Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (2024)

Power chords are one of the staples of rock music and one of the most important guitar chord types you need to have in your toolbox. They are importantto learn for a few reasons:

  1. They’re easy to play
  2. They’re used a TON in many popular songs and are very versatile
  3. They’ll help broadenyour repertoire of guitar sounds/styles

This post will walk you through step-by-step what a power chord is, how to play them and what songs you can learn to start practicing them.

What are Power Chords?

Whether you play an acoustic or electric guitar, you are going to come across power chords. A power chord (also known as the fifth chord) is basically a chord consisting of a root note and a fifth interval note.

If you don’t know what I mean by fifth interval, it is in reference to the fifth note in the major scale. For example, in C major, the notes areC(1) – D(2) – E(3) – F(4) – G(5) – A(6) – B(7) – C(8). The fifth note in that scale would be G.

Recommended Reading: Guitar Chords Chart

Additionally, some power chords also include a second root note, which is an octave higher. In the example above, this would correspond to the C note in the 8th position(this isoptional). Therefore a guitar power chord can be played with 2 or 3 fingers.

The interesting thing about power chords is that they don’t have a major or minor quality them, unlike their full-version counterparts (the barre chord). This is because they lack the presence of the third note in the scale which gives a chord its major or minor quality. Power chords are technically not chords but dyads as they consist of only 2 notes.

As power chords use only the root note and the fifth note, they may also be identified by adding the number 5 to the root note. For example,a C power chord may also be called C5. Similarly, a G power chord may be referred to as G5.

Barre Chords vs Power Chords

You may have heard of the term barre chord before but weren’t really sure what the difference was in comparison to a power chord. A barre chord is a type of chord which makes use of the index finger to press down on all six guitar strings at once, forming in essence, a bar across the fretboard.

A power chord on the other hand, is actually just a fragment of a barre chord, however, is much easier to play. Although power chords are easier to play, barre chords offer more harmonic tone quality.

Note: It is dependent upon the sound you are looking to achieve which will determine whether you want to use barre chords vs power chords.

As previously mentioned, a power chord consists of two notes, maximum. The image below shows an example of an A5 power chord (fingers 1 and 4 are playing the same notes, just in different octaves)

An A barre chord, on the other hand, uses your index finger to barre all the stringson the fifth fret, along with other finger placements depending upon whether you wish to play an Amajor or minor.

As you play each individual chord separately you can really hear the difference in harmonic quality between them. While barre chords offer a more dynamic combination of notes, power chords offer a more muddy, raw sound.

Here are a few exercises you can play through to listen to the sound that a few power chords generate along with their major barre chord counterparts.

Power Chords

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (3)

Barre Chords

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (4)

Power Chord Examples

Knowing the positioning of a few basic power chords will allow you to not only learn a bunch of new songs but also create new music. The finger positionings for all power chords are more or less the same. One of the major differences in power chord positioning is deciding whether you want to play the chord with 2 or 3 fingers.

I personally prefer playing power chords with 3 fingers as I think it sounds slightly more full. However, if you’re just starting out with power chords I would recommend sticking to using 2 fingers for the time being. This will allow you to change your power chord positions faster and with greater ease. Once you become more comfortable with power chords, you can then move on to using 3 fingers.

The following section will go through how and where to play power chords for each of the natural notes. Remember power chords are moveable and you can play them on any fret (they are most often used on the 6th and 5th strings).

Just learn your guitar fretboard and you’ll easily be able to find any note for which you want to play a power chord over. Each power chord sub-section below will show you where to play the chord using the 6th string (low E) as well as the 5th string (A).

I am going to be showing you how to play each power chord using 3 fingers, however, if you want to start off playing them with only two fingers, simply exclude the note which is an octave higher from each chord position.

A Power Chord

The first way to play the A power chord is to start with the root note on the 6th string (low E string). To do this, place your first finger on the 5th fret of the low E string. Then, place your 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the A string.

Strum these 2 notes and you will be playing the A power chord. If you would like to include the additional A note which is an octave higher than the lowest root, simply use your 4th finger to play the 7th fret on the D string.

Additionally, to play the A power chord starting from the 5th string, place your first finger on the 2nd fret of the D string and play this note in combination with an open A string. You can include the A note which is an octave higher located on the second fret of the G string.

The following shows what the A power chord should look like when played with 3 fingers starting from the 6th string. I also include an A power chord diagram and an audio file so you have some reference to what it should look/sound like.

