Transcribing Power Chords: Be a Detective!

Train your ears to become a detective by transcribing these 5 songs based on Power Chords.

@JGAdmin, please add links to the lessons in all these new topics you are creating.

@Tbushell Thanks Tom. I believe there was a system problem that was resolved. Please @mention a Mod if you come across this again so we can rectify it viz @LievenDV @Richard_close2u @DavidP


I just did a quick scan of @JGAdmin Activity, and it does indeed look like most of the links created more than 3 days ago have been added, so thanks for that!

However, FYI, most of the more recent ones are still without links.

Thanks Tom. I’ll make a point to take a look and do some more correcting.

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First I have to say, I love this series and seeing that great Hives tune here!

But speaking of that Hives tune, I went to transcribe it without looking at any of the hints or the entry summary. I finished transcribing and I was convinced I had it right with the D5, C5 played on the 6th string, then the F5 played on the 5th string, and then finally A#5 played on the 6th string. But when I checked the entry summary, it says they are all played on the 5th string? When I check the “official” tab on GuitarTabs, it did confirm my original transcription and when I watch the video of the Hives playing, it does look like they play the 6th string root as well. Is there a version where they play it all on the 5th string root? Certainly not trying to “say I told you so” :wink: , just honestly looking to make sure I understand the difference in the 6th and 5th root note sounds.

Are there recommendations for where we should find Tabs to confirm our transcription? Know there are lots of incorrect tabs out there. I use Justins Tabs when I can, but didn’t know if there were others.



Congrats for finding the chords :wink:

I’d think Justin recommends the 5th string is because playing power chords around the 10th fret and higher can be a bit difficult due to the narrow spaces between the frets. Also, you could play all chords on the 6th string as you’d only have to play F5 at the first fret.

Of course, the sound also makes a difference, so you’ll need to experiment with the different options and decide which sounds best to your ears.


Is there a convention to annotate the root (or tonic) note string for chords (obviously without writing out the full tab)?

For example annotating
A5 (6th string root) vs A5 (5th string root)?

The closest I’ve found so far is a circled numeral to annotate the string.

So “⑤ A5” vs “⑥ A5” I guess.

I can’t remember having seen instructions on which string(s) to play other than in pedagogical material, especially for chords.

As for power chords, Justin uses R6 and R5 to refer to 6th string and 5th string root power chords.

However, major, minor, major 7th, sus, etc. chords have multiple variations even if the root note is on the same string, so indicating where the root note is has limited effectiveness.

when I try to do When I Come Around justin leaves a hint that one of the power chords is a C flat. Since there is no note between B and C, where is that?

The notes B and C flat sound the same. They are called enharmonic equivalents. That’s a fancy name for ‘same sound, different name’.

The key of When I Come Around is Gb. The notes in the Gb major scale are:

Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb

When talking music theory, we think of C flat, not B. That’s because each letter can only exists once in each scale. Since we already have a B flat, we can’t have a B as well. Hence the C flat.

If this sounds way too complicated, don’t stress. Think of the note B to keep it practical, but know that we have to name notes differently in certain situations. It’ll become clearer later on in your journey. I hope it makes sense!

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Just to add further to Sean’s point - I could be wrong, but I’m pretty convinced the first power chord at the beginning has an additional note played on the 3rd string 11th fret (F#) to give that power chord a twist, and a reason why I was struggling to identify it initially while exploring just the 5th string. It’s a cool twist though.

This may have been mentioned before , but it would be great if there was a follow up lesson telling us what the chords were, or strumming pattern, or why Green Day was tuned a semitone down (b/c I still don’t know that one but have a feeling it has to do with the solo). Maybe not even a video lesson but just written comments you can click on or download.

Great lesson (and great fun) as always.


Alright it’s 15 months later, but I’ve only just started on this lesson and now I’ve seen the chords in one of the songs before I’ve had a go at it! I guess I’ve learned not to look at the discussion before I’ve had a crack at all the songs in the lesson, but It’d be nice if on these transcribing lessons, maybe on the first @JGAdmin post, there was a reminder not to post spoilers!

