Guitar Power Chords
Learning Guitar Power Chords is not that hard. With some basic free information and some power chord charts you can pick it up easily. Power chords go along with palm muting as you don’t want all the strings to ring out.
In guitar music, a power chord (also a fifth chord) is a chord that consists of the root note and the fifth. Power chords are commonly played on amplified guitars with distortion.
History of Power Chords
Power chords go back to 1950 commercial recordings. Electric blues guitarists Willie Johnson and Pat Hare, both of whom played for Sun Records in the early 1950s, are the originators of the power chord, as evidenced by Johnson’s playing on Howlin’ Wolf’s
“How Many More Years”(1951) and Hare’s playing on James Cotton’s “Cotton Crop Blues” (1954).
Link Wray is often cited as the first mainstream rock and roll musidisn to have used power chords, with “Rumble” (1958)
A later hit song by the Kinks “You really Got Me” (1964). This song exhibited fast power chord changes and is the first one that I remember.
The Who’s Pete Townshend performed power chords with a theatrical windmill-strum.
in “My Generation” and other numbers. Examples of the use of power chords are in Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”. On King Crimson’s Red album, Robert Fripp
thrashed with power chords.
In a triadic context chord with omitted thirds may be considered “indeterminate” triads.
Theorists are divided on whether a power chord can be considered a chord in the traditional sense, with some requiring a “chord” to contain a minimum of three degrees of the scale. When the same interval is found in traditional and classical music, it would not usually be called a “chord”, and may be called a dvad (separated by an interval). It is, However, accepted as a pop and rock music term, associated with overdriven electric guitar styles of hard rock, heavy metal, and punk rock. The use of the term “power chord” has, moved into the vocabulary of other instrumentalists, such as keyboard and synthesizer players.
Technical Aspects of Power Chords ” Learning Guitar Power Chords”
When two or more notes are played through a distortion process the audio signal is transformed, additionally, there are differences generated in the frequencies of the harmonics of those notes.
When a typical major or minor chord containing such intervals is played through distortion, the number of different frequencies generated, and the complex ratios between them can make for a messy and indistinct sound.
In a power chord, the ratio between the frequencies is very close. When played through distortion, the intermodulation leads to the production of partials closely related in frequency to the harmonics of the original two notes, producing a more coherent sound.
The intermodulation makes the spectrum of sound expand in both directions. With enough distortion, a new fundamental frequency component appears an octave lower
root note of the chord played without distortion, giving a richer, more bassy and more “powerful” sound than the undistorted signal.
Even when played without distortion, the simple ratios between the harmonics in the notes of a power chord can give a stark and powerful sound, owing to the resultant tone effect.
Power chords have the added advantage of being relatively easy to play and allow fast chord changes and easy incorporation into melodies and riffs.
Guitar Power Chord Chart
G5 A5 D5 E5 G5 A5 D5 A5
The Root Notes
If you take the 6th string which is the “E” string and go ½ step or 1 fret up you have an “F” note. Now if you go a whole step or 2 more frets you have a “G” note. With your index finger on the “G” this is the root note and so forth up the neck. On the 5th or “A”
string, 2 more frets (5th) up it becomes the “D” note or the 5 to the root “G” which is 1.
The 4th string, which is the “D” string becomes a “G” note 1 octave up from the root “G”. This is a “G” power chord. When you move the root up 2 frets it becomes an “A” power chord. Just remember that all the notes are a whole step except between “E” and “F” and between “B” and “C”.
It is good to learn all the notes on your fingerboard and there are systems to help do this. Learning all of 1 note and then the next note is a way that is taught to learn notes.
At the very least and at first learn the root notes. This will help you identify what will work in a “key” that you are playing in. It is well worth taking some time to learn this.
Finger Placement of Power Chords
The most common fingering is 1-5-1. The root note, a note a fifth above the root note and a note an octave above the root note. (Sometimes just the 1 and 5 are played).
When the guitar is in standard tuning the root would be the note played on the 6th string and the other two notes would be two frets up on the fifth and fourth strings.If the note on the fourth string is not used it and other open strings must be muted.
Muting the open strings
If you play with low action muting is more difficult but must be done. This is done with the heel of your picking hand or using your fingering hand to lightly touch the open strings.
Often times power chords are played with only down strokes. This would make palm muting easier. Many songs call for up and down strums and it is very important to get your muting sorted out from the beginning. Power chords enable quick rhythm.
Here is a lesson on power chords by my good friend Gin.