Chatmon
I Get The Blues When It Rains

Virgil Childers
Travelin' Man
Preacher and the Bear

Kid Cole
Hard Hearted Mama Blues
Hey Hey Mama Blues

Bob Coleman
Sing Song Blues

Elizabeth Cotten
When the Train Comes Along

Jed Davenport Jug Band
Piccolo Blues

Rev. Gary Davis
I Decided To Go Down
Devil's Dream
Soldier's Drill
Blow Gabriel
God's Gonna Separate
Lord, I Looked Down the Road
United States March
He Knows How Much We Can Bear
Friend Like Lonely Jesus
Babe, What You Gonna Do
Angel's Message To Me

Snooks Eaglin
Let Me Go Home, Whiskey
The Lonesome Road
Helping Hand
Drifting Blues

Blind Boy Fuller
Baby, You Gotta Change Your Mind (Fuller plays in C position capoed at 5th fret, and Rev. Gary Davis plays 2nd guitar out of F position)

Hacksaw Harney
Laughing Pallet

Algia Mae Hinton
Take Me Back To The Movie Star

Lake Howard
I've Lost My Love
It's None of Your Business

Peg Leg Howell
Sadie Lee
Turtle Dove Blues

Bill Jackson
Goin' Back South

Papa Charlie Jackson
Corn Liquor Blues
Big Feeling Blues
Ma and Pa Poorhouse Blues
She Belongs To Me Blues

Luke Jordan
Travelin' Coon

Midnight Special
Governor Pat Neff
Relax Your Mind
Sweet Mary

Bobby Leecan & Robert Cooksey
Need More Blues
Big Four
South Street Stomp

Archie Lewis
Miss Handy Hanks

Mance Lipscomb
You Got to See Your Mama Every Night
Alabama Jubilee
Casey Jones
Rag in F

Asa Martin
Jake Walk Papa

Moses Mason
Shrimp Man

Blind Willie McTell
Beedle Um Bum

Memphis Jug Band
Fourth Street Mess Around

The Mississippi Sheiks
Jail Bird Love Song
Yodeling Fiddling Blues
Times Done Got Hard
Unhappy Blues
I've Go Blood In My Eyes For You

William Moore
Barbershop Rag
Ragtime Crazy
Tillie Lee

Charlie "Dad" Nelson
Mississippi Strut

Charley Patton
Shake It And Break It

Pigmeat Pete and Catjuice Charlie
The Gin Done Done It
Do It Right
On Our Turpentine Farm

Miles and/or Milas Pruitt
Honey Blues
Red River Blues
Wayward Girl Blues (high-strung B string)

Riley Puckett
Boots and Saddle
Poor Boy
Ragged But Right
Riley's Hen House Door
When I'm Gone You'll Soon Forget Me

Rufus and Ben Quillian
Satisfaction Blues
Workin' It Slow

Spark Plug Smith
Sweet Evening Breeze

The Two Poor Boys
Little Son Of A Gun
New Huntsville Jail
Sitting On Top Of The World
So Sorry Dear

Bill Williams
That's The Human Thing To Do
Darktown Strutter's Ball

Have a song to add to the list? Go to original forum thread