Power Chords for the Guitar: Guitar chords for Rock and Roll

Mirco Sontag
Mirco Sontag

Guitar teacher

Last update: 07.12.2022

Power chords are variations of ordinary chords. There are hardly any songs in the rock genre that are played without these chords. They are a simple type of guitar chord with just two notes, a fifth apart. For example, an A power chord is made up of the notes A and F#. Power chords are often used in rock music. Let's start learning Power chords on your guitar!

In the following clip you will find everything you need to know about power chords:

What are power chords?

Power chords are guitar chords. They are often used in the rock or metal genres. You can get a powerful and full sound without playing the full versions of chords. Even though the tones are distorted, they sound coherent.

To play power chords on a guitar, you need to hold down the root and fifth notes of a chord at the same time with your fingers. For example, if you want to play the E major chord, you need to press down the root (E) and fifth (B) strings with your left hand. A big advantage over barré chords is: They are easy to learn and play.

Structure of power chords

A power chord is structured as follows:

  • Root note

  • Fifth: 5 notes above the root note

  • Very often – Octave: 8 notes above or below the root note

Because they are using the fifth, power chords are also sometimes called fifth chords. The octave above the root note gives the guitar chord even more power.

Unlike conventional chords (triads), power chords do not use the third, as this would make the chords sound muddy and undefined.

Fingering power chords

Power chords are not only universally applicable, but also incredibly easy to grip.

Tip: With power chords, strike only the fingered strings. No empty strings are played.

  1. The index finger is placed on the root note (2)

  2. The ring finger plays the fifth (4)

  3. The little finger plays the octave above the root note (5)

In the following, we describe the two most common types:
E-shape and A-shape.

The root note of the E-shape can be found (as the name already implies) on the E-string.
Put your index finger (2) on the E-string (root). Put your ring finger (4) on the A-string (fifth above the root note), 5 steps higher.
Place your little finger (5) on the D-string (8 notes above the root).

Put your index finger (2) on the root note – the A-string.
Put your ring finger (3) on the D-string a fifth higher.
Put your little finger (5) on the G-string.

Download the fingering chart for power chords

In the following table we have compiled the most important power chords for you. In the table you can find the power chords as tabs.

Download the power chords fingering chart to have it handy when playing:

Griffe für Powerchords als Tabs in Tabelle

All chords in the fingering chart use the octave above the root note.

Songs played with power chords

Hardly any rock song is played without power chords. For example, the following 3 popular songs are played with typical power chords:

  • Deep Purple – Smoke on the water

  • Kinks – You Really Got Me

  • Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

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