Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Power Chords…Part 2

In this lesson I pick up where I left off last time and look at all the other conceivable ways that power chords can be played on the guitar. I cover quite a lot of ground, and there's enough stuff here to keep you busy for a while. Certainly don't feel you have to take in all this information straight away, particularly if you haven't been playing for that long. 

4th, 3rd, and 2nd-string Root Shapes

These should be fairly easy to get to grips with if you've worked your way through the previous lesson. You just need to remember that the 3rd-string root shape is slightly different from the others beacause of the way the guitar is tuned. The note played with the first finger is the root, and the note that the chord is named after. I strongly recommend memorising the names of these root notes so you'll be able to use the chords quickly and effectivley in real playing situations. These aren't as ROCK sounding as the 5th and 6th string-root shapes, but they're still widely-used and worth knowing about. 

2 Note 5th-Root Shapes

Here the order of the notes is flipped over so the 5th is now the lowest note. So I guess these could be thought of as inversions of our standard power chord shapes. These are very widey used in rock and metal - just think Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple or I Don't Know by Ozzy Osbourne. Once again it's important to be aware of those root notes, and preferably have them memorised, so you're able to use the shapes effectively in songs.

More 5th In The Bass Shapes

Here are a few more useful shapes with the 5th as the lowest note. These have a massive, thick sound. I only demonstrate the first shape in the video, but the others are just the same chord moved across to the other string sets.

Open Power Chords

Power chords involving open strings are very common - just listen to almost any AC/DC song. There are many possible shapes and below I've written out the ones that I find the most useful. Unless you're careful with your muting these chords can quickly start to sound messy: focus your pick attack on the correct strings for each chord and use fretting hand muting to block any unwanted open strings. 

Open Power Chords.jpg

Drop D Power Chords

The beauty of playing power chords in a drop D tuning is that you can just use one finger to barre across the lowest two or three strings. For examples of this check out Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine, or Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana. Many metal bands take this approach further by tuning all the strings down even further so the 6th string becomes a low C or B.

Eric Johnson-Style Voicings

I came across these slightly unusual shapes a while ago whilst learning some Eric Johnson tunes, and they've since become some of my favourite ways of playing power chords. On the face of it they seem a bit pointless as you're playing exactly the same notes as a more standard power chord only in a more awkward to play fashion. But something magical does seem to happen when you move a couple of the notes over to different strings and the chord takes on a brighter more chiming quality. Check out the Eric tune Trademark for a good example of these kind of shapes in action.