Metal Chords

Sick of using Power chords all the time in metal? A lot of people tend to use power chords, as they are made of few notes, which means the distortion of the amp can tolerate the sound. But want more variety with your metal? Read on.

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In metal, both leads and rhythm alike both require a thick texture to them. Naturally, a thicker sound can be acheived quite easily on guitar through Chords. However, chords with more note types have a tendancy to sound very rough with high distortion, making them not very favorable in the metal world. This lesson will touch upon different chord types, and explain the sound you can expect from them. I find all these chords really effective in metal, so go ahead and check em out. Note: This lesson can be quite theory-heavy. A fair understading on intervals and chord construction may come in useful here. Triads: Use with Caution! K, the first chord type i will explain is Triads. Many of you may know these chords, a lot of you may not know the name though. Bascially, a Triad is a chord constructed of THREE note types. Commonly known Triad Chords include G Major, G minor, C Major, A Minor, you know, all the notes and their Major and Minor sounds. In Theory, a triad can be made out of any combination of three notes, but the best results (The Major and Minor sounds) can be made from the intervals 1, 3 and 5 for Major, and 1,b3 and 5 for Minor. I won't touch up on triads no further than this. This reason being, they should only be used incredibly infrequently in Metal runs. This is because the sound of three note types comes out really dodgy through heavy distortion. That's not to say you should never use Triads. I mean, metal's all about the occasional filth. Learn a few Triads, and maybe sneak that G minor in place of one of the G Power chords :P Dyads Now we're onto the good stuff! Dyads! These are the chords I made this article for. Okay, basically, a Dyad is a chord constructed of TWO notes, as opposed to the Triad's three. In Metal, Dyads are used countless times. I guarentee you that pretty much every successful and good sounding Metal song has at least three different Dyads in them. Read on, and I'll explain the different types that are commonly used, and some that I personally love to use. The Commoner: Power Chords Note: If you already know about power chords, and have used them a lot and know how to use these, ignore this. The juicy stuff's after this. Power Chords are the one chord everyone in Metal, Rock and Punk styles knows. They are very easy to understand, as the pattern is the same everywhere. Theoretically, power chords are constructed by taking any note, and adding the fifth interval (making the intervals, 1,5). You may see power chords on tabs looking lke this: 5 6 7 3 4 5 3 4 5 Of course, they can be made other ways, but this is the most common way of seeing them. They have a very neutral sound to them. Their purpose is to amplify and thicken the root note by adding that fifth, which complements the root. Also, adding the octave over the chord (Like I've done above) adds even more thickness to it. You could even add the octave fo the fifth if you want something REALLY thick. Experiment. Getting Evil: Diminished Power Chords Okay, now the complecated stuff. We can get even more metal sounds by editing the basic power chord shapes. The first edit I will discuss is the Diminished Power chord as I call it. I call it this, because unlike the power chord, which is made of 1st and 5th intervals, the Diminished is made of 1st and Diminished 5th. To you an me, you basically move the 5th a fret down. Here are the Power chords again, but diminished: 5 6 7 4 5 6 3 4 5 These chords sound evil in a way. Transisting from a standard Power chord, then Diminishing it occasionally gives a riff more texture in the metal genre. Evil In Another Way: Augmented Power Chords Here's another Evil one. Bascially, Take the Power chord agian, but this time, we're moving the 5th UP a fret. So, let's see how this affects the chord shapes: 5 6 7 6 7 8 3 4 5 this chord makes another Evil sound, but the sound produced is a higher-sounding evil, if you know what I mean. By transisting from power chords to this chord, we have a similar effect to the diminished chord. This chord variation may be easier to move into for more beginner guitarists, as it merely involved pressing a finger down over the fifth, whereas diminished chords need a finger to move away. ANOTHER Evil: "Third Power Chords" This one is yet another evil-sounding chord. to make this one, you have to take the fifth down TWO frets. Again, lets look at our chords: 5 6 7 2 3 4 3 4 5 Like the other chords, the dissonance created by the chord creates the evil. However, listen closely. This chord may sound a like Major toned. This is because it is a section of a major triad, being the 1st and 3rd of the 1,3,5 triad. Could be useful. Experiment! A Strange One: Changing the Root Okay then. Here's a complex one. The root of a chord is what determines the dominant note. By changing this, we can actually add tension to a progression. This one's tricky, so I'll show you some examples with the chords below, then a way to use this technique: Chords: 5 6 7 3 4 5 2 2 3 << Note: The root can change to any note, depending on how you want the tension to be like An example: 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 3 3 3 3 3 Okay, above is a simple one. By plaiyng the first chord, you are creating a weird sound for the ear to notice comfortably. By then moving straight to a normal power chord, the ear picks up a nice sound. This sort of trick works very well in metal. Don't beleive me? give it a go. And Now, Some Tips Before I go, here are a few tips on using these chords: *Use these chord variations wisely. Whislt these are new and interesting, you should over-use them. The normal Power chord is still the biggy to use here. Experiment with these until you find ways that work. *Thicken them further. Adding octaves of the notes used in the chord can give a more thicker, and therefore metal, sound. *Keep your other Techniques in mind. Don't Neglect Legato, Bending, Triplets or any other metal techniques you've learnt. In fact, using them with these could really spice things up! *Have fun using them! That's what Metal's for right?! Or at least what PLAYING metal's for! Get some guitar played! Hope this helps you guys. As always, post any questions below in the comments, on my profile, or reach me at my E-mail: coopercoe@hotmail.com Stay Metal!