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (5)
Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (6)

B Power Chord

Next up is the B power chord. Again, the first way to play the B power chord is starting with the root note on the 6th string. Place your first finger on the 7th fret of the low E string. Then, place your 3rd finger on the 9th fret of the A string. To include the additional B note which is an octave higher, use your 4th finger to play the 9th fret on the D string.

Additionally, to play the B power chord starting from the 5th string, place your first finger on the 2nd fret of the A string and your third finger on the 4th fret of the D string. To include the B note which is an octave higher in this position, press down on the 4th fret of the G string with your 4th finger.

Same as above, the following shows what the B power chord should look/sound like when played with 3 fingers starting from the 6th string.

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (7)
Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (8)

C Power Chord

To play the C power chord place your first finger on the 8th fret of the low E string. Then, place your 3rd finger on the 10th fret of the A string. If you would like to include the additional C note which is an octave higher, use your 4th finger to play the 10th fret on the D string.

Additionally, to play the C power chord starting from the 5th string, place your first finger on the 3rd fret of the A string and your third finger on the 5th fret of the D string. Also, to include the C note which is an octave higher in this position, press down on the 5th fret of the G string with your 4th finger.

Check out what the C power chord should look/sound like when played with 3 fingers starting from the 6th string.

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (9)
Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (10)

D Power Chord

Now on to the D power chord. Place your first finger on the 10th fret of the low E string. Then, place your 3rd finger on the 12th fret of the A string. To include the D note which is an octave higher, place your 4th finger on the 12th fret on the D string.

Additionally, to play the D power chord starting from the 5th string, place your first finger on the 5th fret of the A string and your third finger on the 7th fret of the D string. Also, to include the D note an octave higher, press down on the 7th fret of the G string with your 4th finger.

Check out what the D power chord should look/sound like when played with 3 fingers starting from the 6th string.

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (11)
Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (12)

E Power Chord

To play the E power chord, place your first finger on the 2nd fret of the A string and play this note in combination with an open low E string. If you would like to include the additional E note an octave higher, use your 2nd finger to play the 2nd fret on the D string.

Additionally, to play the E power chord starting from the 5th string, place your first finger on the 7th fret of the A string and your third finger on the 9th fret of the D string. To include the additional E note, press down on the 9th fret of the G string with your 4th finger.

Check out what the E power chord should look/sound like when played with 3 fingers starting from the 6th string.

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (13)
Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (14)

F Power Chord

To play the F power chord you’ll want to place your first finger on the 1st fret of the low E string. Then, place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the A string. To include the additional F note an octave higher, use your 4th finger to play the 3rd fret on the D string.

To play the F power chord starting from the 5th string, place your first finger on the 8th fret of the A string and your third finger on the 10th fret of the D string. Also, to include the F note which is an octave higher in this position, press down on the 10th fret of the G string with your 4th finger.

Check out what the F power chord should look/sound like when played with 3 fingers starting from the 6th string.

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (15)
Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (16)

G Power Chord

Lastly, to play the G power chord, place your first finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string. Then, place your 3rd finger on the 5th fret of the A string. To include the additional G note which is an octave higher, press down with your 4th finger to play the 5th fret on the D string.

To play the G power chord starting from the 5th string, place your first finger on the 10th fret of the A string and your third finger on the 12th fret of the D string. To include the G note which is an octave higher in this position, press down on the 12th fret of the G string with your 4th finger.

Check out what the G power chord should look/sound like when played with 3 fingers starting from the 6th string.

Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (17)
Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (18)

Power Chords Chart

The following power chords chart will show the finger positions for each power chord mentioned above.

This will give you a quick and easy way to check where to play each power chord starting from either the 6th or 5th string. Most diagrams show how power chords are played using 3 fingers however if you do not want to play the chord with 3 fingers remember to just exclude the root note which is an octave higher.

Easy Power Chord Songs to Practice

Now that you know what a power chord is and how to play them, let’s take a look at a few easy power chord songs you can practice.

There are a ton of popular hit songs that either partly or solely use power chords.

Read Next: 27 Easy Rock Guitar Songs

Many of these songs fall into the rock/metal genre,however, power chords are certainly not exclusive to these genres. Other styles such as reggae, blues, country, etc also make use of power chords.

The following is a list of easy power chord songs you can learn to practice your power chord positioning and placement changes. For every song below I’ve included a link to both the Ultimate Guitar Tab as well as the Guitar Pro tab download page which you can use in combination with Guitar Pro.

P.S. Check out my complete list of 50+ easy guitar songs for other awesome guitar song suggestions.

Final Thoughts

That’s about it for power chords. A fairly simple concept and once you know how to play them, they open a huge range of possibilities. Here are a few last additional tips for playing power chords I’ll leave you with.

