Instructor: Dwight H.
From big bands to rock ensembles, and even R&B groups, Dwight has played with them all. He's been teaching guitar for over 10 years. When teaching, he draws from his experience on stage, injecting the knowledge of what it takes to be a gigging musician into every lesson.

The 10 Best Electric Guitar Chords (Charts, Power Chords, & More)


Power Chords Jazz Chords Amp Basics Amp Configurations Electric Guitar Tips

It's time to talk about electric guitar chords. Now, if you're coming from an acoustic guitar background, you might be wondering, "are electric guitar chords significantly different?" The answer is no -- electric guitar chords are played using the same shapes you'd use on your acoustic guitar.

The difference, if you'd like to call it that, is that some chords sound much better on the electric guitar, particularly if you've turned up the distortion for the optimal blues or rock tone. With that in mind, which chords make full use of that beautiful electric guitar tone? How can set your amp to achieve those lovely rock and blues sounds?

We'll be covering all of that, and a little bit more in our lesson today. Keep reading, and you'll learn a few "must know" chords for electric guitars, how to become a master of your amplifier, and how to combine those skills to make your electric guitar playing more impactful than it's ever been before.

Electric Guitar: Power Chords Chart

Download the Power Chords Chart Printable PDF (as seen above)

Electric Guitar: Power Chords

The biggest difference you'll hear on the electric guitar comes with playing your power chords with a bit of distortion. As a quick refresher, these are your two-note chords that have neither major nor minor characteristics. Let's look at C Major as a quick example. Played normally, you'll usually employ this shape:

C Major Chord

C Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd string/1st fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/3rd fret
  • Play strings 1 and 3 open

C5 Chord

When you're playing a power chord, however, you'll use a simpler configuration to achieve your C5 power chord:

C5 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/3rd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 4th string/5th fret
  • (Optional) Place your 4th finger on the 3rd string/5th fret
  • Mute strings 1, 2, and 6 (mute string 3 as well if you aren't using it for your chord)

Hear the difference? On your electric guitar, your power chords will sound even more impressive, especially with the right tone. What's more, since this is a "moveable" chord shape, you can create other power chords using the same arrangement of fingers on different points on the guitar. Just remember that your 1st finger will always play the root note in these instances. We'll provide a few more examples of common open chords as power chords to illustrate the point.

G Major Chord

G Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 6th string/3rd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret
  • Place your 4th finger on the 1st string/3rd fret
  • Play strings 3 and 4 open

G5 Chord

G5 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 6th string/3rd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/5th fret
  • (Optional) Place your 4th finger on the 4th string/5th fret
  • Mute strings 1, 2, and 3 (mute string 4 as well if you aren't using it for your chord)

D Major Chord

D Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 3rd string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 1st string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret
  • Play the 4th string open
  • Mute strings 5 and 6

D5 Chord

D5 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/5th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 4th string/7th fret
  • (Optional) Place your 4th finger on the 3rd string/7th fret
  • Mute strings 1, 2, and 6 (mute string 3 as well if you aren't using it for your chord)

E Major Chord

E Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 3rd string/1st fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Play strings 1, 2, and 6 open

E5 Chord

E5 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
  • (Optional) Place your 4th finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Play string 6 open
  • Mute strings 1, 2, and 3 (mute string 4 as well if you aren't using it for your chord)

A Major Chord

A Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/2nd fret
  • Play strings 1 and 5 open
  • Mute string 6

A5 Chord

A5 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 6th string/5th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/7th fret
  • (Optional) Place your 4th finger on the 4th string/7th fret
  • Mute strings 1, 2, and 3 (mute string 4 as well if you aren't using it for your chord)

Experiment With Your Power Chords

Now that you understand how the power chord works, experiment with moving that shape around the fretboard and seeing which chords you can add to your memory banks. Additionally, practice switching from one power chord to another, or from open chords to various power chords to improve your ability to use these tools within the songs you're trying to master.

Electric Guitar: Jazz Chords

While your focus might be on playing intense power chords, don't forget that many jazz chords take on a unique personality when you play them through the clean channel on your amp. Here are a few standouts that exemplify that clean jazz tone, taken from popular jazz tunes of old.

G7b9 (Blue Bossa)

G7b9 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Use your first finger to bar the strings at the 4th fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/5th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/6th fret
  • Mute strings 5 and 6

Am7b5 (A Night in Tunisia)

Am7b5 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd string/4th fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/5th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd string/5th fret
  • Place your 4th finger on the 1st string/5th fret
  • Play string 5 open
  • Mute string 6

Eb7sus4 (Goodbye Pork Pie Hat)

Eb7sus4 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 4th string/1st fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd string/3rd fret
  • Place your 4th finger on the 1st string/4th fret
  • Mute strings 5 and 6

Am11 (500 Miles High)

Am11 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Use your 1st finger to bar the strings at the 3rd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd string/4th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 6th string/5th fret
  • Place your 4th finger on the 4th string/5th fret

Bb13 (This Masquerade)

Bb13 Electric Guitar Chord

  • Use your 1st finger to bar the strings at the 6th fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd string/7th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/8th fret
  • Place your 4th finger on the 1st string/8th fret

Jazz Chords Might Seem Intimidating…

But don't let that stop you from giving them a shot. Learning to play some of these jazz chords will open the door to brand new avenues of playing, and increase your understanding of the fretboard and relationships between notes. As long as you can follow along with the chord diagrams, you can learn these chords and understand how the those individual notes work within them. Once you've tried out some of these shapes, listen to the associated tunes and see if you can pick them out on your own.

