He was born in Buttelstädt, was a choirboy in Weissenfels and studied under Johann Kuhnau at the Thomasschule in Leipzig (he later founded a Collegium Musicum in the city). He then travelled throughout Germany, becoming a violinist in the orchestra in Bayreuth in 1714, and also holding court posts in Greiz and Lukavec. In 1722 he was appointed Kapellmeister at Zerbst, a post he held until his death.
His works include cantatas, concertos, symphonies and chamber music. None of his pieces were printed in his lifetime, and a large number of his vocal works, including four operas, have been lost. He was held in high regard by his contemporaries, however (Johann Sebastian Bach made manuscript copies of a number of his pieces), and he is today considered an important link between the Baroque and Classical periods.
Johann Friedrich Fasch was the father of Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch, also a musician.