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Powerchords (5th Chords) – How to figure them out

Powerchords or 5th chords are chords that consist of the root note and the fifth.

Typically with distortion added they are a staple of rock and punk.

They can be ‘palm muted’, played solely with down strokes or thrashed.

The difference between a Power chord and other chords is the missing 3rd hence the name 5th chords.

The 3rd is the major or minor 3rd that gives the chord it’s distinctive flavour, without this the 5th chord is more about it’s ‘power’ and bass elements.

It’s also a lot of fun to play as it’s mobility as a chord gives the beginner something to get his or her teeth into.

There are two typical powerchords that you will see at the beginning, these being:

Guitar neck strings bottom E notes

powerchorde1

What are the notes on the 'A' string?

powerchord2

In the above pictures there are two chord boxes representing the ‘Power chord’ shapes.

Above each of these pictures is an image of the guitar neck with a string highlighted in red.

In both chords the Red circle indicates both the 1st finger and the ‘Root’ note of the chord.

The ‘Root’ note of the chord is achieved by placing the 1st finger on the relative string and then following the shape placing your fingers in the shape required.

The Green circle indicates the 3rd finger the Blue indicates the 4th (little) finger.

The Blue circle is the ‘octave’ in the chord and is not essential. In some cases it’s not needed and some guitarists simply play the chord without it.

The Green circle is the 5th Note that is referred to previously.

When playing these chords you only strum the strings you are holding down.

If you play everything you will not get the sound you are trying to achieve

So how do we put this together?

Let’s look at out first powerchord shape and it’s related ‘root’ string.

Guitar neck strings bottom E notes

powerchorde1

If you play the above shape at the 1st fret you will be playing F5 (F powerchord).

Taking that further:

Play the above shape on the,

3rd fret = G5

5th fret = A5

7th fret = B5

8th fret = C5

10th fret = D5

Using the 2nd powechord shape,

What are the notes on the 'A' string?

powerchord2

Play the above shape,

2nd fret = B5

3rd fret = C5

5th fret = D5

7th fret = E5

8th fret = F5

10th fret = G5

:::Additinal Info:::

There are two other shapes that must be seen.

These are the alternative ways of playing the A5 and E5 and are very common in rock music.

E5 powerchord:

e5-300x225

Red Circle indicates 1st finger Blue Circle indicates 2nd finger.

The Blue is not neccessary but in some instances will be used.

The ‘x’ indicates strings that are not to be played.

The root note of this chord is the open string which in this case is the bottom ‘E’ string.

A5 powerchord:

a5-300x225

Red Circle indicates 1st finger Blue Circle indicates 2nd finger.

The Blue is not neccessary but in some instances will be used.

The ‘x’ indicates strings that are not to be played.

The ‘x’ now shows that you should not play the bottom ‘E’

The root note of this chord is the open string which in this case is the ‘A’ string.

:::Imporant Info:::

You will need a good working knowledge of you strings to be able to better understand how these and other movable chords work.

:::Related Articles:::

Notes on the ‘E’ string

Notes on the ‘A’ string

Learning Barre Chords

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