Rhythm Guitar. Part 1- Powerchords

Heres to powerchords! Learn everything you ever wanted to know about them, in this multi part series on Rhythm Guitar!

Rhythm Guitar. Part 1- Powerchords
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In the first installment of rock rhythm guitar you will learn about power chords. How to make them, play them, and even the theory behind them (Theory? Power Chords? What? It's true, even Power Chords have theory). You will also learn some riffs in songs that use power chords, and then how to use common progressions to make your own riffs.

1. Power Chords

The basis of rock music. The power chord. Power chords are possibly the easiest chord and have a great sound. The only theory behind a power chord is the way you make it. The construction of a power chord is (1 5 (1)). Thats all. Now, lets learn some powerchords! But remember - Power chords are in interval of a perfect fifth- not a chord!


E5 F5 A5 B5
|-----------------|
|-----------------|
|---------(2)-(4)-|
|-(2)-(3)--2---4--|
|--2---3---0---2--|
|--0---1----------|

The first chord is E5 (putting 5 at the end of the note means its a power chord, because all a power chord is, is a root and a fifth). E5 is made of the notes E, and B. The additional note in brackets is the octave of E. It is not needed, but adds depth and a brighter sound to your power chords.

The second chord is F5. Its notes are F and C. This chord is moveable, so if you move each note up 2 frets, it becomes G5. Two more and its A5, get the idea?

The third chord chord is A5. Like E5, it is played in open position, so you can't move it. Its notes are A and E.

The fourth and last chord is B5. Its notes are B and F#. it is a moveable shape, like F5, so if you move it up 1 fret, it becomes C5.

There are three ways you can play a power chord.

I = Index
M = Middle
R = Ring
P = Pinky


0 1 2 3 4 5
e|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
B|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
G|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
D|-|---|---|-P-|---|---|-
A|-|---|---|-R-|---|---|-
E|-|-I-|---|---|---|---|-


0 1 2 3 4 5
e|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
B|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
G|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
D|-|---|---|-P-|---|---|-
A|-|---|---|-P-|---|---|-
E|-|-I-|---|---|---|---|-

0 1 2 3 4 5
e|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
B|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
G|-|---|---|---|---|---|-
D|-|---|---|-R-|---|---|-
A|-|---|---|-R-|---|---|-
E|-|-I-|---|---|---|---|-

The next power chords are not used often (except for the open shape) and are trickier than the other ones.


D5 E5
|---------|
|-(3)-(5)-|
|--2---4--|
|--0---2--|
|---------|
|---------|

I suggest you make these chords with method 1 of positioning you fingers. Some common ways to play powerchords:


e|-----------3--3-------------3--3--------------6-----6----|
B|--------3--3--3-------------x--x--------6--6--6--6--6-6--|
G|--------x--x--0-----5-----5-5--5--5--5--5--5--3--3--3-3--|
D|-----5--5--5--0--5--5--5--5-5--5--3--3--3--3--3-------3--|
A|--5--5--5--5--x--3--3--3--3-3--3-----3--3----------------|
E|--3--3--3--3--3--3--3----------3-------------------------|
G5 C5 F5 Bb5

G5 is notes G D
C5 is notes C G
F5 is notes F C
Bb5 is notes Bb

2. Drop D Tuning

What? We're changing tunings now? I thought this would be easy. Well, it still is. Drop D is very simple (unless you are using a Floyd Rose Trem. If you are, skip this section) tuning to get into, you just lower your 6th string (E- the really thick one) down one step. How do you do this? Well, if you have an electronic tuner, its a breeze. Just plug it in and lower the string to D. If you don't have a tuner, thats not a problem! Lower the string a little and play it at the 7th fret. Continue to do this untill it matches the open A string. Then, you're done! Now in Drop-D, power chords are 10x easier. Play this note:


|---|
|---|
|---|
|---|
|-2-|

Thats E (Every note on the low E string is moved up 2 frets, because you tuned down). To make a power chord, you have to add B. So, lets add B!


|---|
|---|
|---|
|---|
|-2-|
|-2-|

Pretty easy, eh? You can play that with one finger! Now, you can do your power chords, you've made them easier by going into drop D, and you know how to make all the other power chords yourself! Lets look at some songs that use power chords.

