11 – Power chords

Subjects Covered

  • Chords
    • 3 chord rock-n-roll, power chords and bar chords
  • Scales
    • Following the chords with pentatonic and blues scales
  • Musicality
    • Strong rock rhythm
  • Exercises
    • Shifting positions on the neck

The main points for this whole course are

  • keep your hands relaxed
  • keep your guitar in tune
  • play in time, with the rhythm
  • musicality always beats technicality
  • practice too slow instead of too fast
  • play along to records whenever you can
  • play with other people whenever you can

Power chords and 3 chord rock-n-roll

Power chords are not necesarily historical precursors to bar chords, but for a student, they should be. Bar chords are usually played on the sixth string, sometimes on the fifth string and once in a while on the fourth string.

Power chords can be played with three fingers and two fingers. If just two fingers are used, then the upper note can be played by the 3rd or 4th finger. They are used in a variety of different kinds of music, but people commonly associate them with punk and heavy metal.

Understanding the chord diagrams

In the chord diagrams below the power chords are highlighted in blue. As you can see, the power chord is very much related to the bar chord.

Bar chords and 3 chord rock-n-roll

Points to remember

  • find the ideal place to put your left-hand thumb when youare making a bar chord
  • do bar chords a little bit at a time – do not push it
  • play in time

| G | C | D | C |


When you are doing this type of soloing it is easy to get caught up in the technical aspect. Remember to keep your musical ideas simple at first first.

Making a blues riff

  1. Pick a simple riff from the blues scale on the 3rd fret that is four beats long.
  2. Now play the riff up at the next spot (the 8th fret). Then play it at the next chord (10th fret). Then play it back at the C chord (8th fret).
  3. Now play the chords once through. Then play another riff and repeat.
  4. Remember to keep things simple and keep the beat going.
  5. When using this method of soloing, alter the melody slightly each time for emphasis, contrast and syncopation.
  6. You can try to do the same thing but make a riff that this is more bass-like and groovy.


How to shift

  1. Play the first note or chord in the first position
  2. Relax your left hand
  3. At the same slide your hand to next position on the guitar neck
    • Your thumb should just barely bruch that back of the neck
    • Your fingers should just barely brush the strings
  4. Play the next note or chord

Shifting exercises

  1. Play a minor pentatonic scale pattern with one note per beat:
    • On the 3rd fret for a measure (4 beats)
    • Then on the 8th fret for a measure
    • Then on the 10th fret for a measure
    • Then back on the 8th fret for a measure
    • Repeat
  2. Do the same thing but incorporate hammer-ons
  3. Now come up with progressively more complicated phrases that each last a measure
  4. You can also switch between playing the chords for 4 measures and the exercise for 4 measures


Play slowly and in time! Also – miss notes not beats! (a missed note is no big deal but a missed beat is!)

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