Monday, 7 March 2011

So you want to play some easy songs on guitar?

Hey everyone, I'm back for another lesson today and we will be covering a very simple but core aspect of modern music (especially punk rock) and that is the POWER CHORD. Shout with me YAY! lol

Anyways, Power chord's are vital no matter how much they might get characterized for being "simple". They allow for that signature punch and drive while often avoiding straying too far in mood. This will be easier to understand when looking at what it is made out of.

They are consisted of:
1) Root
2) 5th
3) Octave (Optional)

The octave note, which is the same as the root just higher, is optional. It will make the chord sound a bit fuller but not needed. The 5th is important if you know regular open chords, it is sort of in the middle of the scale and helps develop the root note, this is also the reason these types of chords are called "5th chords" because they involve only the root and the 5th. The G-Power chord would be labeled "G5" or something similar. The root is obviously the base for the entire chord.

Notice anything missing? If you said THIRD then you would be correct!. The Power-Chord contains neither a minor third or a major third. They are "neutral" and thus don't sway too heavily towards a happy or sad sounds. In modern song making, artists sometimes substitute a Power-chord instead of the major or minor to negate a strong moody sound that they don't really want.

So how do you make these types of chords? Start by getting the root note of your choice. Let's think of C for simplicity. The 5th of C is G, you can count the scale degree's and end up or you can follow some shortcuts!

C is third fret on A string right? Well the 5th is always below the root note (at least on the bottom strings), the G note you will notice is the 3rd fret on the E string! HOWEVER, Power chords are often not shaped that way because then the emphasis would be on the G. The G would be in the base you might say. Generally, you want your root note to be the lowest in pitch.

The other shortcut is to go 2 frets over, and 1 fret up. That will also land you on a G. You will notice it is 2 frets over and 2 frets up from the other G which is on the E string. The octave is directly above the 5th as before. So if you have Root note C on third fret. To make the power chord, you will put your index on C, and then ring finger and pinky on the 5th fret of both the D and G strings.

Here's an example of the chord shape with root of F from Google.

When you try it out, you will notice the shape is noticeable and easy to remember. This shape works for any power-chord with the root on the E or A string. If you start your power chord on the D string, the shape changes slightly.Your pinky finger which is doing the octave, will have to slide 1 fret up than usual because the B string is tuned differently.

Anyways I hope that is easy to understand, enjoy!


  1. ...and suddenly you can play the intro to Master of Puppets.

  2. Good explanation of power chords! I really like your posts, since I've never taken formal guitar lessons, so these help out a whole lot

  3. Ok, yesterday I took my guitar from under the bed after months, and It's all your fault! D:

  4. Yeah, becoming a rock star in a week. Thanks

  5. All my improvisations and early song ideas were based on excessive use of these.

  6. I remember the first day I got my guitar, I sat in my front room and played Smells Like Teen Spirit and something by the RHCPs. Fun times.