Everything You NEED To Know About Power Chords + Power Chords Chart

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 important to 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 broaden your 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. In a guitar, especially electric guitar, power chords are vital. A power chord (also known as the fifth chord) is basically a chord consisting of a root note and the 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 are C(1) – D(2) – E(3) – F(4) – G(5) – A(6) – B(7) – C(8). The fifth note in that scale would be G. Consider reading through what is a guitar chord for more information about how a guitar chord is made.

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 is optional). 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 their 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. It is dependant 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)

a power chord

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

a major and minor barre chords

As you play each individual chord separately you can really hear the difference in harmonic quality between each. 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

e------------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
B------------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
G------------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
D------------------|-----------------|--7---7---7---7--|--3---3---3---3--|
A---9---9---9---9--|--5---5---5---5--|--5---5---5---5--|--1---1---1---1--|
E---7---7---7---7--|--3---3---3---3--|-----------------|-----------------|

Barre Chords

e---7---7---7---7--|--3---3---3---3--|--5---5---5---5--|--1---1---1---1--|
B---7---7---7---7--|--3---3---3---3--|--7---7---7---7--|--3---3---3---3--|
G---8---8---8---8--|--4---4---4---4--|--7---7---7---7--|--3---3---3---3--|
D---9---9---9---9--|--5---5---5---5--|--7---7---7---7--|--3---3---3---3--|
A---9---9---9---9--|--5---5---5---5--|--5---5---5---5--|--1---1---1---1--|
E---7---7---7---7--|--3---3---3---3--|-----------------|-----------------|

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 starting 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 audio file so you have some reference to what it should look / sound like.

a power chord
a power chord position

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.

b power chord
b power chord position

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.

c power chord
c power chord position

D Power Chord

Now on to the D 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.

d power chord
d power chord position

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.

e power chord
e power chord position

F Power Chord

To play the F power chord you’ll want 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.

f power chord
f power chord position

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.

g power chord
g power chord position

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.

power chords chart

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 which either partly or solely use power chords. Many of these songs fall into the rock / metal genre, however, power chords 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 Tux Guitar or Guitar Pro .

Additional Tips for Playing Power Chords

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 – With power chords, you’ll want to only strum the notes that 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 finger on 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 (tabs above) 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 with different 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.

If you have any questions about this power chords topic, let me know in the comments section below and I will be happy to answer them.

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