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How To Play Power Chords On Guitar • Chord Diagrams, Tab, Videos, Examples

Updated on April 9, 2018
Former students Luke Hoskins and Tim Millar from Protest The Hero
Former students Luke Hoskins and Tim Millar from Protest The Hero
Review by Karen: Starts at the beginning and breaks the blues down in a well articulated way. It exponentially grows from there. Doesn't keep it safe but goes for that blues-jazzy feel throughout. Not your average blues book.
Review by Karen: Starts at the beginning and breaks the blues down in a well articulated way. It exponentially grows from there. Doesn't keep it safe but goes for that blues-jazzy feel throughout. Not your average blues book.

More Guitar Lessons

I have been teaching guitar professionally since 1992, when Don’t Fret Guitar Instruction was established. Over the years, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops. Past students include four members of PROTEST THE HERO.

With this book, my goal is to relate the scales with chords and rhythms as opposed to just learning solos or licks and having no idea how to apply them. Good rhythm playing and knowledge is crucial to good soloing and vice versa. This comes through understanding the relationship between chords and scales. This book provides that important foundation.

The book is unique in the fact that each chapter is based around a different key signature and an open (contains unfretted notes), pattern of the pentatonic scale. There are five chapters covering the key signatures of E, A, D, G and C, and the five open ‘box patterns’ (scale patterns) of the pentatonic scale. Eventually all the box patterns are covered, from the open strings to the fifteenth fret.

There is no endless scale practice or useless licks to learn. Instead, each chapter begins with a chord progression, moves into various rhythm patterns derived from the chord progression, and then culminates with solos based on the scale and key covered. These solos tie in with the chord progression and rhythm patterns to form a complete lesson for each chapter.

The book is progressive. Upon completion, the student will have a solid foundation in blues guitar, and will understand the rhythm, lead connection.

The book is best studied from beginning to end, without slighting any material. All theory is explained in the simplest terms. There are fretboard diagrams for the scales, chord grids, and photos of hand positions as well as videos posted on YouTube to aid in the learning process.

It is best, but not necessary, to have a knowledge of barre and open chord shapes before beginning this course. All the chords have fretboard grids associated with them.

Good luck and have fun. Music is a celebration. Enjoy!

Lorne K. Hemmerling

Palm muting position for pick hand
Palm muting position for pick hand
Root 5 two note position for fret hand
Root 5 two note position for fret hand
Root 5 fret hand muting with the middle finger
Root 5 fret hand muting with the middle finger

Introduction

Power chords have long been the standard in rock guitar rhythm playing. However, they can be found in all genres of music. Many blues rhythms employ what are called 'Pinky Patterns' (the name derives from the stretch with the fourth 'pinky' finger to form the six chord). Pinky patterns usually start with the power chord, then move to the sixth variation.

Foundation power chords (chords played on the bass strings of the guitar) are simply the lowest two or three notes of a barre chord. Many years ago, when I first started teaching, a student actually showed me how to form them. Up until then, I thought they were being played with the full barre shape, only strumming the bottom two or three notes of the chord. I had no idea that the middle finger had been released and the index was used to mute the treble strings. Of course, power chords can be played with the full barre shape, but the muting technique is so much more effective. In this manner, power chords can be strummed, and if the mute is properly executed, the only strings that will sound are the ones being held down. They are also much easier to move around the fretboard with the proper technique, and also, less tiring on the fret hand, than barre chords.

Structure

Power chords are called either 'no third' or 'five' chords. The 'five' designation is definitely more popular than the 'no third'. Examples are: A5, C5, E5, D5, etc. This is the normal notation. The 'five' term comes from the fact, that the only two intervals contained in a power chord are the first and the fifth of the scale. For example: C5 is the root C and the perfect fifth of the C Major scale: G. Since the third interval (in this case, it would be E) is missing, power chords can be either Major or minor (because the Major third and minor third govern this designation)

C5
C Major
C minor
C, G
C, E, G
C, E♭, G
When improvising over power chords, there are more scale choices. Major scales work, so do minor scales, it all depends on the desired sound.
Root 6 two note form
Root 6 two note form
Root 6 three note form
Root 6 three note form

Root 6 Two and Three Note Power Chords

So called, because the root is found on the sixth string (the same as barre chords). The two note shapes are simply the root and fifth, while the three note shapes are the root, fifth, and the root repeated an octave higher. C5 two note is C, G, three note is C, G, C. Three note shapes yield a fuller sound than the two note. The diagrams represented here cover all of the shapes from the open E5 to the eleventh fret E♭5. Remember, the guitar neck starts all over again at the twelfth fret, so E5 is repeated (an octave higher) on this fret and if you keep ascending, F5 is on the thirteenth, and so on. I have found that, many students know power chord shapes, but they have no idea which one they are playing. I stress learning the names, this will open up the fretboard.

The entire transcription for Enter Sandman can be found at Rock Guitar Riffs

Enter Sandman with Root 5 and 6 Power Chords

Root 5 two note form
Root 5 two note form
Root 5 three note form
Root 5 three note form

Root 5 Two and Three Note Power Chords

So called, because the root is found on the fifth string (the same as barre chords). The two note shapes are simply the root and fifth, while the three note shapes are the root, fifth, and the root repeated an octave higher. Once again the shapes are all the same (except for the open A5). Memorize the names of the chords. This is very important. Not only will it open up the fretboard, as stated above, but it will allow you to communicate with other guitar players more easily. When a student hits the level where I can call out a power chord (or any chord, for that matter), while playing, and they immediately go to the correct position, it is very gratifying. Also, when working in a band situation it makes things much easier.

The music for this riff can be found at Rock Guitar Riffs

TNT main riff with E5 Root 6 and A5 Root 5

Inverted one finger barre power chords
Inverted one finger barre power chords

Inverted Two Note Power Chords

Very useful! These chords can be played with a one finger barre, great for fast changes. The root has now moved to the upper note, the fifth is below. I have notated only the first finger barre, but quite often, they are played switching between the first and third finger. A classic example of inverted power chords is the main riff to Smoke On The Water. Also, many songs are played in 'Dropped D Tuning' (the low E string is tuned to D, and the chords are usually played with a one finger barre across three strings). Employing these inverted shapes, will allow you to play in Dropped D, without actually re-tuning, simply by missing the sixth string. The first set of grids are root 4 chords (E5-E♭5), the second set are root 3 chords (A5-A♭5)

The transcription for this riff can be found at Rock Guitar Riffs

Smoke On The Water with Inverted 2 note Root 3 Power Chords

© 2014 Lorne Hemmerling

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    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      3 years ago from Oshawa

      You're very welcome, my friend. Nice to get the feedback!

    • profile image

      camper 

      3 years ago

      Very good lesson, thanks

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