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Power Chords

Power Chords are the lifeblood of rock and metal music and commonly contain three notes: root, fifth and octave (same note as the root, just in a higher octave). Once you master the fretting and muting techniques associated with these shapes, you'll be able to start forming chord progressions, which will enable you to write your own music and learn songs that use these chords.

This lesson takes a look at power chords in their three and two string forms. The only difference between the two is that the two string shape omits the octave. In my experience, the two string shape is good for riffs involving down picking interspersed with melody, whilst the three string shape is more suited to strumming. Learning and mastering the three string shape essentially gives you the ability to do both.

These shapes are identical across each set of strings, except for the three string shape starting on the fourth string, which, because of the way the guitar is tuned, places the fourth finger one fret higher than where it was previously.


Starting On String Six


First, we're going to begin on the sixth string at the fifth position. The first shape involves only two notes, which will be fretted using the index and third fingers. To form the three string shape, we leave our index and third finger where they are, then fret the octave (same as the root in a higher octave) with the pinky finger. Make sure the side of the first finger rests gently against the third, second and first strings to prevent them from ringing out (see video).

How To Play Power Chords On Two and Three Strings

Technique Focus - Muting

Muting is not the same as fretting. When muting, you only need to be touching the string enough so that it doesn't ring out. Do not place too much pressure on the string. If you are doing it right, the strings will not touch the fretboard and you'll here a percussive thud.

Starting On String Five


Now we are going to do exactly what we did when we started on the sixth string, only this time beginning on the fifth string. In effect, we're moving each shape onto the next set of strings. Be sure to mute the sixth string with the tip of your first finger, otherwise the sound will get messy, which we do not want! You should also ensure that the side of the first finger is resting gently against the second and first strings to prevent those from ringing out.

How To Play Power Chords On Two and Three Strings

Starting On String Four


The two note shape is identical to the others we have looked at, but the three note shape will be a little different, requiring the pinky finger to be positioned one fret higher. As far as muting goes, the tip of the first finger should touch the fifth string to ensure it doesn't ring out. The side of the first finger takes care of the second and first strings by resting gently against them. Muting string six isn't as important here because there's very little chance of hitting it to begin with.

How To Play Power Chords On Two and Three Strings