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Power Chords

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Power chords are type of chord that is formed with the root and the fifth. They are often used in Rock.

Tablature Notation

Power Chords, also known as Fifth chords, are easily identifiable because they are very simple - three note chords, generally played on three adjacent strings.

   A5  E5
e|---------|
B|---------|
G|---------|
D|-7---2---|
A|-7---2---|
E|-5---0---|

A power chord can be inverted by having the 5th be lower than the root. This is often played as a Double-Stops like this:

   D5  A5
e|---------|
B|---------|
G|---------|
D|---------|
A|-5---0---|
E|-5---0---|

Playing doubles like this sounds weedy on an acoustic but on an electric they create inter-modulation, effectively the pickups create a phantom third string. Intermodulation is related to distortion and makes powerchords sound beefy.

Power chords to barre chords

This power chord for example can also be played as a barre chord.

e|---------|--5------|
B|---------|--5------|
G|---------|--6------|
D|--7------|--7------|
A|--7------|--7------|
E|--5------|--5------|

Note what happens here:

  • You put your index finger down and make a barre chord
  • You put your middle finger on the sixth fret, just like how you would play an open E chord.

Some more examples:

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

See what happens here?

Note these power chords are all on the lower three strings. Let's do it with power chords which are one string higher. Make sure you don't hit the other strings when doing powerchords, if you do, try and mute them with your hand making the powerchord shape.

e|---------|--5------|---------|--1------|---------|--2------|---------|--0------|
B|---------|--7------|---------|--3------|---------|--4------|---------|--2------|
G|--7------|--7------|--3------|--3------|--4------|--4------|--2------|--2------|
D|--7------|--7------|--3------|--3------|--4------|--4------|--2------|--2------|
A|--5------|--5------|--1------|--1------|--2------|--2------|--0------|--0------|
E|---------|--5------|---------|--1------|---------|--2------|---------|--0------|

Play around with some power chords and have some fun!

Green Day - American Idiot

American Idiot is a song made out of (almost) only powerchords. This is a part of the song:

e||-----------------|----------------|----------------|-----------------||
B||-----------------|----------------|----------------|-----------------||
G||--------6--6-6---|-------6--------|-------6--6-6---|-------6---------||
D||--6-6-6-6--6-6-4-|-----4-6--6--4--|-6-6-6-6--6-6-4-|-----4-6--6------||
A||--6-6-6-4--4-4-4-|-----4-4--6--4--|-6-6-6-4--4-4-4-|-----4-4--6------||
E||--4-4-4--------2-|-----2----4--2--|-4-4-4--------2-|-----2----4------||

As you can see 3 different powerchords are used in the intro.

Someone playing American Idiot

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