Pages Navigation Menu

Nice Noise – Colouring Power Chords, Metallic Shoegaze Style

A lot of my favourite bands use really interesting chord voicings in their creations. The Cure, Killing Joke, Cocteau Twins and the Smashing Pumpkins immediately come to mind.

This week’s feature lesson explores some simple, yet effective extensions applied to power chord shapes. I like to think of this technique as colouring. Power chords are fine on their own, until one becomes dissatisfied with their limitations. Altering these standard voicings adds spice and interest to our creations.

In the video, the first performance is just straight power chords to demonstrate the sound of the basic chord progression, which is a IV-V-VI-V in C major.

In the 2nd example, we add the open G string to each shape, widening out the sound and creating harmonic tension. The F and A power chords are most notably affected, due to the root octave notes on the D string ‘conflicting’ with the open G note.

It’s worth noting that by varying our creations using a technique as simple as this, we create more interest for the listener and ourselves, expanding our sonic palette and getting to know all our options.

One of my favorite ways to spice up power chords occurs in example 3, where we extend the basic root-5th shape with the major 2nd interval, creating a sus2 voicing. These can be found in styles as diverse as Shoegaze, Indie, Progressive Rock, Metalcore and just plain old Metal! There is a strong melodic characteristic about these, and I find them most suited to achieving melancholy atmospheres.

To finish up, we simply take the shapes from example 3 and move them into the next octave starting on the A string. It’s worth noting that by varying our creations using a technique as simple as this, we create more interest for the listener and ourselves, expanding our sonic palette and getting to know all our options. This is why I recommend learning voicings in every possible position. Different positions on different strings open us up to the wonderful wealth of possibilities available to us in the compositional process.