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.

How to Play Guitar Power Chords


Definition How to play A5 G5 D5 C5 #1 C5 #2 C5 #3 C5 #4 E5

Guitarists need a lot of techniques for their proverbial toolbox. Few, though, are as important as the ever-useful power chord.

They are a staple of the rock genre. You'll find power chords featured front and center in more songs than you can probably name. Rock songs aren't the only place you'll find them, though.

Guitar Power Chords Chart

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

Jazz, rock, country, reggae -- you'll find power chords useful for every style of music. That is, if you learn how to use them to their greatest effect. We're getting ahead of ourselves, though. First, we'll need to define power chords and show you some of the basics.

What are Power Chords?

In essence, a power chord is a two note chord that is neither major nor minor. Savvy music theorists will note that this is because it only consists of the root and fifth notes of a given chord. Since the third is what determines if a chord is major or minor, power chords remain neutral.

On charts, you might see these written up as "5" chords: C5, A5, G5, etc.

There are plenty of ways to play them all. We'll start, though, by diving into the most common variation. Here's how it works...

Let's say you want to play a C power chord -- the C5 chord. You'd start by placing your first finger on the root note, "C." Head to the 5th string/3rd fret for this one. Now, we'll need our fifth, "G." You can find this on 4th string/5th fret. Play these two strings, and mute all the others.

Guitar Power Chords

Hear that? It's a C power chord at its most basic. As we mentioned earlier, it has the "C" sound, but doesn't swing major or minor. It will get the job done in situations that require a power chord, but try this next.

Keep your fingers in that original C5 position, but add your fourth finger to the 3rd string/5th fret. Hear the difference?

Your chord sounds stronger now, because you've taken the root note and doubled it. You can switch between these two styles of playing your C power chord, and even move this shape around the fretboard to form other power chords. Here's what we mean...

How to Play Guitar Power Chords

A5 Power Chord:

A5 Guitar Power Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 6th string/5th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/7th fret
  • Place your 4th finger on the 4th string/7th fret
  • Mute strings 1, 2, and 3

G5 Power Chord:

G5 Guitar Power Chord

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

D5 Power Chord:

D5 Guitar Power Chord

  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/5th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 4th string/7th fret
  • Place your 4th finger on the 3rd string/7th fret
  • Mute strings 1, 2, and 6

See how you can move that same basic shape to different locations to produce new power chords? That simplicity is part of the power chord's beauty, but it's not the only way you can choose to form such chords.

Remember, all you need is your root note and your fifth. With proper knowledge of the fretboard and note positions, a whole new world of combinations becomes open to you.

Let's go back to the C5 chord for example's sake...

C5 Power Chord -- Variation 1:

C5 Guitar Power Chord

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

C5 Power Chord -- Variation 2:

C5 Guitar Power Chord 2

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

C5 Power Chord -- Variation 3:

C5 Guitar Power Chord 3

  • Place your 1st finger on the 4th string/5th fret
  • Place your 4th finger on the 6th string/8th fret
  • Mute strings 1, 2, 3, and 5

C5 Power Chord -- Variation 4:

C5 Guitar Power Chord 4

  • Place your 1st finger on the 6th string/8th fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd string/8th fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 1st string/8th fret
  • Mute strings 3, 4, and 5

As you can see, these variations differ in their placement on the fretboard. The similarity, though, is the fact that they all contain but two notes: "C" and "G."

Once your knowledge of the fretboard increases, you'll be able to find combinations like this for different power chords in different areas all around your guitar.

E5 Power Chord

For the last of our power chords, we'll be sticking to two fingers. Come back to the top of the guitar neck for this one:

E5 Guitar Chord

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

Wrapping Up

Remember that power chords consist of two notes: the root and fifth.

You can play such chords with ease using the rudimentary fingering we covered at the beginning of this lesson.

With time, you'll discover new fingering patterns for all your power chords. Use these as the situation calls for, and you'll find your playing improve to a degree you might never have thought possible.

Next Lesson:

Easy Guitar Chords

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