How To Form Power Chords And Create Rhythm

Izzy Stradlin

How To Form Power Chords And Create Rhythm

In this lesson, we are going to learn how to form power chords and create rhythm.  Once you have mastered your open chords or would like to take a break from them, you can proceed to work on your closed power chords. Once you get the open chords down you can focus on learning power chords & creating rhythm with them.

Closed power chords.

Closed power chords are very much like your open power chords, it’s just that now your playing two strings where neither one is open. These are going to be then next chords in your vocabulary to learn because they are played with two fingers instead of just one. Your index finger and your ring finger. Or the pinky if you prefer. Everyone plays a bit different.

I recommend you use the first and third fingers as this is more standard and will leave your pinky open to add chord embellishments later when you learn to form chords using three and four fingers. But for now, we’ll just stick with two.

What’s great about these chords is two things.

  1. The chord shape always stays the same no matter where you’re at on the fretboard.

  2. They allow you to move up and down the fretboard, unlike the open power chords that stay at the second fret.

This allows you to unlock many mysteries of the guitar and rock guitar songs by playing chords of this type.  Most rock songs ever written, mostly use or have used these types of chords.  So make sure you take some time to learn how to form them and then learn how to move them around the fretboard.

When learning to form power chords you will need to stretch your fingers a bit.  Because this chord shape is created by two fingers on two strings with a fret in between them.  And once you learn this to form this chord, you will need to keep this shape when moving it around the fretboard.  Be sure to watch the video lesson on how this is done.

Chord types of these are not the easiest to form as a beginner, but with a little consistent effort on a daily basis, you will begin to see some progress and that is when the fun starts to happen.  And as with all things, you must be patient and not give up. If you stick with it, your reward will be all the cool rock songs you’ll be able to play.

Reading power chords in tablature format.

Watching me form them in the video lesson is fine.  But it is very beneficial that you learn how to read them in the written tablature as well.  This will give you more of a rounded education, a step up on most guitar players (most don’t read sheet music) and a more enhanced learning experience. Heres some examples of what power chords look like in tablature format.

G power chord

Here we have a G power chord.  Where the first finger (index) is on the sixth string third fret and the third finger (ring) is on the fifth string fifth fret.  Remember in guitar sheet music your biggest string will be on the bottom.

D power chord

This is a D power chord played on the fifth string.  Apply the first finger on the fifth string fifth fret and the third finger is on the fourth string seventh fret.  The D power chord is played on the fifth and fourth strings and provides a bit of a brighter sound than the G chord formed on the sixth string.

Rt4 A power chord

Above is an A power chord played on the fourth string.  Using the first finger on the fourth string seventh fret and the third finger on the third string ninth fret.  Since this chord is played on the fourth string, we will consider it a Root four A power chord.  Because the root of the chord (which is an A note) is located on the fourth string.

Always remember (I can’t stress this enough) that the strings in the sheet music are upside down.  I know it can be confusing.  Sorry but I didn’t create it, I just teach it 🙂  Anyway, now that we know how to form a few chords, let’s look into how to create the rhythm with those chords.

Creating a rhythm with power chords.

Accomplish this with proper timing and emotion.  When creating a rhythm with power chords playing rock music you want to start out with a simple 1 2 3 4 count.  Because this is the most common timing of rock music.

Listen to bands like AC/DC.  They use this timing in almost all they’re songs.  You can tap your foot to the beat and follow along to the music.  It is simple and effective.  Then once you get the initial timing of rock music down, you can create more complex rhythms.  But in the beginning, keep it simple.

Malcolm Young

This creates the internal clock that all musicians must have and by focusing on improving your timing by counting (to yourself or out loud) you begin to develop this very important skill set.  I can’t begin to tell you how many musicians I’ve met who have not developed proper timing.

Additional counts to use when creating rhythm.

Here are a few more to experiment with:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.

1 2 & 3 4.

1 2 3 & 4

Any of these examples will produce a nice rhythm and if you work with them enough, you’ll begin to discover other ones you can create as well.  Think of how creative you can be with just these four numbers.  Look at our number system 0-9 and all the endless possibilities that we can come up with.  Even though you’re just using four numbers, the concept is the same.

Once you work with these counts you’ll begin to recognize familiar parts of songs you already know.  So practice these rhythm counts while moving your power chords up, down and around the guitar fretboard.  That way you will develop your internal clock and be on your way to becoming a good solid rhythm guitar player.  Which is vitally important.