3. Power Chord Riffs

For just two notes, these little buggers are used in almost every genre! Lets look at some songs that use power chords. Still in Drop-D, eh? Lets do some songs in Drop-D before you tune up.

Velvet Revolver - Slither.
This is a great riff. It's also very easy to play! It's made entirely out of power chords. Lets look at the tab, shall we?


Main Riff:
E|------------------|-----------------|
B|------------------|-----------------|
G|------------------|-----------------|
D|-0-3-4-0-6-7-0-10-|-0-6-7-0-5-0-3-4-|
A|-0-3-4-0-6-7-0-10-|-0-6-7-0-5-0-3-4-|
D|-0-3-4-0-6-7-0-10-|-0-6-7-0-5-0-3-4-|

Play them all as 8th notes, at a tempo of 140-145 BPM. Pretty cool, huh? Easy too.

The Darkness - Growing On Me.
Also in drop-D, the verse riff to this song is all power chords. Listen to the song to get the right timing.


Verse:
E|---------------|----------------------------------|
B|---------------|----------------------------------|
G|---------------|----------------------------------|
D|---------------|----------------------------------|
A|-0-0--7-7/9-9--|-0-0--7-7/9-9---5-5--4-4--4-0-----|
D|-0-0--7-7/9-9--|-0-0--7-7/9-9---5-5--4-4--4-0-----|

So, now that you have those two riffs under your belt, lets tune back up to standard tuning for some more riffs.

Silvertide - Ain't Comin' Home.
If you've never heard this song, I suggest you listen to it. This song is made up of 3 chords (thats it! Except for the bridge, when a G5 comes in). Lets look at the tab.


Main Riff:
E|----||-------------------------||
B|----||----------------3--------||
G|-0--|o--1----2---2--x-2--2---2-o|
D|-0--|o--2----2---2--x-0--2---2-o|
A|-0--||--2----0---0--x----0---0-||
E|----||--0-----------x----------||

That one is a little thougher, because its a little fast and uses E major. Lets look at a song from the masters of power chords- AC/DC.

AC/DC - Back in Black.
Great Song, with piles of great riffs. I suggest listening to song to get the timing. I will put the entire intro for you to try.


Main Riff:
E|------2-2-2-------------|-3p0----------------|
B|------3-3-3----2-2-2----|-----3p0------------|
G|------2-2-2----2-2-2----|---------2b4r2------|
D|-2----0-0-0----2-2-2----|--------------------|
A|-2-------------0-0-0----|--------------------|
E|-0----------------------|--------------------|

E|------2-2-2-------------|-----------------------|
B|------3-3-3----2-2-2----|-----------------------|
G|------2-2-2----2-2-2----|-----------------------|
D|-2----0-0-0----2-2-2----|-----------------------|
A|-2-------------0-0-0----|-2---2--0-2--1-2--2~---|
E|-0----------------------|---4-------------------|

Chorus:
E|----------------|||-3--2-----------|||----------------||
B|----------------|||-3--3-----------|||----------------||
G|-2-----4--2--4--o|o-0--2--2-----2--o|o-2-----4--2--4--o|
D|-2--2--4--2--4--o|o-0--0--2-----2--o|o-2--2--4--2--4--o|
A|-0--2--2--0--2--|||-x-----0-----0--|||-0--2--2--0--2--||
E|----0-----------|||-3--------3-----|||----0-----------||
^play x2 ^play x2 ^play 2x

So, you can now play some riffs, with power chords. If you want you can even go find the tabs for the songs and learn the rest of the song. Lets try to make some riffs using powerchords.

4. Making Your Own Riffs.
I'll set you off with some chord progressions (used commonly in rock) and those 5 riffs from popular songs.

Chord Progressions - A series of chords put together, that don't sound horrible. The Roman Numeral dictate which scale dgree as your root note. If it's upper case (V) it's major, if it's lower case, it's minor (I). Extensions can be added, like so: vii7b5, V7, Imaj7m etc.


