How To Spice Up Power Chords
By Ryan Duke
Power chords are an awesome and very simple tool to have as a guitar player. Their simplicity makes them very easy to play and musically very easy to use in many different situations. Because of this they are very common in rock oriented styles which makes them predictable and less original. Let's take a look at a few ways we can spice up our beloved power chords to add new and interesting flavors to your songs or even covers of your favorite songs.
What Is A Power Chord?
A power chord consists of two notes. A root note and a 5th. If you have never played a power chord try this. Play the seventh fret on the 5th string and the ninth fret on the 4th string. Then strum only those two strings. You can move this shape up and down the strings to get the same effect. This smooth sound is great and common when playing rock, punk, or metal styles because more complex and rich sounding chords get too muddy with distortion. The smooth power chord mixed with the distortion creates a great balance of intensity and clarity.
Inverted Power Chords
This is still just a power chord, but we are adding another 5th on the bottom. Take the chord we played above and add the 7th fret on the 6th string. You should now be playing fret 7 on the 6th string, fret 7 on the 5th string and fret 9 on the 4th string. Strum only those three strings. This will produce a thicker and grittier sounding version of the power chord. Pretty cool and very simple way to beef up the feeling of the chord.
Power Chord Alterations
Next we will look at one more way to modify the chord. There are a lot of things that can be done with power chords, but that can get lengthy and complicated because more music theory aspects need to be considered first.
Play the first power chord explained above and instead of playing the 9th fret on the 4th string play the 10th fret and strum only those two strings. Sounds quite a bit different. Now go back and forth between those two chords. Pretty cool right? I'm not going to get into what is happening theoretically because I don't know what you do or don't know at this point about music theory.
The funny thing with this chord is it isn't technically a power chord anymore, but can and is often used with power chords to make things a little more interesting when needed.
This new altered power chord is definitely a lot more dissonant(less smooth). Keep that in mind when using it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dissonance, but having a balance between the smooth and harsh sounding chords is a good place to start. Too much dissonance and it might just sound bad. As you learn more about music theory you will be able to better use dissonance to create more moving and dramatic music.
Start playing around with altering power chords in other ways and see what you come up with. Stick with just two strings at first. Then use three at the most. Use your ear and have fun.
About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional musician, songwriter, and trained music mentor who teaches guitar lessons in Seattle, WA.