Power chords, also known as fifth chords are very common, especially in rock music. Many rock songs are based entirely on power chords. Usually the chords are played with a distorted sound and they are called power chords because of the powerful sound. A power chord is a chord that contains only two different notes, the root (bottom note) and the fifth. It is written like this: E5. The fifth means the fifth note counting from the root (E). If E is the root, than count:
E F G A B 1 2 3 4 5
So B is the fifth of an E5. Therefore the E5 chord consists of the notes E (root) and B (fifth). Because there is no third in the power chords, they are neither major nor minor and can be used as substitute for either major or minor chords. Now there are two versions of power chords. This is the first version containing just the 1 and the 5:
The most common version though looks like this:
As you can see, another E is added one octave up. Thus this chord consists of E, B and another E (an octave up).
Open position power chords
An open position power chord is a power chord that contains an open string (the root). There are only three of them:
Off course you can also play a power chord with the root on the G-string, but it won't sound very powerful.
Movable power chords
The power chords that don't contain open strings are movable, just like barre chords (in fact regular barre chords start with these three notes and add three more on top of them). Movable powerchords look like this:
It is most common to play power chords with the root on the 5th or 6th string. These chord shapes can be moved anywhere on the neck. For example if you move the G5 chord a whole step (2 frets) up, it becomes an A5. If you move the C5 a half step down it becomes a B5 and so on. To really be able to make full use of power chords it is important to learn the notes on at least the 5th and 6th string. If you are going to play a certain chord, let's say Bb5, you need to know where to find the root (Bb) of that chord on the neck. To learn this see the lesson: The notes on the guitar.Now that you've learned how to play power chords it's time to play some songs using these types of chords. I will soon add a lesson with some power chord songs. Until then look for songs by Metallica, Nirvana, Green day, Iron maden, Black Sabbath etc.