Power chords


    No prerequisites for this course.


    No downloads for this course.

Power chords

What is a power chord guitar?

 Power chord guitar: What is a power chord?

Playing guitar is an art of physics, bending sound waves to your will so that your songs arrive in the real world from where you hear them in your brain.
But sometimes your fingers haven't quite caught up with the patterns in your head, and that's where power chords come in. It's a great playing technique for emphasizing the primary tonality of chords in songs that are loud, fast and heavy, so if you're ready to melt your audience's faces (Kirk Hammett style), power chords are for you!

Power chord guitar: what is the history of power chords?

Guitar power chords have been used in some of the most epic guitar riffs of all time and can be heard in songs like “Iron Man” (Black Sabbath), “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (Pat Benatar), “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana) and many others.
At its most basic level, a chord is a group of notes that are played at the same time. Generally, it will be in the same key to enhance and reinforce the emotions of the chosen scale. Power chords come from the era when the blues went electric, with early Sun Records artists Willie Johnson and Pat Hare recording with the technique in the early part of the 1950s. Power chords were popularized by the beginnings of rock and roll, notably in Scotty Moore's opening on “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) and the use of Link Wray in “Rumble” (1958). Rock and pop music followed in subsequent decades, with those origins evolving into hits like the Kinks' “You Really Got Me” and the Who's “My Generation.” Artists as diverse as King Crimson and the Ramones also experimented with power chords as they became the hallmark of punk, heavy metal and others whose songs relied on heavy distortion to get their messages across. They became the hallmark of guitarists who liked to manipulate the mathematics of their playing to emphasize their songwriting. Many classical musicians and composers, including those who work with traditional guitar music, consider that a chord must have at least three notes to be officially called a chord and that playing only two notes at a time is called a dyad .

Power chord guitar: understanding power chords

But if you've ever played a chord shape on your guitar or another instrument that can play more than one note at a time like a piano, you know it's easy to make exceptions to this rule. We do it all the time to add tension, indicate movement to another key or section of the song, or just to make your ear feel slightly uncomfortable, in a good way, as in Jazz. Guitar power chords are when you play the root and fifth of a scale or key at the same time without adding another note interval. They are most popular in amplified rock music that uses heavy tone distortion, such as heavy metal and punk. This is because of the way amplified distortion makes individual notes sound once it's finished crushing them.
A typical distortion effect amplifies played notes in proportions different from how hard they were struck. In other words, no matter how hard or softly you pluck a string, your distortion effect randomly chooses how much it wants to deliver into your amp without you needing to input anything. either other than the note you played. How is it going ? This is a mathematical magic trick that we don't have space to explain here. Trust us: the end result produces what we call partials. These are harmonic tones that echo the vibrational frequency of the original tone.
So already, even with a single note powered by distortion, you have a depth of tone that includes more sound waves than you originally played. Add a full set of three, four, or five note chords doing the same thing, and even the most nicely proportioned intervals on paper will clash and blur together when dropped into the air by your distortion effect.
Power chords are intended to clean up music that wants to remain dirty but understandable. When you play just a root note and its fifth and pass them through distortion at the same time, their partials create harmonics that complement each other instead of clashing. Therefore, you can play the entire Ramones catalog as distorted as you want without losing the key that the songs are supposed to sound like. Thanks, science!

Composition of a power chords

A power chord guitar chord is made up of two different notes. The number 5 is used to indicate a power chord guitar chord because the chord contains the 1st (root) and 5th note of a major scale. When written, the chord will have the number 5 next to the root note:
To find a power chord guitar chord, you need to know the notes on the guitar the notes of the scale to which it belongs. For example, here is a C major scale. The notes of a C5 chord are the 1st (root) and 5th note of this scale: Note that the octave is also part of the chord. In fact, either C or G can be played in any octave on the guitar and it will still be called a C5 chord. To find the notes of other power chords, you need to know the notes of these major scales. For example, to find the notes of a G5 chord, you will need to know the notes of the G major scale. You can always rely on the power chord formula since the name actually tells you how to play them!

Structure on the guitar

Power chords on guitar are structured over a single octave – you won't need to go from your third fret to your tenth to make one, although you can double your octave to create an extra oomph. On sheet music, they are indicated by a 5 written under the notes to indicate the interval between the root and the fifth tone of the scale you are working with, or by a chord name indicating that there is no of thirds (for example, C no 3 means a C guitar power chord) when reading chords in lyrics or sheet music for other instruments. You can also play with whether the fifth tone or the first tone is the bottom note of the chord and have fun with all the combinations in the octave range you want to use.

