How to play power chords

How to play power chords
(Image credit: Zoonar RF / Getty Images)

Beginner guitarists, prepare to have your life changed! You can play any power chord you like with just one shape. It’s easier than most open chords and with a distorted guitar tone it actually sounds better.

Regular major and minor chords contain three notes: a root note, a 3rd (which can be major or minor, ie, a different note), and a 5th. A power chord leaves out that 3rd interval – the most colourful note – leaving just two notes. So, because power chords are neither major nor minor, you can use one shape for almost everything.  

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Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.