Guide into Guitar Power Chords

Guitar power chords are special types of chords that sound tight and powerful with the distorted guitar, where regular chords such as: major, minor, seventh and etc... create too much clutter.

Compare the A minor chord:
to the A power chord:

Power chords are mostly used in Metal, Trash, Alt-Rock and other heavy styles.

In a nutshell they only consist of the root note and the fifth. The root note is the base note that lays in the name of the chord.

For example in the C power chord the root note is the note of C.

In order to find the fifth, count from the root note five steps toward the top (counting the root note as well):

  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G

The G is the fifth.

Here is the location of the C power chord on the fretboard.

Playing the C power chord

If you don't know how to read guitar chord diagrams click here for an explanation.

In order to play the C power chord press the A string at the 3rd fret and the D string at the 5th fret with your fretting hand, and stroke these strings with your pick.

You can learn how to reduce the noise that is created when you accidentally touch the nearby string with the pick here.

In guitar song books power chords are written in a way consisting of the name of a chord's root note and a number 5 added to it; so the C power chord is indicated as C5, the A power chord as A5, etc.

Very often in order to create an even more powerful :) and massive sound, a 3rd note is added to a power chord, it's actually the same root note again but located one octave higher.

How to play C power chord on a guitar

I personally prefer to play this kind of power chords and found it more comfortable to press the lower root note with the index finger laying across the strings as if I would play a bar chord.

But you don't have to go after me, you might press the lower root note with your index finger in the normal way instead. You can press the fifth and the higher located second root note with the ring and the pinky finger accordingly.

Use this handy chart of guitar power chords to easily locate a chord in question on the fingerboard.

One more things about power chords is that they are neither major nor minor chords, and here is one interesting twist I found while practicing:

If you take any song or a part of a song that is played on an acoustic or clean electric guitar, for example let's take the VERSE of the Fade to Black song by Metallica, the actual chords for clean guitar are:

A minor → C major → G major → E minor   

Simply convert these chords into power ones without distinguishing between type of chord where:

  • A minor becomes A5
  • C major - C5
  • G major - G5
  • E minor - E5
guitar power chord progression with diagrams

And finally, play them with the distorted electric guitar, using any rhythmic pattern you feel fit, you have a heavy metal remix for the acoustic theme:

See Power Chord Chart

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This article was last updated on January 18, 2024