9 power chord songs that are ridiculously fun to play

Power chord songs bring the fun in a big way! Here’s a roundup of some of our all-time favourites. (Yes, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is here. You better believe it.)

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In this free guide you will learn:

  • 9 power chord songs you can play today
  • Chords, tabs & tips so you can have fun right now
  • Tips on how to channel your internal Guitar God

Power Chord Songs Pack a Serious Punch

Power chords are a great addition to any guitar chord arsenal, and they sound great.

These chords have gotten plenty of stage time with every Rock, Punk and Metal band imaginable, but those aren’t the only genres that they’re good for!

  • With a thick and confident tone, power chords provide a stripped-back version of chords that we may already be familiar to us.
  • Today we’re going to look at a variety of different tracks that can be played using power chords on the E and A strings of the guitar.

Let’s start by breaking down what a power chord is and how we can play it.

power-chord-songs

What Is A Power Chord?

A power chord is a stripped back version of a regular major or minor chord. 

  • The interesting thing about power chord songs is that their chords are neither major nor minor.
  • These are what we call ‘neutral chords’ – Let’s quickly dive into that concept in the key of C major.

Notes in C Major:

  1. C
  2. D
  3. E
  4. F
  5. G
  6. A
  7. B

Major and minor chords are composed of three notes – The first, third and fifth degrees of the major scale.

It is the third of the chord that defines whether a chord is major or minor.

power-chord-songs

  • If the third note is natural (E), the chord will be major.
  • If the third note is flat (Eb), the chord will be minor.
  • The I and V notes (C and G) of these major and minor chords remain the same and form a power chord.

When we remove the third note, we create a neutral chord with no major or minor component.

The cool part about this is that power chords can essentially replace either chord in the context of a song.

power-chord-songs

We typically play these chords with our index finger on the lowest string, and our ring and pinky on the two strings that follow. This helps our hand stretch out nicely without strain or discomfort.

  • The pinky finger plays the same note as the index, so it isn’t always necessary to use.
  • In today’s lesson, we’re going to learn power chords in their natural habitat (Rock and Punk music).
  • We are also going to use them in place of major and minor chords in some well known pop tunes.

Tune up, grab your pick and flex those pinky fingers – we’re going to have some fun with this one.

power-chord-songs

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Power Chord Songs #1: Foster The People – ‘Pumped Up Kicks’

Foster the People jumped on the scene with this radio-pop smash hit in 2010, and it didn’t take long before they had all their listeners singing along.

  • Pumped Up Kicks is a primarily bass-driven song, but we can easily add this to our library of power chord songs by mimicking the notes from the bass on our guitar.
  • This song is laid back and punchy, so when we’re learning the rhythm it’s important to listen for the “push” on beat #1 of every bar.

Try counting “1-2-3-4” while you jam along. Let’s look at the chords:

power-chord-songs

Although this song does feature some guitar, what we want to focus on is playing the chords that outline the song itself.

The guitar in this song adds shine to the chord progression, while the bass is what drives it.

Skill Tip: A great thing to practice in power chord songs like this is singing along with your guitar. Singing the lyrics is not only a great way to practice our coordination, but it helps us train our ears for better pitch.

power-chord-songs

Power Chord Songs #2: Sublime – ‘What I Got’

Sublime’s reggae-rock tune “What I Got” spent three weeks in the #1 spot on Billboard in 1996.

  • It lived on on the Billboard charts in various spots for another 24 weeks before it was dethroned.
  • What I Got set the stage for Sublime’s rise to success.

All with only two chords – D and G. Check it out:

power-chord

We can rock back and forth on these two chords with ease.

  • The D is played from the 5th fret on the A string, and the G from the 3rd fret of the E string.
  • We want to aim for a long-long-short-short strumming pattern when playing this power chord song.

Skill Tip: Sublime is a band that is heavily influenced by the sounds of early reggae music. Reggae is meant to be playing slow, and relaxed. Take the time to get these power chords under your fingers, then lay back and jam along at a cozy pace.

easy-power-chord

Power Chord Songs #3: Rick Springfield – ‘Jessie’s Girl’

In 1981, Rick Springfield released a song about being in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, and how he wishes he could be with her.

Not cool, Rick Springfield.

  • Thankfully Jessie’s Girl is a super-catchy power chord song, so we’ll give him a few points there.
  • Playing softly through the verses and digging in with our pick in the chorus will help us nail this tune.

This song introduces a bit more movement to our library of power chord songs.

beginner-power-chord

Skill Tip: We want to focus on keeping a firm grip on these chords as we move around the fretboard.

When we play power chord songs that move around the fretboard, our grip determines how well the notes ring out. We want to aim for clarity and consistency so that our chords sound even throughout.

Playing with clarity takes practice, so take your time and don’t be hard on yourself.

We want this song be as smooth as Rick Springfield’s hair, and he didn’t get to looking this good overnight, either (or maybe he did?)

fun-power-chord

Power Chord Songs #4: Portugal, The Man – ‘Feel It Still’

Portugal, The Man is a band with a wide back catalog of different sounds. 

  • After years of experimentation and developing a cult-following, they destroyed the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017 with Feel It Still (from the album ‘Woodstock’).
  • This groovy alt-rock tune held its top position on the Billboard charts for a whopping 20 weeks!

Even though this is another bass-heavy tune that features some guitar, we can once again make this a power chord song by adapting the bassline for guitar.

power-chord-on-guitar

This song is a lot of fun to play along to, and it follows the same three-chord pattern throughout.

