Power Chords For Guitar - Lesson 1

Power chords are an essential part of rock and metal guitar. And learning and mastering them will definitely help you immensely. (Not to mention they are also a heck of a lot of fun to play!).

But what exactly are they?

Understanding Power Chords

Probably the best way to explain what power chords are is with a little bit of theory. So please check out the table below…

A Major Scale

This table shows the notes of the A Major scale. And you probably notice that I've highlighted the first and fifth notes of the scale.

Why do you think I did this?

Yep…you guessed it. The highlighted notes are the notes of an A Power Chord. So anytime you play the notes A and E together you are playing the notes of an A Power Chord.

But what if we wanted to work out the notes of a D Power Chord?

Well, the solution is simple. We just write down the notes of the D Major scale and grab the first and the fifth notes from the scale. You can see what I mean by checking out the table below…

D Major Scale

Pretty simple huh?

Oh yeah…before I forget, I better mention this…

Because power chords are constructed from the first and fifth notes of the major scale they are often referred to as "5" chords. So another name for an A Power Chord would be A5. And another name for the D Power Chord would be D5.

Three Useful Power Chord Fingerings

Although there are many possible ways to play power chords, I thought it would be helpful to look at three realy useful fingering. So let's take a look at them now…

 

Power Chord Fingering 1: Root Note On Thick E-String

Power Chord Fingering 2: Root Note On A-String

Power Chord Fingering 3: Root Note On D-String

Please take a few minutes to memorize each of the chord diagrams above. I recommend using your first finger to play the lowest sounding note, and your third finger to use the highest sounding note. In other words, for each of the chord shapes your index finger will play the 1 and your ring finger will play the 5.

Understanding Root Notes

You probably noticed from the diagrams above that I mentioned the term "Root Notes". In case you don't know, the root note is the naming note of the power chord. (On the diagrams above I have indicated the root notes with the number 1).

So what this means is that whatever note the number 1 is on is the name of the chord. So if the 1 is on an A-note you are playing an A Power Chord. If the 1 is on a C note, you are playing a C Power Chord.

If you look at the power chords above you'll notice that I've written them all at the 5th fret. So the actual names of the three chords would be…

  • Power Chord Fingering 1 (played at 5th fret) = A Power Chord
  • Power Chord Fingering 2 (played at 5th fret) = D Power Chord
  • Power Chord Fingering 3 (played at 5th fret) = G Power Chord

Don't panic if this isn't 100% clear yet. I'll be giving you some exercises in a future lesson to help you master this naming concept. For now, just focus on learning to play the chords and don't worry too much about the theory. :-)

Understanding The Importance Of Index Finger Muting

Probably one of the most important things to remember when playing these power chord fingerings is to mute the strings that aren't being played. If you don't do this then you can get open-strings ringing out when you don't want them to. This can sound especially lame if you are using heaps of distortion.

So what's the answer?

Well, the approach that I prefer is to use the index finger of my fretting-hand to mute all the open-strings. I do this in two ways…

  • I use the tip of my index finger to mute the adjacent string. For Example: When I play Power Chord Fingering 2 I will lightly touch the thick E-string with the tip of my index finger. This will prevent the thick E-string from ringing out.
  • I use the underside of my index finger to mute all the strings above the power chord. For Example: When I play Power Chord Fingering 2 I will mute the G-string, B-string and thin E-string with the underside of my index finger.

It's kind of difficult describing this with text. So be sure to watch the video that is included with this lesson. (It's much easier to learn it from the video!).

A Great Power Chord Exercise

One of the most challenging aspects of playing power chords when you're new to them is changing between different string pairs. So I have designed an exercise for you to practice. It will help you master this challenge in a relatively short period of time. (Assuming that you will practice it every day!). Check out the exercise below…

Power Chords Exercise

I recommend playing the exercise once as written and then move it down to the 11th fret and play the same thing. Then move the exercise down to the 10th fret and play the same thing. Continue doing this at each fret until you reach the 1st fret.

Your Homework

I recommend doing the following before moving onto the next power chord lesson…

  • Memorize the three power chord fingerings that we covered in this lesson.
  • Memorize the names of the notes on the thick E-string, A-string and D-string. Yes…this is boring, but it will help you a lot. (Side Note: If you want an organized and structured method of memorizing the notes on your guitar, then you might consider investing in Guitar Note Mastery).
  • Do at least four 20-minute practice sessions on the power chord exercise.

Return To: Free Online Guitar Lessons

Improve your electric guitar playing for FREE

Click here for more details