Playing Power Chords

Grab your guitar and let's play some Power Chords using your Major Scale knowledge!


View the full lesson at Playing Power Chords | JustinGuitar

The C5 power chord that you made from a C chord, it has an equal number of C’s and G’s. Does the chord always just take the name of the deepest sounding note in cases like that? Will the chord always have the most or equal number of notes that match the name? For example, if it is an F chord, it will contain more F notes (or equal to) any other note contained in the chord? Or can it be an F chord simply because it is on the 6th string, and it may contain another note more times?

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Great lesson, super cool to know how to turn open chords into power chords and explore all the options! :+1:

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@Fncanuk power chords are the root and 5th no 3rd.
G is the 5th of C thus a C power chord.

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@stitch Ahh so technically there can be note more G notes, and it will still be a C power chord simply from position? I was thinking it was going to be whatever note you would hear the most from having the most presence in the chord structure. Is that way of thinking correct for open or bar chords? Or is there also a clever reason beyond how many times it appears in the chord?

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@Fncanuk Chords are named for the root note. It doesn’t matter how many times a note appears in the chord.
If a chord was G C G G it is still a C power chord or C5. If the
has G C E G G it would be a C major second inversion.

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@stitch I assumed it had to do with quantity because I only knew the notes on the guitar for the first few months, and when I broke down the common chords, it was the case and I assumed also the reason for the name. Glad I’m expanding my theory now and not after a few years of struggling as a beginner :rofl:

Thanks for clearing that up for me!

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@Fncanuk It is nothing to do with counting multiples of notes and everything to do with intervals between notes.

R to 5th is the interval that identifies a power chord (named a ‘5’).

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator

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I think by first finger he refers to the middle finger

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Power chords are definitely useful and fairly easy (after lots of practice!) on electric, but I’m finding them really hard on acoustic. I’m guessing this is due to the the different action or thicker strings on acoustic? Is this normal? I mostly play acoustic, so wondering how important power chords are from a steel string acoustic perspective.

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I find power chords sound kind of thin on an acoustic…though better if you strum hard.

I’ve used them as a substitute for chords I can’t play yet e.g. B5 instead of Bmaj.

Recently, started doing the transcription exercise in grade 3, which uses power chords. I find using power chords for figuring songs out by ear is easier than with open chords.

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Hello @DLayton

Power chords can be and are used on acoustic, though I would say you need to use them judiciously.
You can dig in and hit hem hard for an acoustic rock feel.
You can play them softly in a verse or chorus or bridge to provide a dynamic shift from, say, strumming open chords in the rest of the song.
You can use them as a substitute for barre chords if your muscles start to ache and the song is only partway through.
I have now started to post instalments in a new topic on the theory and practical uses of the Circle of Fifths, beginning here: The Circle of Fifths Part 1 - where does it come from?

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide, Approved Teacher & Moderator

In addition to the Kurt Cobain power chord variation, I sometimes also like to add the 6th string, first finger note (a lower octave 5th) to the Root 5 shape power chord for a more bassy, fatter sound. Not sure who did this first, but it sounds awesome as well and is great to throw in every now and then!

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I think Graham Coxon did this in the full-fat rock-athon chorus of Song 2.

A great lesson…!

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Hi, I was wondering if someone could help me please - why when turning the A open chord to a power chord is the C a sharp when Justin is counting on his fingers?

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Welcome to the forum Ash. The notes in an A chord are A, C# and E. C# is the 3rd interval of the A major scale. A power chord notes are A and E. There is no 3rd in power chords.

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Hi Stitch - thank you I thought something was odd. Unsure how but I had written the CATO Key Signature trick down wrong haha!

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As everyone has already said above, great lesson and very interesting. I have to say I’m scratching my head as to when/why I would use a power chord rather than the standard chords I have already learned, but I assume that comes with more playing and experimenting with songs and various “moods.” Thanks!

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In cases with distortion. if you are playing electric, then try a full chord with distortion - sounds too noisy.

There are other cases too, for instance a fairly clean tone but quickly muted sounds better to me with power chords.

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