The most important chord for any rock guitarist

Man plays a power chord on guitar

There are so many awesome things you get to do when playing rock guitar. Lead parts, a ton of distortion and you can basically put a pick slide in anywhere you want. What’s not to like? There is also one thing that most rock songs have in common: the Power Chord!

Even if you have never heard of a power chord before, you’ve definitely heard them!

From punk-pop to metal, power chords are the backbone of rock music. It would be impossible to even try and list the number of bands in the world of rock that use a ton of power chords to create their songs.

Power chords on the A and E Strings

This shows the 2 finger power chord shape.
Power chord on A and E 3 fingers
A bigger version of the power chord shape is to use 3 fingers. You can chose to play either the 2 finger or 3 finger versions of these chords as they are interchangeable.

Power chords, also known as 5ths (as they only consist of a root note and a 5th) aren’t major or minor chords, so you don’t get the same quality as you do with triads (chords with 3 different notes in them).

They are just chunky, powerful sounding chords which work well with distortion. Furthermore, power chords give you the ability to make both chord sequences and melodies (often known as a riff).

Power chords that are rooted (first finger playing the lowest sounding note) on the A and E strings are all the same shape; this makes moving them around easier than many other chord changes.

In this example, we are moving the same shape down the strings. Notice that the last chord has an open string at the bottom. This is because your first finger has ‘fallen off’ the fretboard and it would be the same shape.

Power chord tab on the A and E String

Now we can see that we can move this shape from the low E string to the A string too:

Guitar tab showing power chord shapes on the E string

Once you are used to moving this shape across the strings and up and down the fretboard, you can spice them up by adding rhythm and different techniques.

Moving the power chord around the guitar

When you move power chords, keep your hand in the same shape as much as possible. If the power chord is on the same string, keep your first finger in contact with the string rather than moving it away.

When you move the power chord to another string, you want to move the entire chord shape together and put it all back down together. Don’t get into the habit of ‘stepping’ your fingers across the strings one at a time. It will feel more difficult at first but be persistent, you will be able to move the chords much faster with a bit of practice.