Power chords can be a very cool addition to your chord library. They consist of only two notes ( without going too deep into music theory – the distance between these two notes is called the perfect fifth interval). You can hear it in a countless number of recordings and across many different music genres (but commonly used in heavy metal and hard rock music).
Because of their simple structure, it is very easy to use power chords. These type of chords are neither major or minor. Because of their two note structure they miss the 3rd degree of the scale that gives the minor or major identity to the chord. The simplicity of the layout makes it very easy to write a song using power chords. You don’t have to think about whether the chord that you want to use should be minor or major. Just play the shape and let magic happen. There is only one problem with this however, as the power chord only has two notes, it may sound a bit weak but you can give power chords a full and rich sound by simply using overdrive or distortion. Lets have a look at the diagram:
To play the chord, position your first finger on the 5th fret, 5th string and third finger on the 7th fret, 4th string (and you play only those two notes ). In this example, the name of the chord comes from the 5th fret, 5th string. We call this position, the root note (and the root note in this example is the note D), so the name of the chord is D5 (The 5 in the name simply refers to the perfect 5th interval) . If you move this chord to the 7th fret, 5th string the name will be E5 – because that is the note E.
Now the root note (the place from which the chord takes its name ) is on the open 5th string. So to play this chord, you need to position your first finger on the 2nd fret, 4th string and then play the open 5th and 4th strings. The shapes are movable and you can play them from the 6th, 5th, 4th and 2nd string (the root note is on these strings) , if you play from the 3rd string (because string B is tuned differently), you will have to slightly alter the shape (the second note has to be played one fret higher).
You can also play these chords starting with the root note on the 6th string. Simply take this shape and bring it to the 6th string. In this example we have an A5 power chord :
As you see these are very mobile shapes, you can move them to different strings. One example of power chords in action, is the song “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton – Click here to learn “Cocaine”. Try to learn this song and apply the knowledge from the article. One tip: when you play this song try to think in terms of the root notes – always remember which note you play at the given moment. It will really improve your fretboard knowledge!