Music Theory: Power Chords...
Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave



Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Intervals
Unison
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
Perfect 5th
Minor 6th
Major 6th
Minor 7th
Major 7th
Octave

 
Geeks Note: Power chords will bring together what we have learned about notes, scales and intervals. I'll also briefly touch on chord construction but only BRIEFLY. Thats another lesson or six on it's own. But for now, from Tony Iommi to Gene Simmons to BIllie Joe Armstrong.... everyones playing power chords!! Woo Hoo!! Hey, even Chuck Berry played power chords!

For this section I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you have your guitar in hand so that you can ROCK HARD while going through this lesson. Come on... crank the amp, turn up the overdrive ... lets kick it.....


Learning Objectives
By the end of this lesson, here is what you should have learned:
  1. Know what a power chord is.
  2. Know how to construct two note or three note Power Chords from the notes OR from finger positions.
  3. Understand what Octave Doubling is and why it works so well.
  4. Will understand how the intervals Perfect 4th and Perfect 5th are directly related to Power Chords.
  5. Know what an Inverted Power Chord is and how to create one.


As I said, Chuck Berry even played power chords. Only he didn't originally call them power chords. No, he called them 5ths or 5-Chords.

A power chord, by definition, is any triad (three note chord) that drops the 3rd (leaving only the 1st and the fifth).

This is where I BRIEFLY touch on chord construction. A typical chord is called a Triad because it is composed of the 1st note, 3rd note and 5th note of the Major Scale you are playing in.

For example, in the G Major Scale (G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G) you combine the notes G, B and D to create the G-Chord (aka the G Major Chord). However, to make a G Power Chord, you drop the third, the B. That means that the G Power Chord is composed of the Root plus 5th note of the major scale (incidentally, the 5th note of the Major Scale is a Perfect 5th above the Root).

These are ALSO called 5-Chords and the G Major Scale power chord would be written as: G5

So we can see that ANY chord written like this is a Power Chord. Some examples:
A5, B5, C5, D#5, Eb5, F5, G#5

When you are listening to a band play, especially if it's heavy and hard, it will typically be the Bass Player that comes in hard and heavy with the Power Chords. Not to say that Rhythm or Lead can't play them as well.

Showing Power Chords on the guitar




An example of EXCELLENT use of Power Chords is Tonny Iommi's (Black Sabbath) intro to "Crazy Train":

|-----------------|--------------------------|---------------------------|
|-----------------|--------------------------|---------------------------|
|-----------------|--------------------------|---------------------------|
|-----------------|--------------------------|---7---7-------------------|
|--4--4-----------|--7---7---2---2---4---4---|---5---5---2---2---4---4---|
|--2--2-----------|--5---5---0---0---2---2---|-----------0---0---2---2---|

  F#5 F#5           A5  A5  E5  E5  F#5  F#5     D5  D5  E5  E5  F#5 F#5



The Crazy Train Riff




Three Note Power Chords

You have undoubtedly seen Three Note Power Chords tabbed in some songs you have been learning to play. The reason we have a Three Note Power Chord is due to Octave Doubling.

When you play the Unison and the Octave, you have in effect, doubled the Unison (if you don't understand what I just said, you need to do the lesson on Intervals).

Now remember back in the lesson on Musical Notes, I talked about how humans perceive equivalent pitches when they are separated by a factor of two? This is where the magic of Music Theory comes in and we know that Octaving the Unison is a good thing. This is how we arrive at a Three Note Power Chord.

Just touching back on intervals a bit, the 5th note is, as said, a Perfect 5th above the Root. The third note is the Octave of the Root. However, the Octave of the root is ALSO the Perfect 4th of the 5th.

So what you say? This means that we know if you want to find the perfect 5th of any note on the E,A,D,B strings, you move down one string (towards the Low E) and down the Fretboard two frets (towards the body). Always.

The exception to this rule is the B string, because it is a half tone off the other strings. On the G string you would move down THREE frets. Going from the B to the E string would be back to the two Fret rule.

If you want to find a Perfect 4th it's always the SAME FRET - ONE STRING DOWN... except on the G String, it's one string down and ONE FRET down (because of the B string thing).

Inverted Power Chords - The Power of Perfect 4ths

Now you will learn why I've been harping on Perfect 4ths when I was talking about Five-Chords. The Power Chord Inversion.

Generally, you will only invert a two note Power Chord. How do you do that? Lift the lower finger.

The definition of an Inverted Power Chord is when you play the 1st note (Root Note) ABOVE the 5th note (play it in the next Octave).

An example of this would be the G5 Power Chord. In this chord you play E string 3rd fret (G) and A string 5th fret (D) because G is the first note of the G Major Scale and the D is the 5th note of the G Major Scale (the Perfect 5th).

However, to INVERT this Power Chord, you would play the A string 5th fret (D) and the D string 5th fret (G - an Octave higher). Remember too, that while D is the Perfect 5th of G, G is the Perfect 4th of D.

Using Inverted Power Chords

You'll be surprised how much you use Inverted Power Chords if Rock N' Roll is your thang. Take, for example, the song "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple.

Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore plays this songs recognizeable riff using Three Note Power Chords and Inverted Power Chords. The chords he plays are G5, Bb5 and C5. It is the Bb5 and the C5 that he inverts:

|----------------|---------------------|------------|-------------|
|----------------|---------------------|------------|-------------|
|------3---5-----|------3---6---5------|------3--5--|---3---------|
|--5---3---5-----|--5---3---6---5------|--5---3--5--|---3---5-----|
|--5-------------|--5------------------|--5---------|-------5-----|
|--3-------------|--3------------------|--3---------|-------3-----|

(If you are going to play this riff, remember, timing is EVERYTHING! - In the vide below, the timing is on but I'm playing it at about half speed.)





So my faithful Axe Grinder, that wraps up our lesson on Power Chords. Very easy to play, very easy to Fret and the possibilities of play are ENDLESS!

So turn off the computer, put the dog outside, pop a Pepsi, crank the amp and LET'S ROCK HARD!!!!!!











© Aaron Gallagher