Power Chords Explained in 5 Easy Steps
Power chords are often used in rock music, and are also known as fifth chords. They're called fifth chords because they're made from the root note and the fifth. They’re beefy, often crunchy and are super simple to play because it takes only three notes to make these types of guitar chords.
Here are 5 easy steps to learning and practicing these powerful chords. For the sake of this blog post, we will also include the root note octave.
1. There are only 3 Notes
This is an F power chord. Guitarists often play these types of chords with the root note on the low E string and the A string. For this example, we’ll use the low E string. With your 1st finger, hold down the root note, and then follow this with your 3rd and 4th finger to hold down the other two notes. This is an F power chord because the root note is on the first fret of the low E string.
If you want to look at these shapes a bit more, you'll also discover that these chords are also known as 5 chords. You can browse all the 5 chords you want in our chord charts section.
2. Power Chords are Moveable
If you take the above chord shape and move it to the 5th fret, it will become an A power chord, because the 5th fret of the low E string is an A note.
3. Power Chords Work on the 5th String, Too!
The same 3-note power chord shape can be used on the 5th string as well, or if you’re in standard tuning, the A string. All the same rules apply as before.
The fret that you’re holding with your 1st finger is the root note, which will determine the chord you’re playing. Take a look at this D power chord.
It’s a D power chord because the 1st finger is holding a D note on the 5th string.
4. Remember to Palm Mute
Now that you know how to hold the chord shape, it’s time to actually put it to some use.
In our Guitar Fundamentals course with Lisa McCormick, Lisa teaches you a riff you can put together using the chords we just learned. You can watch the entire lesson below.
Power chords can sound really great if you’re playing them correctly. When you’re strumming these types of chords, it’s important to palm mute so that the other strings don’t ring out, because if they do, your chord progression will end up sounding way too loud and garbled.
If you’re unfamiliar with palm muting, make sure to check out a lesson on the super helpful technique right here.
5. Practice with Songs
As you know, there are a ton of songs that use power chords. One of the best ways to practice any new guitar technique is to try it in a song. Luckily Guitar Tricks has over 1,000 song lessons to choose from.
A great song to learn for practicing this type of chord is “I Can’t Explain” by The Who. It’s one of the most iconic riffs in all of rock. Watch the video below and listen to what Instructor Mike Olekshy has to say about this one.