A D E (I IV V)
G C D (V I II)
G D Am7 (I V VII7)

Those are some popular ones. Feel free to make any up, but try to remember, that a chord resolves best up a fourth (IV, 4) or down a fifth (V, 5). I've chosen A-G-D, (I VII IV) and I changed it around to Asus2 (A B E), Gsus2 (G A D), and D5 (D A). It's arranged for two guitars and a bass for those of you playing in a band situation, if you aren't in a band, just play Gtr I.


Q=156
... Asus2... Gsus2
... 4/4
... Gtr I
||---------------------|-------------------|
||o--------------------|-------------------|
||---------------------|-------------------|
||--9-9---9------------|-7-7---7-----------|
||o-7-7---7---10-12\---|-5-5---5---8-10\---|
||------------10-12\---|-----------8-10\---|
|
|... Gtr II
||---------------------|-------------------|
||o--------------------|-------------------|
||---------------------|-------------------|
||---------------------|-------------------|
||o--------------------|-------------------|
||--7-7-7---7--7--7--7-|-5-5-5-5-5-5--5--5-|
|
|... Bass
||---------------------|-------------------|
||o--------------------|-------------------|
||o--------------------|-------------------|
||--7-7-7--7--7--7--7--|-5-5-5-5-5-5--5--5-|


.. D5

|-----------------|-----------------------||
|-8-8---3-3---3---|-(3)--------------(3)/o||
|-7-7---2-2---2---|-(2)--------------(2)/-||
|-------------0---|-(0)--------------(0)/-||
|-----------------|----------------------o||
|-----------------|-----------------------||
|
|
|-----------------|-----------------------||4x
|-----------------|----------------------o||
|-----------------|-----------------------||
|-----------------|-----------------------||
|-----------------|----------------------o||
|-0-0-0---0-0-0-0-|--0--0-0-0-0--0-0------||
|
|
|-----------------|-----------------------||
|-----------------|-----------------------||
|-----------------|-----------------------||
|-0-0-0---0-0-0-0-|--0--0-0-0-0--0-0------||

Tuning: Drop-D (low to high- D-A-D-G-B-E)

Its played fast (156 bpm), the root note of the chord is played by Gtr. II and The Bass.

All that from powerchords? Thats a pretty long read for two notes! All you have to remember is that creativity is the key to building riffs and songs out of power chords. Note about tabs: about the tabs above (not directly, the ones of
popular songs), these might not be 100% correct, but it's the way I play them, and they sound right. Thanks a lot to SilentDeftone for "Some common ways to play powerchords," the fingering diagrams, and helping me straighten this out!

