This guitar lesson is designed to get you playing as quickly as possible. We are going to be using just one power chord shape with our left hand. You will see that you can play a lot of songs by simply moving this one shape around the fretboard.
Power chords are basically two note chords. The lowest note that you will be playing is the root note of the chord. The other note is the fifth of the root. Let’s look at an example. If the lowest note, or root note, of your power chord was a G, you would count five letters up from G and that would be your other note, the fifth, in the chord. Start with G as one and count up five notes G, A, B, C, D. This would be a D note, the fifth of G.
Let’s start off by learning the basic shape for the power chords that we will be using. Take your 1st finger and put it on the 3rd fret of the thickest string. This is a G note. Now put your 3rd finger on the 5th fret of the next string over. That is a D note. You are playing a G power chord. This is the basic shape that we will be using throughout this lesson. It is called a power chord.
Take a guitar pick and hold it between your index finger and your thumb. With a downstroke, play just the two strings on which you were making your power chord. Don’t worry too much about technique right now. Just focus on playing the guitar. If you would like to learn more about picking technique and the proper way to use your picking hand, check out the lesson Right Hand Guitar Fundamentals.
Place your 1st finger on the 5th, or second thickest, string on the 5th fret. This will be the root of this power chord. Now play the fifth of this chord on with your 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the 4th string. Play just the two strings that you fingers are fretting. This is a D power chord. Now you are going to slide this shape up two frets. Your 1st finger should be on the 7th fret of the 5th string and your 3rd finger should be on the 9th fret of the 4th string. Again, play the two notes that you are fretting. This is an E power chord. Keep your fingers on the same strings and slide the shape down to where your 1st finger is on the 3rd fret and your 3rd finger is on the 5th fret of the same two strings. This is a C power chord. Practice moving this shape around until you get use to the shape and feel of power chords.
Often beginners will play the root of the chord and it will sound great, but the fifth of the chord will not be ringing out properly. This is usually because the index finger is not curved over enough. If the fifth of your power chords are not ringing out very well, odds are that your 1st finger is muting the note that your 3rd finger is playing. Make sure that you are curving your index finger over enough to let the other note in the power chord ring out.
Now that you have the power chord shape down, try putting a steady rhythm with the progression. Play each power chord eight times and try to move to the next one without stopping. Remember the progression is G, D, E, C. You can also try playing the progression using some palm muting. To palm mute the strings, just let the fleshy part of your picking hand rest on the strings where they take off from the bridge of the guitar.
Now that you know what a power chord is and how to play one, you can play tons of different songs. If you listen to the songs “Glycerine” by Bush and “When I Come Around” by Green Day, you will hear the exact same progression that we used in this lesson. Power chords and progressions like the one in this lesson are used in all kinds of music all of the time. Try to mix the power chords up and make up your own music. Have fun!