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Lesson 26 - Power Chords

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Previous page: Lesson 25 - Polychords Next page: Lesson 27 - The Tonic

Lessons of The Week was a series of guitar lessons circulated in "News", in the pre-web days of the Internet. 29 lessons were written before it died out, and I happende to write the first three. They represent a little bit of internet history, as they may have been the first guitar lessons written for the internet.

The lessons were all written in txt format - they were written around the same time as Tim Berners Lee were sitting in Switzerland specifing the first version of html. I have converted them to html, and may have added a few links from the lessons.

Lesson: 26
Title: Power Chords
Level: Beginner
Style: Heavy Metal Rhythm
Instructor: Ky MacPherson

Hey kids, its Ky again! Today we will learn about power chords! Last time we learned the Half-Step and Whole-Step intervals. To start this lesson off we will learn a new interval: the Perfect Fifth. A perfect fifth is equal to seven half steps, i.e. two notes seven frets apart. However, since we are talking about a chord, that means we want to strike both notes simultaneously, and the only way to do this is by using two strings. Here is a sample power chord:


The root note, played on the A string, is the C. And the fifth of C, which is a G, is played on the D string. The beauty of power chords, is that you can make a root-fifth chord almost anywhere by simply moving the same shape around the fretboard. However, note that the shape changes when you play the root on the G-string, since the interval between the G-string and the B-string is different from the interval between other strings. Now lets look at some variations on the power chord:


In the first example, we have added another root above the fifth. This is another very common shape. The added high note makes the chord a little brighter. In the second example, we still have the root above the fifth, and now we have added a fifth below the root.

The third example shows just the two lowest notes of the previous example. Here the root is actually the higher of the two notes, and the fifth is the lower note. This is another important shape to learn. Technically, this chord is called an "inverted" power chord. "Inversion" simply refers to the fact that the root is higher than the fifth ... you can think of this as turning the chord upside-down.

Now lets combine our understanding of power chords with the minor scale that we learned in the last lesson. Lets write all the power chords for the E minor key.

       I    II  iii   IV   V    vi  vii   I

Notice several things: The root notes of the chords simply follow the pattern we learned last time, the ascending E minor scale. I numbered the chords using roman numerals. This is the convention for chords. In this and future lessons from me, it will be understood that we are talking about root-fifth power chords when I use a roman numeral. Note that this is not always the case in other kinds of music.

Finally, if you are wondering why I used lowercase letters for the 3rd, 6th and 7th chords, it is because we are using the minor scale, and these three minor intervals are flatted with respect to the major scale.

Notice how the first chord and the last chord are both I-chords. In fact, any chord whose root note is an E would be an I-chord in the E minor key. Similarly, there are many of each chord all over the fretboard.

Class Assignment:

Try finding some more I-chords, II-chords, etc. in the E minor key. Also, try finding all the chords for another minor key of your choice.

In the next lesson, we will learn about the tonic, which is an extremely important concept. See you then!

"Glam rock just isn't what it used to be, Beavis"
(I am currently moving so don't expect a quick response!)
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Previous page: Lesson 25 - Polychords Next page: Lesson 27 - The Tonic