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

Guitar Tutorials, 04.09.2018

Power chords are variations of ordinary chords. There are hardly any songs in the rock genre that are played without these chords.
We will show you how to play power chords on the guitar yourself.

Are you more of a visual type?
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. When you play power chords, they sound particularly powerful.
Although the tones are distorted, they sound coherent.

Actually, power chords consist of two notes – but often a third note, the root note one octave up, is added.
Power chords, in contrast to barré chords, 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.

E-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).

A-shape 
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 songs are played with these typical chords:

  • Deep Purple – Smoke on the water
  • Kinks – You Really Got Me
  • Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Thomas Dill

Thomas Dill

Thomas is the head of our electric guitar section at music2me. He studied classical guitar at the University of Giessen and electric guitars at MGI Cologne. Thomas works as a freelance musician, producer and author at Bonedo.de. He is also a professional music teacher.

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