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Going to agree with Sean here about the Hives song - the “All the chords are played with a fifth string root” bit in the lesson doesn’t seem right at all.

Maybe we’re listening to a different version from Justin? I’ve watched 2 different ones on YT and they both sound and look like they are being played with all but one chord having their root on the 6th string.

EDIT: Rewatching the lesson, Justin there says that he’d struggle to tell the difference between a Bb5 played on 6th string 6th fret vs 5th string 1st fret; he’s saying the difference between Bb5 in either of those positions compared to a Bb5 played on the 5th string 13th fret, so a completely different octave, which isn’t at all clear if you’re just reading the lesson text… and yet he goes on to say later for e.g. the White Stripes that hearing the difference between 5th and 6th string root notes should be “very obvious.” Hm.

Here’s my attempt at Self Esteem that took me basically the entire day lol. Would love to get some feedback particularly on the rhythms, but also anything else that seems off.

Do NOT click the spoiler section if you are working on this yourself, unless you want to of course. :stuck_out_tongue: But it is a big spoiler, and it’s always best to refrain from looking until you’ve finished your own transcription.

Chord notation is Root:Chord, e.g. 5:A5 would be an A power chord played with the root note on the 5th string.

SPOILER - herein lies my attempt at Self Esteem by The Offspring
  1 x Riff A
  1 x Riff C
  1 x Bass Riff
      * Guitar plays 4:G5 on counts +a3e a4 + of final bar
  2 x Riff B (i.e. 16 bars)
  2 x Riff A (i.e. 8 bars)
  4 bars of bass riff with 6:G5 played on final +a
  Riff B (last 4 bars only)
  3.5 x Riff D (i.e. 14 bars)
     * Final bar, play | 5:C5  6:G5 |, same rhythm
  1 x Riff C
Refrain (ending on A5, no bass riff during last 4 bars)

* Bass Riff:
|: A          F     | C          G     :|
   1e+a2      a4e+a | 1e+a2      a4e+a

* Riff A:
|: 6:A5    5:F5     | 6:C5    6:G5     :|
   1   2 +a3e+ 4 +a | 1   2 +a3e+ 4 +a

* Riff B:
|: 6:A5   6:F5  | 5:C5       6:G5   :| x4
   1e+a2  a4e+a | 1e+a2      a4e+a
                  1e+a2 + 3e+ 4 +a  <-- Ending for last repeat
                  5:C5      6:G5    <-- Ending for last repeat

* Riff C:
| 6:F5             |         5:C5/G G5 | 6:A5\ - | - | - | -    4:G5     |
   1   2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3e a4  +  | 1     - | - | - | -(2) +a3e a4 +
       pm...................                             Bass riff begins

* Riff D:
|: 5:D5     5:Bb5    | 6:F5     5:C5     :|
   1   2  +a3e+ 4 +a | 1   2  +a3e+ 4 +a
                              +a3e+a4e+a <- each 2nd time

Thanks for this. I’ve been able to read the post and refrain from seeing the spoiler! Not surprised it took you all day, I’ve just spent a half hour on it and got the first two chords of the first riff! I think part of the problem is I don’t particularly like the song :slightly_frowning_face:

Totally understandable. For songs I find kind of meh, a half hour is about all I’m willing to spend on them if they’re part of a lesson, and just skip them otherwise - with as many songs as are available to us these days, we may as well pick ones we enjoy, right? :wink:

If you just generally dislike the kinds of songs that tend to use power chords, there are probably other types of songs you could transcribe that would give a similar benefit - maybe transcribing the bass guitar parts of your favorite songs will help you with root notes, or having a go at some blues riffs.

Funny you should say that, after Justin’s first Blues Club I’ve challenged myself to add learning one new Blues riff a week to my practice routine! Not transcribing as such, as I’m skipping ahead to the blues licks module in grade 4, but I figure if I learn enough of them, then I’ll be able to recognise them and transcribe them in future, so going at it the long way round :rofl: