A Beginner's Guide to Power Chords

Power chords are one of the easiest types of guitar chords to learn when you're starting out on the guitar. Technically, they're not actually true chords, because they don't have three distinct notes, using just the root note and the fifth, which means they're a diad rather than a chord. But let's keep it simple, shall we?

Because they're not full chords, power chords are able to stand in as replacements instead of either major or minor chords. This makes them very handy, especially for beginners who perhaps don't know some of those chords. Don't know how to play a C#m bar chord? Just play a power chord off the C# and you'll get by okay.

Video problems? Watch the lesson on Youtube

If you didn't catch it from the video, the basic pattern of a power chord is as follows. The examples below are of an A and a D power chord.

5 - 7 - 7 - X - X - X  (A)

or

X - 5 - 7 - 7 - X - X  (D)

Remember, make sure you don't play the strings marked by X. They're not part of the chord. Now, go have some fun with those power chords!

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54 Responses to “A Beginner's Guide to Power Chords”

  1. jacob November 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm #

    not to be criticising but i really need help doing leads and sweep picking could you maybe do a lesson on that.
    cheers,

    • Jonathan November 13, 2009 at 11:06 am #

      Sweep picking eh? Not really a beginner's topic =) but I'll add that to the list. Stay tuned!

  2. John Bradshaw November 25, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

    Thanks for the really cool lesson for this OLD newbie. I will try this next, and I have last weeks 48 lesson stored also, but it looks harder.

    Bro

    • Jonathan November 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

      Hi John - yep, power chords are definitely the easiest place to start.

      Cheers

  3. Lyn December 3, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    Hi Jonathan, as a begginer every bit of advice is a great help. Power chords give you a great place to have a blow out and actually play something, even more so if you have been trying hard on chord changes that seem easy to people with a bit more time under their belts eg G to C

    Thanks again,
    Lyn

    • jeff baird September 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

      Lyn, anything to C is tough! Lol. Wait til you try the F or B chords! Never give up!!! These videos are awesome, and are just the right speed. I play mostly country. You got something for the country style chords, ie, D, G, E, F, B, and C?

  4. Fellipe December 14, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Hey Jonathan, thank's for the lesson dude! I just don't now how to strum...I'm a very very beginner player. Would you give a lesson on power chords mixed with strumming? I want to play something! 🙂
    Thank's again!
    Fellipe

    • Jonathan December 14, 2009 at 11:32 am #

      Hey Fellipe, glad you liked it. Yeah, I'll add a power chords + strumming lesson to the list.

      In the meantime, check this one out Beginner Tips on Guitar Strumming

      You can use the concept I talk about on strumming, along with the power chords you just learned.

      Cheers

  5. JonBouye December 22, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    Thanks for the lesson, you rock. It's been awhile since I've played and I am using your lessons to refresh, as well as improve my technigue. Hey, I'm beginning to get the strength back in my fingers and put the callouses on again.

    L8r

  6. Nick January 1, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    Hi Jonathan, I am looking at your website cuz i'm interest by playing guitar so i've check, but i don't have one right now. I will have one only in 3-4 days . I don't know if it's gonna disturb or not in my learning (you know, to be at least a little bit in late). Thanks

    • Jonathan January 1, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

      Hi Nick, just come back once you've got your guitar - I'll still be here! =)

      Cheers

  7. Nick January 4, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    It's ok John, thank you! 😉

  8. BOB January 29, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    NEED TO GO SLOWER AND CLOSER WITH CAMERA ON FINGERS/FRETS THANKS HAVE A GREAT DAY BOB

  9. Kirk February 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Hi and thanks for all the help as i am a fairly new player know all my open chords but need keep practicing i guess thanks for all your help great job

  10. Christian Gray February 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    For some reason I am having a probelm opening your videos. Can you tell me what I can do to be able to see them?

    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

      Hi Christian, do you have flash installed? These videos are embedded from Youtube - are you able to view Youtube videos? Here's the video directly on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_teC5_U-q0

  11. Isla-joy February 27, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    I love how you make the guitar look soooo easy lol !!!! well ive only been playing since september and just discovered your vids and they are helping me ALOT!!!! So thanks alot i'll go get workin on those power chords lol !! 🙂

  12. Larry March 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    I don't think my vids are opening properly,is there something you can do to make them work? What I see here is really of very little use to me. Thank You. Larry Remaly

  13. Kevin March 28, 2010 at 1:08 am #

    Great I'm a novice this is the stuff I thought was possible but didnt know how - Thanks