The pattern goes:

C# | E | F# | C#

Skill Tip: For this lesson, we’re going to focus on developing a smooth rhythm that follows the bass. Concentrate on developing a strumming pattern of soft-soft-soft-hard to compliment the drums as you play.

Power Tip: Portugal, The Man is a band to watch. If you want to get inspired by great songwriting and a unique sense of instrumentation, listen to the albums ‘Woodstock’ and ‘Evil Friends’

how-to-play-power-chord

Power Chord Songs #5: Survivor – Eye of the Tiger

The 80’s were a great time for power chord songs.

Survivor’s timeless anthem of, well, survival, got its start in the movie Rocky III.

  • A cool fact about this song is that Sylvester Stallone asked the band to write it after being denied permission to use the song “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen.
  • Rocky III premiered the day before Eye of the Tiger hit the airwaves in 1982.

This song features a bit of movement around the first to fourth positions and will once again challenge our grip of the neck, so hold tight.

easy-power-chords-on-guitar

Skill Tip: This song features a technique called palm-muting.

Palm-muting is used to dampen and partially mute the sound of the strings. We’re not trying to mute the strings altogether, rather just dim the sound of them slightly.

  • To palm mute, move your picking hand back toward the bridge of your guitar (this works for both acoustic and electric guitars, as well as classical guitars).
  • You’ll want to position the side of your hand where the bridge meets the strings so that when you pick, the strings will be partially muted.

This can take some practice, but it’s a great technique to use in this song.

national-guitar-academy

Power Chord Songs #6: Vance Joy – Riptide

Vance Joy’s Summer jam took the world by storm with its upbeat rhythm.

  • Beloved by Ukulele players as well as guitarists, Riptide makes a perfect power chord song to play by the beach or around a campfire.
  • This song shows us that we don’t need a whole assortment of chords to write a pop hit, as it relies solely on three chords to get its groove across.

Sometimes, simplicity really is the best route to take.

guitar-lessons

We want to keep a loose pick hand with this one.

Riptide is upbeat and far from heavy, so let’s keep things light with the pick.

The order of our chords is:

A# | G# | C#

Skill Tip: Pay close attention to the strumming pattern power chord songs like Riptide.

Our pattern begins with a quick strum followed by a longer one, and then three quick strums again before switching chords.

Learning patterns serves as excellent ear training, so don’t be afraid to listen intently to pick out the details.

free-guitar-lessons

Power Chord Songs #7: Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop

When discussing power chord songs, we simply can’t skip out on talking about Punk music.

  • Power chords were the vehicle of choice for almost every punk band ever, and they served to provide a juicy and distorted backbone to the sound of the anti-establishment.
  • The Ramones are no exception to this rule, and the iconic Blitzkrieg Bop serves as great power chord practice.

This classic Punk staple helps us focus on moving back and forth between the low E and A strings.

online-guitar-tuition

You’ll notice that the verse and chorus share the exact same chords, except for one additional chord used in the chorus.

This is a great lesson in how we can switch the vibe of the song we are playing simply by rotating the order of the chords we’re already using.

Skill Tip: Counting in 8th notes will help us keep a steady rhythm with consistency when playing Blitzkrieg Bop.

If you’re not familiar with counting 8th notes, you can count them like so:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

We can refer to the “&” as an “off-beat” and all other beats as “on-beats.”

In this tune, we play both the on-beats and the off-beats.

Aim to hit the chord with every count, and you’ll lock yourself nicely into this song.

free-guitar-tuition

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Power Chord Songs #8: Rise Against – Give It All

This song about finding your own reason to live made Rise Against a beacon of hope for many young teenagers attempting to find their way in the world.

As an added bonus, Give It All rocks hard.

Much like Blitzkrieg Bop, this power chord song focuses on moving chords between the low E and A strings.

Take your time getting the movements under your fingers before you rock out. We’ve included a few extra sections of this song for more practice.

Skill Tip: You can throw in some string mutes on the rests between each chord for some added bite, similar to what you hear in the opening segment and verses of the song.

String muting can be achieved by flattening our fret hand across the strings, without fretting the strings themselves.

Practice this: Hold your hand flat across the strings and hit them with your pick. You want to achieve a “Chick-ah” sound by attacking the strings without fretting them.

Power Chord Songs #9: Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son

Our last example is a classic rock tune that can be played a variety of different ways. 

Fortunate Son is a song that has been interpreted by many rock bands over the years from the Foo Fighters & John Fogerty to the Dropkick Murphys.

  • This power chord song is straightforward with only two sections to memorize.
  • If you’ve gotten this far, you’re already a pro so this last one should be a nice cool down from today’s exercise.
  • Again, make sure you take a good listen to the song to hear the best strumming pattern.

If you’ve gotten the hang of palm-muting, this is a great song to practice it with.

Power Tip: Power chords are a great asset to have in our musician’s toolkit. Try taking songs you already know and play them using only power chords. We’ve included a fretboard at the bottom to make it easier to find them.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Ready to take the next steps in your musical journey? We recommend:

  • Learning more power chord songs with your teacher.
  • Jamming some of these songs with your friends.
  • Look up covers of these songs on YouTube to see how other people play them.
  • Practice moving power chords around the fretboard.
  • Log your practice for a clearer picture on what you want to work on next!

Recommended resources

If you loved this lesson on power chord songs, you’ll want to check out some more of our free lessons below:

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