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!

Leave a Reply 54 comments

jacob - November 12, 2009 Reply

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

    Jonathan Boettcher - November 13, 2009 Reply

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

John Bradshaw - November 25, 2009 Reply

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 Boettcher - November 25, 2009 Reply

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

    Cheers

Lyn - December 3, 2009 Reply

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 Reply

    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?

Fellipe - December 14, 2009 Reply

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 Boettcher - December 14, 2009 Reply

    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

JonBouye - December 22, 2009 Reply

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

Nick - January 1, 2010 Reply

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 Boettcher - January 1, 2010 Reply

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

    Cheers

Nick - January 4, 2010 Reply

It’s ok John, thank you! 😉

BOB - January 29, 2010 Reply

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

Kirk - February 6, 2010 Reply

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

Christian Gray - February 25, 2010 Reply

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 Boettcher - February 25, 2010 Reply

    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

Isla-joy - February 27, 2010 Reply

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 !! 🙂

Larry - March 23, 2010 Reply

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

Kevin - March 28, 2010 Reply

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

Gord - April 6, 2010 Reply

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

jim - April 18, 2010 Reply

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 Boettcher - April 19, 2010 Reply

    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.

jim - April 19, 2010 Reply

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

Jeff - April 22, 2010 Reply

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.

Keith - May 1, 2010 Reply

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

Jonathan Boettcher - May 3, 2010 Reply

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.

Butch - May 13, 2010 Reply

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.

swamp - May 31, 2010 Reply

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

Linda - May 31, 2010 Reply

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

tom - June 25, 2010 Reply

john feels just right thanks

roman - June 26, 2010 Reply

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!

Jonathan Boettcher - June 26, 2010 Reply

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.

jim - June 30, 2010 Reply

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.

suzi f - August 24, 2010 Reply

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

Sebastian - October 21, 2010 Reply

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.

Justin - November 1, 2010 Reply

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.

Terry - January 24, 2011 Reply

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 Boettcher - January 28, 2011 Reply

    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.

Mike - March 20, 2011 Reply

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.”

cosmas - April 16, 2011 Reply

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 Boettcher - April 16, 2011 Reply

    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.

cosmas - April 17, 2011 Reply

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 Boettcher - April 18, 2011 Reply

    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

Marty - May 20, 2011 Reply

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.

Ray - May 24, 2011 Reply

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

Rob - September 7, 2011 Reply

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 Boettcher - September 7, 2011 Reply

    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.

Eric Roberts - October 19, 2011 Reply

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.

Ashton - November 29, 2011 Reply

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!

vivi - January 26, 2012 Reply

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 😉

brent - January 26, 2012 Reply

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.

Rwothberdaniel - May 2, 2012 Reply

wow,really interesting

Therazor - June 24, 2012 Reply

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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