How To Play Guitar Power Chords

Ever wondered how your guitar heroes sound SO huge when striking chords? This lesson will take you through the essentials in how to play guitar power chords!

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • 4 essential lessons that show you how to use guitar power chords.
  • How to play 24 chords off of one chord shape.
  • 3 must-know riffs which use guitar power chords.
  • The no.1 secret to turning open chords into guitar power chords.

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What are guitar power chords?

Guitar power chords are chords which use just two notes. They are used predominantly in rock and metal music due to there strong and powerful sound.

Other names for power chords?

Guitar power chords are often seen with a ‘5’ written after them, like this C5′ or ‘F5’. 

Whether it’s called a ‘C Power Chord’ or ‘C5’, they mean the exact same thing.

How do I play guitar power chords?

Guitar power chords use similar techniques as regular guitar chords.

For this part of the article, we’re going to use a C5 chord. Let’s learn how to play this chord:

c5-2

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

Guitar Power Chords – Use Your Finger Tips

Just like normal chords, make sure when you play guitar power chords that you use the tips of your fingers, NOT the flat fleshy part of your finger.

By doing this, you get a nice clear sound to your note.

One common problem that guitarists make is, that certain parts of the fingers will block other strings. This can often lead to chords sounding cluttered.

If you use the tips of your fingers, you will avoid this.

Here’s what your C guitar power chords should look like:

guitar power chords

Guitar Power Chords – Use The Correct Fingers

When playing power chords you must use the correct fingers.

Make sure that you use the:

  • 1st finger on the root note.

To learn more about root notes, go here: What Is The Root Note of A Chord?

  • The 3rd finger on the 5th note of the chord.

 

guitar power chords

This stretch may take a while, so make sure you take your time with this, don’t force it!  If you’re really struggling to reach with your third finger, you can use the fourth finger instead.

guitar power chords

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Guitar Power Chords – Muting The Strings

When you play power chords, you MUST mute the strings that you aren’t playing with the fleshy part of your first finger.

Like this:

guitar power chords

Imagine striking a huge power chord through a load of distortion, and then suddenly you get some open strings ringing out. It doesn’t sound great, especially if those ringing open notes aren’t in the right key.

To learn how to mute power chords, watch this video:

Iconic Riff #1 ‘All Day And All of The Night’ by The Kinks

This is a classic riff from 1960s rock band, ‘The Kinks’ and is a great example of how huge a guitar can sound with power chords.

This riff is heard at the start of the tune.

Not only is this riff fantastic to learn on guitar because it sounds great, it also gets your fingers flying around the fretboard.

Here’s the tab:

guitar power chords

Make sure when you play this riff that you take it slow! Moving guitar power chords around the fretboard can be tricky. Playing each chord with care will help you nail this riff in no time.

As this riff uses the main power chord shape, it’s just a matter of moving the shape to the right root note.

In this case, the chords you will be playing are F5,G5 and Bb5.

Iconic Riff #2 ‘All The Small Things’ by Blink 182

This pop punk hit from blink 182 is a fantastic example of how you can use guitar power chords to create definition and power in a song.

This riffs kicks in around 18 second mark. Check it out here:

This riff actually uses a similar concept to ‘All Day And All of The Night’ by The Kinks.

To change the riff, you simply move around a few root notes to get a different chord.

In this case, the root notes you will be targeting will be C, G and F. So this means that the guitar power chords are C5, G5 and F5!

Here’s the tab:

guitar power chords

Be careful when playing this riff, playing it consistently can be tough. Make sure each power chord sounds as powerful as the next.

Iconic Riff #3 ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin

This riff is one of our favourite, it sounds massive and is great fun to play.

Jimmy page starts this riff right at the beginning of the song and it sounds epic.


This riff is a little bit tricker than the previous riffs, as we have to switch between playing single notes and power chords.

Here’s the tab:

guitar power chords

Want to learn more iconic rock riffs? Check out 50 of the greatest guitar riffs of all time in this article by NME:50 Greatest Guitar Riffs Of All Time – NME

Learning Guitar Power Chord Shapes

Even though learning power chords can be a little tricky, once you have the technique down, it’s a breeze!

You will have noticed from playing those riffs that the beauty of power chords is that, once you’ve learnt one, you can transfer this shape all over the fretboard.

You just need to know where the root notes are on the E (6th string) and A string. (5th string.)

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