Making the Most of Your Amp

Now it's time for an introduction on how to set your amp for maximum effect with different playing styles. The kind of amp you have will have significant influence here, and it's true not all amps provide the same level of control. There are some widespread commonalities that apply to most amps, however, and we'll try to cover those here. For reference, the settings in question are taken from a Fender FM212R Combo Amp.

Fender Electric Guitar Amp

Understanding the Buttons and Control Knobs

We'll need a grasp of what we're altering before making any adjustments to our sound. Here's a brief overview of what all those buttons and knobs do:

  • Channel Select -- This button determines whether you have the clean channel or distortion channel activated. With the channel set to distortion, you can use the "more drive" option to increase the effect for an even crazier sound.
  • Mid Contour -- This button "rounds out" your distorted sounds, removing midrange at specific frequencies and accentuating low-end for heavier rock-style playing.
  • Drive -- This knob allows you to control your distortion levels. The higher the number, the more distortion you'll hear.
  • Volume -- This knob will alter volume. The higher you go, the louder your sound.
  • Treble -- This knob will alter the top-end signal from your guitar. A higher number will provide increased definition, while a lower number will offer a softer tone.
  • Mid -- This knob controls your midrange signal. Turning this up will help you "cut through" the sounds of other instruments, and turning this down will provide a more "muted" sound for your instrument.
  • Bass -- This knob controls your low-end sound. More bass will make your guitar sound beefier. Less bass will help it sound light and crisp.
  • Reverb -- This knob controls reverberation, a depth of sound characterized by tightly-spaced echoes. If you want to add some fullness to your sound, turn the reverb up. If you want your guitar to sound flatter, keep the reverb low.

Now that we've got a grasp of how the controls work, let's apply this knowledge in achieving great tones for different styles of music.

Try These Settings for Great Tone

While it's true that you can broadly categorize electric guitar sounds as either "clean" or "dirty," there are a great many degrees to each, and the intensity with which you embrace them will supply you with different tones suited to different styles.

The "Clean Indie" Sound

If you're playing pop or indie music, try a clean tone that's crystal clear, like this...

  • Channel: Clean
  • Treble: 7
  • Mid: 5
  • Bass: 4
  • Reverb: 3

The "Cool Jazz" Feel

If you're playing swing, bebop, or similar jazz-stylings you might want to keep it clean, soft, and engage a bit of reverb…

  • Channel: Clean
  • Treble: 5
  • Mid: 4
  • Bass: 6
  • Reverb: 7

The "Good Old-Fashioned Blues"

If you're getting into the blues, it's best to start with a bit of distortion and plenty of clarity so you can hear each and every note…

  • Channel: Drive
  • Drive: 3
  • Treble: 7
  • Mid: 8
  • Bass: 5
  • Reverb: 4

The "Down and Dirty Blues"

This blues tone has a bit more grit, as evidenced by the increased drive and emphasis on the low-end...

  • Channel: Drive
  • Drive: 5
  • Treble: 6
  • Mid: 4
  • Bass: 8
  • Reverb: 4

The "Classic Rocker"

There are more than few similarities between rock and the blues, so it makes sense that a classic rock feel would be close to what we used for our dirty blues settings...

  • Channel: Drive
  • Drive: 9
  • Treble: 8
  • Mid: 4
  • Bass: 6
  • Reverb: 6

The "Psychedelic Trip"

You might want to add a few more effects to make it a true interdimensional voyage, but you can get the journey started on your amp by kicking up that reverb…

  • Channel: More Drive
  • Drive: 5
  • Treble: 8
  • Mid: 4
  • Bass: 4
  • Reverb: 10

The "Jazz-Rock-Funk Crusader"

To get a tone suitable for a blend of styles, try making use of that extra drive, but tempering it and making sure your notes come out clean and precise…

  • Channel: More Drive
  • Drive: 4
  • Treble: 8
  • Mid: 6
  • Bass: 3
  • Reverb: 6

The "Heavy Rock" Touch

If you want to "amp things up," so to speak, and make those power chords sing, go heavy with the distortion and crank up the bass a bit…

  • Channel: More Drive
  • Drive: 10
  • Treble: 7
  • Mid: 3
  • Bass: 7
  • Reverb: 5

Electric Guitar: Pro Tips

Here are a few extra pointers you'll want to keep in mind while you're exploring the complexities of the electric guitar:

  1. Your guitar tone will influence what chords sound best. By and large, your clean channel will favor open chords and your distorted channel will be great for power chords.
  2. There are exceptions to the rule, though, so experiment to see what sounds best in which situations.
  3. You can also set your tone to fit different genres of music. Get to know your amp, and find what settings you prefer.
  4. Recall that you can move your power chord shape around the fretboard to create different power chords. Your root will always be the note you cover with your 2nd finger.

And a final note -- picking up guitar skills takes time. Remember to practice regularly and keep working on progressing at your own pace!

Next Lesson:

Guitar Chords

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