  14. Gord April 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    Thanks Jonathan
    I had never heard of power chords before and I've always been a fan of cheating.This is the kind of stuff I need to learn.Right now I only know basic chords,a couple of scales and a couple of picking paterns not very well

  15. jim April 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    I just started getting your lessons, what your doing is great. i am at a point where I have learned the basic cords major and minor open and bar, most of the 7th cords and some scales i know the five different box shapes for the pentatonic, blues, and i am currently learning the diatonic major boxes, the things that i am trying to get the knowledge of are when your playing the bar cords what becomes the shapes when you want to play say a sus4, or other added notes are you just adding them from the major scale,I thought there might be some more moveable paturns I just dont like guessing is this something you can help with. all so if i am correct all scales minor moved up the neck 3 frets become major and vice versa. is this the right way of thinking please advise. I don't know if this will help anyone else but i have been playing for about 8 mounths now and the one thing that really helped progress me was working those fingers out i call it bar cord push up just to build callisis and strengh do all twelve frets everyday 10 times each, then i just ramble a box at a time on scales till i know them by heart, this build your strengh and knowledge at the same time.I hope i hit on some issues that more than just myself are having. any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Jonathan April 19, 2010 at 7:15 am #

      Hi Jim - if you move a minor scale up three frets, it will still be a minor scale, just three tones higher. However, if you move the root note of the minor scale up three frets, you will indeed find the root note for your relative major scale. At this point though, you need to play a different pattern (box) in order for that scale to be major. Have a look through the scales category on the site here, as I've done lessons on some of those and how they interact. Cheers.

  16. jim April 19, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    thanks for the info, the quickest response i have ever got, again i think what you are doing is great,

  17. Jeff April 22, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    Jonathan: Very disappointed in your power chord video. You made a mistake in the beginning with finger/fret location and didn't emphasize the correction. Your videos NEVER show closeups of finger/fret locations. Instead you just keep talking fast without the camera showing where fingers should beand on which frets.
    You assume veryone is an intermediate to advanced player.

    Please slow down a little and show and discuss finger/fret locations.

  18. Keith May 1, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

    That s was cool, give use More! I really like all of your lessons, some more scale patters would be nice.

  19. Jonathan May 3, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Hi Keith, I get into scales and patterns a lot more with my intermediate list (focuses more on soloing). The intermediate one is the second option on the signup form, instead of the first.

    Also, in the right column on this site, under 'Categories' you'll find a section for scales as well.

  20. Butch May 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    Hi Keith! This is super, I've yet to use power chords, didn't know about them,so I plan on using them when I get good at it.

  21. swamp May 31, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    GOOD GEAR JONO HELPS HEAPS NO BULLSHIT THANKS AGAIN IF YOU EVER THINKING OF COMING DOWN UNDER LOOK ME UP ITS A FREE ACOM I LIVE OUT IN THE REAL AUSSIE ROOS AND BLUES SWAMP

  22. Linda May 31, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    Just right. I like how clear the directions are.Good beginning lessons.

  23. tom June 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    john feels just right thanks

  24. roman June 26, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    hi could you please through a video aou there for guitar scale. how to connect the five patterns (caged) do i play string 6 as c pattern one tone up string 5 a pattern etc? please answwear thanks!
    thank you by the way for your videos. they are great!

  25. Jonathan Boettcher June 26, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    Hi Roman - I don't get into scales very much with my beginner's series, at least until later on, but if you sign up for the intermediate series you'll get a bunch of stuff like that.

  26. jim June 30, 2010 at 6:57 am #

    hey lessons are great i was hoping you could put a lesson out there on exspanding cord vocab, the e and a form bar cords are used alot major minor 7th , but to be able to play the sus ,9th, diminish etc, could really spice things up, any help would be great, thanks for all the lessons.

  27. suzi f August 24, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Hey Jonathan - This is just the type of lesson a beginner like me needs. I need to practice practice practice making swift chord progressions, and this simple chord set up is a good way to add to versatility.

    Suzi

  28. Sebastian October 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    Great lesson, i already knew wat power chords are.....i just never knew how to use em hehe i had to quit my guitar clases cause they were teaching BS (sorry) for 6 mo and wasn't really progressing, so thank you 😀 keep making vids.

  29. Justin November 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    Sounds nice and easy to play. I'll try that out, and it will probably sound nice since I have an electric with distortion amp. Thanks, Jonathan.
    And also, anybody who wants a generic Fender, my guitar is an SX RST. I'm happy with it.