117 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    crimson._rose
    xfreakonaleash0 : dude do u think ne body who does kno wut a power chord is will kno wut the hell the interval of perfect 5ths are?
    Well, I know what a power chord is, I know what the interval of a perfect 5th is (and i can remember it with twinkle twinkle little star ), and i can post a message in correct english, gee, isn't that just plain amazing?
    akolyte123
    Well, I beg to differ. A chord is three or more notes played in unison. Therefore, your definition of powerchords =/= powerchord. The powerchord is the root, 5th and octave. The interval between the root and the fifth is just that, a mere interval, a way to increase speed and move around the fretboard powerchording.
    ummmm thats also wrong lol. if you have a chord with the root note a fifth and an octave the octave dosent count as part of the chord. so if you were to play a 4 part chord such as c7. it would be c, e, g, b, but you could also add another c on top of it and make the chord c, e, g, b, c, but since the two c's are an octave it means it still stays as a 4 part chord and not a 5 part chord.
    BennyStruggle
    numbfinger wrote: good article but i have a question still what are these chords then e ---.. B ---.. G --3---.. D --4---.. A --4---.. E --2---..
    a major power chord has the g string fretted in the middle of the root and a/d strings
    Apoc112
    thanks for the lesson w/ tabs, man... it really brings practice to an interesting level. btw, i LOVE silvertide - awesome choice
    morganite14
    Yes i know im retarded but I have a question just to make sure about tab stuff. For most power chords you only play three strings unless it specifically says to leave a note open and to play it right?
    Shabalaba
    Well ive bin playin 8 months now n i hit a rut where i cudnt find nothing to play, but this has helped alot THX
    jrasmussen1206
    I thought it was a good lesson, as I am a beginner to guitar. I understand all the basic chords, but moving them off the basic open position is still tough for me. I think this lesson helped me to see how to use powerchords to get off the open chords. Thanks!!
    Dzr
    I have a silly question.. now I know what to do with my left hand... but what about the other one?
    drinkingbeers
    Good lesson, I followed along nicely until you started with the whole 'scale degree' and roman numerals came in. Further explanation about what this means would help. Thanks
    simonjw87
    ive been playing for two years and found that this sparked some creativity with my songwriting. Good lesson on something so basic.
    dodee
    hey i get just about everything except the chord progressions... could someone please explain??
    schismed
    UHATEIT wrote: I got completely lost. I thought we were talking about 2 chords, but there are so many fingerings and moving around the numbers change (like back in black). It says its all power chords but the fingerings/numbers dont match the numbers from the beginning. Like when adding the "2" to the high e-string, that wasn't in the list of power chords, where did that random "2" come from?
    I am assuming you mean the part in bold? Main Riff: E|-----2-2-2----- B|-----3-3-3----2-2-2----| G|---- -2-2-2----2-2-2----| D|-2 ----0-0-0----2-2-2----| A| -2 -----0-0-0----| E|-0 -----| That is indeed a power chord. It's 2 notes... The E,B,G strings with the 2,3,2 is a chord also, D chord. Well, it has an actual name without the open note but I am still learning myself so I don't know the exact name. I call it "The Angus D."
    schismed
    xfreakonaleash0 wrote: dude do u think ne body who does kno wut a power chord is will kno wut the hell the interval of perfect 5ths are?
    Look idiot, if you are going to criticize him for a damn thing, at least learn to speak english, or use spell check. I am not sure what kind of crap that was you just spilled. On another note (pardon the pun) Great introduction to power chords! Well done...
    UHATEIT
    I got completely lost. I thought we were talking about 2 chords, but there are so many fingerings and moving around the numbers change (like back in black). It says its all power chords but the fingerings/numbers dont match the numbers from the beginning. Like when adding the "2" to the high e-string, that wasn't in the list of power chords, where did that random "2" come from?
    axeofoc5249
    He could have used sad but true as a lesson lots of power chords and simple rocking groove would have blown the songs he used as a lesson totally away.
    clow539
    if I didn't know what power chords were and the theory behind them I'd love you so much Great lesson!
    Fender_Mex-DB#1
    Hey good lesson...I already know this stuff but for people a couple months into guitar this should really get them going on some songs. BTW, about the Back in Black song...it is a little bit off ,but I believe it's purposely off...it's slightly simplified so people new to powerchords can get the jist of power chords. You experienced guitar players don't bash this guy for making it easy on beginners. I like your other lessons to slash_pwns. Music theory is a mind-boggle, your explanations are thorough and simplified to Lehman's terms. I recommend all your lessons to anyone interested in what you've posted. Thanks. -Al
    Fender_Mex-DB#1
    jrasmussen1206 wrote: I thought it was a good lesson, as I am a beginner to guitar. I understand all the basic chords, but moving them off the basic open position is still tough for me. I think this lesson helped me to see how to use powerchords to get off the open chords. Thanks!!
    learninclutch
    Still a great lesson, three years later. Never seen anyone use there middle finger for a power chord unless its a double stop
    welby
    great lesson man. helped me out, look forward to the next one.
    zakiki
    that a chord resolves best up a fourth (IV, 4) or down a fifth (V, 5). I've chosen A-G-D, (I VII IV) and I changed it around to Asus2 (A B E), Gsus2 (G A D), and D5 (D A). i didnt get this part. can u explain pls. thnx. great lesson btw
    Sy_B
    homegrown419 wrote: sometimes I just play with myself cuz its cool. the lesson made me not play with myself mustn't be cool
    The hell?
    homegrown419
    sometimes I just play with myself cuz its cool. the lesson made me not play with myself mustn't be cool
    Sy_B
    Hey dude, beginner here, I'm trying to play Slither thanks for the tabs....but no matter how hard or fast I try to play, it just never sounds right...it sounds somewhat like it, but it just never sounds right. I even looked at other tabs of it to check. I must be doing something wrong, but it seems to sound a little more like the riff if you switch the last chords around to 4 and then 3. Help on this please??