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    dragozan
    Use these chord variations wisely. Whislt these are new and interesting, you should over-use them . The normal Power chord is still the biggy to use here. Experiment with these until you find ways that work.
    That should be you SHOULDN'T overuse them. sorry for the typo
    buttcord
    A few things: On power chords: "Of course, they can be made other ways, but this is the most common way of seeing them." I'm not so sure about that, the vast majority of power chords are like: 5 6 7 5 6 7 3 4 5 Root, fifth, octave. The ones you have are Root, Fourth, Octave. Still a power chord but it's like a second inversion of one. On "Third Power Chords": In your examples, you take the fifth down 3 frets, not 2 as you claim. That's for a Major chord with the fifth omitted. You could also take it down 4 frets (if you can make the stretch) for a Minor (5th om.). Otherwise good article.
    dragozan
    buttcord wrote: A few things: On power chords: "Of course, they can be made other ways, but this is the most common way of seeing them." I'm not so sure about that, the vast majority of power chords are like: 5 6 7 5 6 7 3 4 5 Root, fifth, octave. The ones you have are Root, Fourth, Octave. Still a power chord but it's like a second inversion of one. On "Third Power Chords": In your examples, you take the fifth down 3 frets, not 2 as you claim. That's for a Major chord with the fifth omitted. You could also take it down 4 frets (if you can make the stretch) for a Minor (5th om.). Otherwise good article.
    Aaaaaah, That's a mistake on my behalf; wrote it wrong lol. My pc kept freezing when i was talkling to people, so i was getting pretty impatient when writing this. Thanks for pointing this out man
    Weaponxclaws
    Um, pretty good information. Rather basic but please for the love of god, stop using the word 'evil'. You used it ten times and I didn't see any other synonyms, just the word evil. Gets a little old... sorry
    rasta_mon
    I`m scared these chords are evil. hahaha nice lesson. Nice to change from the common power chord
    ProjectileQuiet
    I was a little sad that you didn't mention my three favorite "power chords!" The "add9" power chord: It sounds pretty spacious and dissonant when distorted, retaining a remarkable amount of clarity. And add9 chords sound really pretty when played clean as well. Another one I've been screwing around with lately is a "P4" power chord. You just drop the 5th down two frets, like: It sounds a little strange, kind of hollow like an octave because it has no fifth to support it, but has more body than an octave. I use them sparingly, but they can really add some interest to a progression. Lastly, it's incredibly fun when playing in Dropped-D, C, or Bb, to add another 5th on top of the power chord that can be made by barring the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings. Looks like this: You can also drop that 5th on the 4th string down three or four frets to make what is pretty much the bottom end of a major or minor (respectively) regular barre chord. This can be useful if you're planning on doing things that are a little more colorful harmonically than straight-up power-chord progressions. Hope these help!
    ProjectileQuiet
    For some wretched reason all of my diagrams were cut out of that last post: Add9: P4: Added 5th in Dropped-D/C/Bb 5 3 3 3
    Sadokun
    Very good info! Will look into these when my fingers feel better lol
    illyria
    the first set of "evil" chords and regular power chords are just the same. wtf?
    omerfayyaz2001
    are u guys tards or what? a power chord doesn't remain a power chord if u define anything else except the 5th and root note. The whole point of the power chord is that its an incomplete chord. thats why u can change keys in it so easily. so why the heck are u calling a diminished chord / augmented chord / minor / major chord a power chord? Plus in metal there is a Huge amount of distortion on ur instrument. Do u realize how much dissonance the guitar will make if u strum a diminished or a third in between a riff. This is a lesson about triads and not power chords!! change ur MAIN TOPIC :@:@:@.
    daniel.kPL
    I might have a word in it... Triplets are not a technique, as the author says at the end of an article.
    Wolfsblood138
    I like using the augmented diads a lot, sounds great for black metal or just a general evil sound. I like to play diminished chords or arpeggios (especially love playing Black Sabbath's self titled song), even arpeggios of the diminished triads, but playing the diminished triad as a "chord" doesn't really sound good to me. A bit too dissonant for my liking.