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FAQ: What are Power Chords?

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Q: What are power chords and how do they differ from normal chords?

A:  A power chord is a type of chord where you only play the root note of a key and another note called the 5th.  Power chords are played on only two or three strings.  Power chords are most often used in rock music and by electric guitar players using distortion and overdrive effects.  In music styles like Punk Rock and Heavy Metal, power chords are the primary chord formation that is used.

How are power chords formed?  Take a barre chord like the one below (if you don't know what a barre chord is see this question first).

F Barre Chord
This is the barre chord formation for the F key.  If you want to play the F Power chord, you remove every note except those on the top two or three strings.  It will then look like this.
F Power Chord
This is the formation for the F power chord also called F5.  A power chord in most cases is therefore nothing more than a barre chord where you only play the top two or three strings of the formation. 

By removing the treble strings and major harmonics out of the chord formation you are left with a more stark and powerful sound.  Power chords have a more aggressive ring to them and for this reason are often employed in rock and metal music genres.

If you want to have a look at some power chords, head over to the guitar chord charts section and download the ultimate guitar chord chart (A monster chart with over 1000 chords).  Look for 5th chords (F5, G5, E5 etc.) to find your power chords.

This free guitar lesson covers anything and everything on power chords you need to know and will teach you how to play them on a step-by-step basis using video.
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