Guitar Power Chords

Guitar power chords are also known as 5th (or just '5') chords, e.g. G5, Bb5, C5, etc. Many rock / metal guitar riffs are made up solely of power chords. Power chords are very simple to construct - all they consist of is the root, the fifth and the octave, and these notes are generally not repeated - power chords usually only use three strings. It is this simplicity which gives guitar power chords their powerful sound, and the lack of a third or any other potentially conflicting harmonic notes means that they sound great when played through an overdriven amp. Guitar power chords are often played with complex rhythmic and muting patterns - a technique which is a hallmark of thrash / extreme metal rhythm guitar playing.

Power Chord Guitar Diagrams

Most of the time, power chords are played as three-note, movable chord shapes, with the root notes (i.e. the 'C' in C5) on either the sixth (lowest), fifth or fourth guitar strings. The shapes below show the most commonly-used ways of playing power chords on guitar.

Guitar power chord
Guitar Power Chord - Root on sixth string

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Guitar Power Chords 2
Guitar Power Chord - Root on fifth string

Guitar Power Chords 3
Guitar Power Chord - Root on fourth string

Open Position Guitar Power Chords

The following shapes show how to play power chords in the open position.

Guitar Power Chords - E5
E5 Guitar Power Chord

A5 Guitar Power Chord
A5 Guitar Power Chord

Guitar Power Chord D5
D5 Guitar Power Chord

How To Use Guitar Power Chords

Once you are able to play the power chord shapes above (in particular the first three, movable, versions), experiment making up your own riffs with them. Using either of the frist three power chord shpaes, move it up and down the guitar neck and find chords that sound good when played in a sequence. For an authentic metal sound, experiment with muting the strings with the palm of your picking hand as you play, and only unmute quickly on occasional beats, creating interesting rhythms as well as melodies.

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Related pages:

Guitar Chords Chart

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