Tech Tip:What Are Power Chords?

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Gary Henderson; Orange, CT

Q: I'm a beginner guitarist and love Metal music, I listen to all the new bands and want to play in a band soon. I have been reading that power chords are used in a lot of Metal music but I don't know what they are. I know bar chords and the open form chords already. Can you help me?


A: Yes, sometimes you hear terms used in music that make you think that you don't have a clue when most of the time you do. Power chords are just small versions of the bar chords that you already know. They're called power chords because they contain the root and 5th of the chord which create the most powerful tone. These are also referred to as "root 5 chords," so don't let that term confuse you either.


I'll give you an example of two of the most-used power chords. Play the full F bar chord in the first fret; if you just play the bottom three strings, that is a power chord. Finger the chord with only your 1st and 3rd fingers barring your 3rd finger to hold down the two notes in the third fret. The other power chord that is very popular is formed from the Bb bar chord in the first fret. For this power chord, hold your 1st finger down on the 5th string first fret and bar your 3rd finger down on the 4th and 3rd strings on the third fret.


Power chords are easy to move around the neck in fast progressions and are used by most Metal bands so you should get familiar with them.