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What Is a Power Chord?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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In musical terminology, a power chord is a truncated version of the conventional chord that musicians play on a range of different instruments. The power chord consists of only the base note of the chord, and the fifth, where the conventional chord adds the third note of the scale as well. Although this kind of chord can be played on any instrument, this modern chord variant was made for performance on “electric” instruments, principally, the electric guitar, where amplification and sound effects change the sound of the instrument.

In terms of the notes referenced above, those who want to understand the power chord need to know how chords are arranged from an octave. An octave is the eight note scale that brings a note progression full-circle. In the most common example, the key of C, an octave is the progression from C to the note above it, D, and then, moving higher by steps, to E, F, G, A, B and up to a high C, where the octave has been accomplished.

Within this described octave, each step up receives a number that corresponds to that note. For the example in the key of C, a conventional C chord will consist of the C note, the E note, and the G note. The power type of chord, on the other hand, will only include the C and G notes.

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Experienced musicians point out that a power chord does sound a little different from a full chord. In the most common uses of power chords, though, the full chord doesn’t really receive the same benefit from the added note, mainly because through an amplified, enhanced sound, the truncated chord can already sound full and strong enough without an additional note present. Power chords can also be easier to play, and more versatile.

The most common example of using the power chord is with the electric guitar. Here, the player can use the bottom two strings to affect a power chord, which is easier than using the whole hand to craft a conventional chord. There’s an added benefit to the power chord on the electric guitar, in that with a full, natural open chord, the type of specific fingering structure generally used on an acoustic guitar, tends not to sound as good on an electric guitar. Open chords can sound fuzzy and overcomplicated, especially with guitar effects. The power chord, with its simpler construction, can sound better.

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summing
Post 3

I learned how to play the guitar in the late 80s and back then I was a huge fan of hair metal bands like Guns and Roses and Warrant. A lot of the songs those guys wrote are just a series of power chords so I begged my guitar teacher to teach me nothing but power chords.

Luckily he was able to talk me out of it and I learned a lot of other guitar styles, but he did show me a few power chord riffs that I had a ton of fun messing around with in my garage. I think they drove my parents crazy but I had fun with them

truman12
Post 2

After you learn a few power chords you realize how lazy some of the most famous bands and songwriters out there are. There are many, many popular songs that are just three or four power chords played over a simple drum track. This is the kind of stuff that you can write after just a month or two of playing guitar and yet these songs often go on to become radio hits and sell millions of copies.

backdraft
Post 1

People have been talking for years about wireless electricity and I think there will be a time in the not too distant future when there are no power chords at all.

I do not know exactly how the technology will work but we will be able to charge our cell phones and laptops and power our TVs and game consoles without ever needing a chord or an outlet. Imagine how incredible that would be.

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