I'm having real problems finding out which chords sound good distorted, I can't figure it out, I always see crazy chords played all up the fretboard, but I never know whats going on. I even know a few chords in songs, but it still doesn't help me much to come up with my own chords, power chords (Root-Fifth-Root-[octive]) is boring me to death, could some one help me?
You can get away with adding the third, you know, the first four strings of a barre chord, and it should sound nice.
start using barre chords, learn more theory and ul build up a bigger chord "vocabulary" if you will
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What exactly is a powerchord?

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the reason power chords sound good is because there isnt much going on, so when the wave is distorted it doesnt jumble itself. someone explained the physics behind it (i think it was cor) and ill try to tell you what i remember. when the wave is distorted, the peaks are reflected back down and end up forming a tone/frequency about halfway between each tone. so when you play a powerchord, that new peak is between where the major and minor thirds would be. so that sounds good because its still neutral and sounds like it fits with the other notes. however, when you play more notes, then the tones that you get dont fit so nicely together and end up sounding like they are clashing.

now, if you turn down the distortion so its more of a mild drive, you can use other notes and have it sound ok because those reflected waves arent as prominant. also, i think if you play notes that are far enough apart (think octave or more) then they wont clash as much because that note in the middle is going to not be really close to the other notes. so basicly you have to find chords that span octaves while not trying to do too much. doesnt exactly give any specific chords, but you should experiment to see what works for you.

that should be close, cause i combined what i remembered to what ive learned in physics class. if im off or wrong, feel free to correct me anyone.
lean some theory... basic knowledge will tell you that harmonized triads along a scale will most of the time sound good distorted(root+3rd+5th) once you got that down learn how modes work and youll be able to go pretty much anywhere
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well power chords are always guaranteed tosound good distorted, but bar chords and half-opened bar chords sound good too

major bar chord: (133211) or (x13331), the first number being your root note
minor bar chord: (133111) or (x13321), the first number being your root note

half-opened bar chords: (133200) or (x13300)...for 5-string chords, just put the power chord followed by two open strings

open chords can sound good in some settings...neil young uses the effect very well in many songs (alabama...) but it only works at low distortion
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Last edited by slash_angus_VH at Sep 7, 2006,
Thanks jof1029, I understand what your saying, I get it now. But where should I start with which chord?

I was just confused, I know alot of barre and moveabole chords but they all sound "busy" with distortion, but I have noticed alot of chords sound better like a two note perfect forth or an A major played on the DGB strings can be moved.
ok, well for starters try these two ways of playing just a major third interval:
   1   2

the one where they are in the same octave sounds really bad, but the one where they are an octave apart sounds ok. try playing the same thing with a minor third (shift the 4 and 6 down a fret each). you can kind of hear the beat frequency with the ones in the same octave (that clashing when you have 2 notes almost in tune). its because halfway between those notes is close enough to each of them to clash with enough closeness to make it sound out of tune. so now we want to add a fifth an octave above that. well, pick those 2 notes, and then use your picking hand to hammer on to the 12th fret on the high e string. you have a full triad, either major or minor depending on which one you did. and it sounds much better than playing all three within the same octave like this:

i have to warn you, im making this up as i go so im not sure how its gonna go. i dont play with much distortion so this is all kinda ad lib.

hmm, so now lets try something else. we know that the root and fifth sound good together in an octave, so lets try those together with the third way above the fifth. lets go almost two octaves, like so:

the second one has the third not quite an octave up from the fifth, and sounds a bit muddier to me (through headphones tho). well, thats all i have the attention span for. i think you can start building things from there. work with other intervals and scale degrees to see what you can find that sounds good.
here's the deal. in equal tempered tuning, the standard 12 note scale that's been around since bach's time, some of the spacings between notes has to be slightly out of tune with the natural series of harmonics in an octave so that the notes are all evenly spaced. the major third is particularly out of tune. you can tell by playing a natural harmonic just behind the fourth fret on any string and comparing that note to the fretted fourth fret. the fretted note is out of tune with the harmonic. this out of tune note happens to be the major third of the open string--thus we have learned that fretted major thirds are inherently out of tune. this slight dissonance is made a lot more noticeable with distortion, hence the "muddy" sound of distorted major chords.
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oh, and like jof1029 said, chords with wider note spacings tend to sound better with distortion. like how an open A chord or A-shaped barre chord sounds fine.
"You are amazed that it is so easy to infect men with the war fever, and you surmise that man has in him an active instinct for hatred and destruction... I entirely agree with you."

--Sigmund Freud in a letter to Albert Einstein