  30. Terry January 24, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    Power chords are a great place to start however i am looking for a little more advanced instructions such as arpeggios and building chords. Thanks

    • Jonathan January 28, 2011 at 11:07 am #

      Hi Terry - checkout some of the other videos on the site, and you'll find those sorts of topics covered. Also my lesson at http://www.onefourfive.com covers building chords.

  31. Mike March 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Good teaching technique. I find a graphic or written explanation very helpful. Can't always see what the hands are doing in the video.

    Thanks for including:
    "If you didn’t catch it from the video, the basic pattern of a power chord is as follows. The examples below are of an A and a D power chord.

    5 -- 7 -- 7 -- X -- X -- X (A)

    or

    X -- 5 -- 7 -- 7 -- X -- X (D)

    Remember, make sure you don’t play the strings marked by X. They’re not part of the chord."

  32. cosmas April 16, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Thanks john , its ma first to visit here, Iam a bigener,Ihave been concentrating on basic open chords now these are more helpfull. John Iwanted to know the difference between bar chords and power chords

    thanks

    • Jonathan April 16, 2011 at 11:27 am #

      Hi Cosmas, power chords are not true chords... they only have two separate notes, the I and the V. A true chord must have 3 different notes in it... in the case of bar chords, you're using 5 or 6 strings. Power chords you're only supposed to play 2 or 3 strings at a time... not all of them.

  33. cosmas April 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Johnathan thaks so much for the reply, another confusion Ihave is about the chromatic and the pentatonic scales, Idont know how the pentatonic is formed and which one is the best to concentrate on?
    John do u have some DVDs about those theories of scales for soloing purposes and what is the best way to master the scales?
    thanks

    • Jonathan April 18, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      Don't worry about the chromatic scale for now... pentatonic is the place to start. Yes, I have some DVDs - I'd recommend grabbing both Unlocking I IV V and Guitar Scale Patterns, as really you need to understand chords before you can make full use of the scales... you can get them both together here at the best price: http://www.onefourfive.com/combo-package/

      Cheers

  34. Marty May 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Hi Johnathan, The lesson was just right, I'm nearing intermediate been playing or learning for almost 8 months now..but still want to learn some simple songs that I can incorporate strumming patterns into.

  35. Ray May 24, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    Hi Johnathan liked it , was able to demistrfy the power cords thanks.
    I have been playing around the guitar for just over a year,but to date only simple boring stumming, rest unable to maintain patten for more than afew bars

    Ray

  36. Rob September 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Hey there Johnathan...just a beginner here, talking days!great video series you have...having trouble with chords...I "thump" them..get the "buzz" sounds also...since I am 50, is it too late to learn, should I take up chess?Had some piano training as a young man...I try to keep the wrist down, trying to curve my fingers...any remedies?Kindly appreciated...Rob

    • Jonathan September 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

      Hi Rob, it might be worthwhile having your guitar checked by a technician - or look for tips on adjusting the action at http://www.GuitarSetupGuide.com

      That might help with buzz etc, though it could also be the way you're fingering the chords. I'd recommend practicing your chords super slowly (one string at a time) until you get a really clear sound, then gradually start strumming more normally from there.

  37. Eric Roberts October 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    It is interesting but a bit of a sidetrack for me. I am more interested in learning to play from scratch. I am 71 years old so things take a lot longer for me to learn.

  38. Ashton November 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    HEy, Thank you bro for doing all of this. I'm new to the guitar, and everywhere I've been looking for lessons has been super expensive. And many of the ones that are in my price range (well... Ill be honest, free. I don't have the means to get a job, nor the means to buy online) aren't really very helpful. But your teaching great bro, and thanks again!

  39. vivi January 26, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    Hey,your video was real gud.i was impressed u r a really gud teacher.Ive heard abut power chord before,but u explained what it is..so thx u..it have been a lot of help 😉

  40. brent January 26, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    I am not a beginner, but I really liked this lesson. I have had several teachers that just asked what song I wanted to learn and then spent most of the time figuring it out. So these tips are helpful to me because I need more tools to help me be a more well-rounded player. Thanks Jonathan.

  41. Rwothberdaniel May 2, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    wow,really interesting

  42. Therazor June 24, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    Pretty good for beginners which is where I'm at.   I've been doing power chords without using my pinky. That should help me sound a bit fuller.   A bit of advice for future videos is to have the fretboard directly  face the camera so that I wouldn't be seeing the frets at an angle.  It would make it easier to see your fingering on the neck. 

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