  • Only strum the strings you’re fretting – In most power chords there are no open strings. Therefore, practice only strumming the strings that you’re pressing down. Additionally, you can try muting the remaining strings with your index finger if required.
  • Place your 3rd and 4th fingers two frets apart from the root note – By now you’ve probably noticed the pattern for which power chords are formed. From the position of your index finger (i.e. the root note) place your third finger on the string below, 2 frets up. Additionally, if you want to play the power chord with 3 fingers, place your fourth fingeron the next string below but at the same fret position as your third finger.
  • Adding variations to your power chords –You can move your 4th finger (pinky finger) around when playing power chords. This is often used in blues songs, however, is also used in many rock songs as well. For example, Taking Care of Business uses the 4th finger to play the notes which are two frets higher from the position of the third finger (on the same string). Play around withdifferent positioning for your 4th finger to give some extra flair to your power chords.
  • The root note refers to the name of the power chord – Lastly, if you haven’t already noticed, the root note of the power chord is used to name the power. Remember this. So for instance, if you’re playing a power chord starting on the 3rd fret of the low E string, this note corresponds to the G note. Therefore the power chord would be called G Power Chord or G5. If you are still learning the notes on the guitar fretboard I would highly recommend you take a complete read through our learning the guitar fretboard post.
Power Chords Explained - Charts, Examples, & All You Need to Know (2024)

FAQs

How do you work out power chords? ›

The root note gives the name of the power chord. To create a power chord you need to play the root note, the fifth, and the root note one octave higher. Let's take an example with the C note, we get C + G + C (The second C is one octave higher).

What are the basics of power chords? ›

A power chord is a simplified version of a full chord, using only two notes: the root note and the fifth note from the corresponding scale. They don't have a major or minor quality to them, making them super versatile and a favorite in rock and metal music.

What is an example of a power chord? ›

For example, a C power chord would comprise the notes C, G and then C an octave above. Note that power chords are neither major or minor—since they don't contain the all-important minor or major third interval which is what gives a chord a major or minor quality.

What does 5 mean in power chords? ›

The number 5 is used to indicate a power chord because the chord contains the 1st (root) and 5th notes of a major scale. When written, the chord will have the number 5 next to the root note: To find a power chord, you'll need to know the notes of the scale it belongs to.

How do you work out chords? ›

The scale determines which chords are in the key, and you can determine which chords are in the scale by making triads of the notes. In other words, for every note in the scale, add the third and fifth notes after it, and you will have your chords.

What is the easiest tuning for power chords? ›

Drop D tuning is the most common alternate guitar tuning, largely because it is so easy to tune to! The only string that changes from standard is the low E string, which is tuned down one whole step to D. Drop D is well known for its low, punchy sound and its very convenient one-finger power chord shape.

Should a beginner learn power chords? ›

Power chords are a great way to create musical riffs without playing for years. So it's advantageous for beginners to learn all the notes on the 6th string, and 5th.

What is the theory of power chords? ›

Power Chords work perfectly on the guitar, especially in Rock, Metal, Blues, or even Pop. Technically, it consists of the root tone and the perfect 5th above. So, the critical part is that it doesn't bring in scale tone 3 (or -3), and for that reason, it creates a very open and transparent sound.

What is the symbol for a power chord? ›

Power chords are most commonly notated 5 or (no 3). For example, "C5" or "C(no 3)" refer to playing the root (C) and fifth (G).

What is the chord power rule? ›

Chord-Chord Power Theorem: If two chords intersect in a circle, then the products of the lengths of the chord segments are equal.

What is the happy power chord? ›

I – IV – V

To create happy chord progressions, you can simply use the I, IV, and V chords (or 1-4-5). Each one of these chords is a major chord, and they work together in any order to create a happy sound. You can also add energy or enthusiasm to the progression by varying the rhythm.

Are power chords 2 or 3 notes? ›

They are most commonly associated with rock based styles of playing such as punk, metal and rock, but they appear in pretty much everything you can imagine. A power chord is a simple chord that can be played with 2 or 3 notes.

How do you convert chords to power chords? ›

Steps
  1. Memorize the notes on the top two strings. ...
  2. Place your index finger on your root note. ...
  3. Fret the note one string down, two frets over with your ring finger. ...
  4. Add an octave of the root note for a fuller, richer chord. ...
  5. Only strum the strings you've fretted.

How many steps is A power chord? ›

Although a power chord consists of only two different notes that are always five steps apart, such as A–E or C–G, the actual chord that you play may involve more than two strings, because you may be doubling each of the notes that make up the power chord.

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