How to make power chord guitar?

Power chord guitar: how to play power chords?

Power chord guitar fingering

How you finger your power chords depends on their structure, but in basic terms, you'll anchor your first tone on one fret of the bass E string with your ring finger, then place your middle and index fingers two frets above on the A and D strings. This allows you to take advantage of what feels natural for your fingers as well as where the midtones are on your fretboard. You can move your fingers in the same general shape up and down the fretboard to get different power chords on the guitar without having to readjust your fingering. Another fingering technique for powerchords is called spidering, and it involves keeping the same two-note interval on your frets while moving the fingers you're using, instead of moving the same fingers up and down the frets . This technique was invented by Megadeath guitarist Dave Mustaine in the 1980s to reduce string noise during power chord changes, especially in speed metal and other areas that require extremely rapid chord changes.


One technique that blues and heavy metal guitarists have in common is the concept of tuning the bass E string lower, to a D, so that the first three strings of the guitar form a chord when strummed openly. without the need for fretting. Tuning the strings to any note outside of their default range of E, A, D, G, B, and E can make playing power-chords as easy as pressing a fret down, or even none. Downtuning is used by metal bands to give more powerchord to the bass in chords, and in blues to facilitate slide technique. Either way is a different, but generally easier, way of thinking about how to form your power chords.
For more details refer to our course on drop d guitar tuning

Power chord guitar: what are the advantages of power chords?

Power chords are perfect when you want to use distortion without creating a bunch of harmonics, partials and sound waves that don't fight each other like it's the last scene of a fight! Since distortion effects are so arbitrary in choosing which tones they amplify at different levels, it helps them immensely to only have two choices, and it helps even more that it is scientifically proven that one of these tones they choose is complementary to each other. Power chords are a win-win situation for your use of distortion and your song in general.

Ambiguous major or minor inflection

Classically trained musicians are more inclined to treat power chords as dyads, or a group of two notes composed of an interval, rather than as chords, and one reason is that without a note that represents the third interval of a scale, they are technically neither major nor minor in key. The third interval of a scale is the tone that transforms a scale into a more upbeat sound of a major key or a more melancholic sound of a minor key; without it, power chords can go either way. However, this is actually a great advantage when played within an entire band as the power chord guitar will pick up the inflection influences of any other band playing with it and amplify them without having to adjust. Classic metal bands have tons of great examples of this shape-shifting property that can be heard more clearly than in the speed or thrash metal genres – look at the work of Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani to get a crash course in the types of key changes power chords can help with.

Easy to play and change chords

Don't let anyone convince you that power chords are lazy shortcuts. There are legitimate reasons why they work better than fuller agreements in certain situations, so you have our permission to shout “Physics!” if you need to get rid of a snob. That being said, power chords are actually easier to play for the simple reason that they're two notes rather than the usual four, five, or six you're dealing with on a fretboard. This also means it's easier to change them, play them faster, and fit them longer into a two-minute song or solo. They're also great for mastering your understanding of tonal layering so you can extend that knowledge to other notes and intervals instead of blindly following chord charts without understanding why they work. Music theory can be very painful for those who just want to rock, but it's essential to evolving your craft, especially if you want to write your own songs.

More room for single-note passages between them

The structure of power chords on a guitar neck makes it easier to transition from playing chords to running notes within the scale, which is especially handy if you're heading toward a solo. You don't need to do as much finger gymnastics to go from power chords to a series of notes, which can help you rock better.

Power chord guitar: what are the disadvantages of playing power chords?

The most obvious disadvantage of using power chords is that you don't get the added richness of the extra tones in the scale that flesh out its sound. The chords have as many different personalities as the players using them, but the power chords alone remain somewhat empty. This is great if you need them as part of an ensemble or as a first step in a tuning process. sound construction, but as soloists they don't have the multi-tonal impact of three or more notes played together, unless you're looking for a minimalist sound. Addiction Can Make More Music Theory Irrelevant
Like we said, power chords are a legitimate part of your guitar learning. However, they are easy enough to learn and convenient enough to use in many songs that one might be tempted not to bother with other chord types. Don't let this happen to you! Use the basics of your guitar powerchords to discover what thirds, fourths, and all other key interval combinations can do for your playing. Power chords are a healthy part of a balanced musical diet.