Moving your power chords is essential to learn. Make sure to lift your fingers slightly off the fretboard but keep them on the strings and play only the two strings that the chord is made of.  The rest of the strings try to mute with your fretboard hand.  This will keep unplayed strings from vibrating and causing unwanted sound.  It will allow you to produce a cleaner, rich guitar tone.

Lesson Conclusion.

There are certain techniques that are associated with playing rock guitar that you will need to master.  This takes time.  But with the proper training, it won’t take as much time as you think.  That is why I wrote Rock Guitar 101.  A simple step-by-step method on getting started playing rock guitar.

Rock Guitar 101 will help out in many ways and allow you to progress at your learning faster than you ever thought possible.  Once you learn what tools are necessary,  you will then learn how to set them up and get the best out of them.

You’ll also discover how to develop practice habits, basic music theory and much, much more.  All without previous musical knowledge or ability.  This can be very very beneficial when getting started.  If this is you or anyone you know, be sure to order this book today on Amazon and get started having fun learning how to play guitar.

Until our next lesson, take care.

Sincerely, Dwayne Jenkins


How To Read And Play Power Chords

How to read and play power chords is one of the most important things to work on when learning guitar. Chords are essential to playing guitar and that’s why it’s best to start with open & closed power chords.

These chords can really help get you started with the least amount of discomfort.  When it comes to chords, there are literally thousands of them that can be played on guitar.

Crazy huh?  I know.  Who would have thought?  Anyway,  it’s not necessary to learn them all.  Just a few will get you headed in the right direction.  That is why we look to open & closed power chords.

What Are Power Chords?

These are chords that stay the same shape once you learn to form them.  The open power chords all stay at the second fret while the closed power chords allow you to move up & down the fretboard.

Lesson Goals:

♦  Play the chords clearly and visualize the chord patterns

♦ Learn the proper fingering for the E5, A5 & B5 chord

The first chord we will work on is the Em chord. Look at the diagram below.

One Finger Chord (first finger)

Open power chords are the easiest chord to play because it is played with one finger.  The guitar neck is facing upward and the strings are from left to right (6-1) Biggest string to the far left, smallest string to the right.  If you have a problem understanding this, view my post on how to read chord charts.

In this diagram, you place your first finger on the 5th string second fret and strum the top two strings.  This is called an open E chord. The reason for this is because when you play a string without putting a finger on it, it’s called “open”   In this example, the 6th string (E) is not being fretted, therefore, is open so the chord is called an “open E chord”

Now if you place your finger one string down on the 4th string (same fret) and strum the 5th and 4th string you will now be playing an open A chord.  Same reason as above.  The 5th string (A) is being played open and the fourth string is being fretted at the 2nd fret.

As you can see the chord is exactly the same as above, just one string down.  Instead of playing the 6th and 5th string you are now playing the 5th and 4th string.  In the picture above, you can also read the chord facing sideways.

Chord diagrams

This is a very good way to start building your chord vocabulary because they are played with 1 finger and you just strum 2 strings.  Learn to read how this is written & thoroughly understand it, and you will reap some great rewards.

These kinds of chords are very popular in rock music. These types of chords are called Open Chords because one of the strings being played is open. Meaning that you do not put your finger on it as the diagrams to the left note.

Also, notice the diagram shows a 0 for the string being played open.  The x means the string is not to be played.  Now let’s move on to the two-note chord.  The Power Chord! After you learn how to read and play easy 1 note chords you can move on to easy 2 note chords.

Eventually, you will move on to 3 and 4 note chords but that’ll be for later.  For right now lets stick with 2 note chords.  The example below shows a diagram of a two-note chord.  Two fingers on 2 strings with a fret in between.

Two Finger Chord (first & third finger)

As you can see you are now playing 2 strings.  The picture above it shows how the chord is formed.  It’s just up a fret so it’s actually playing a C chord.  But it’s there for reference.  One of the 5th string 2nd fret and one on the 4th string 4th fret.  This chord is usually played with the 1st and 3rd fingers, but you can also use the 1st and 4th if it’s easier for you.

Power chords are a bit harder to form than the open chord because they require two fingers instead of just one, but that’s the whole point.  You’re progressing from using one finger to using two.  Be sure to spread out your fingers & watch for spacing.

The Benefit Of Playing Power Chords

What’s great about the power chord shape is that it always stays the same.  This is called a 2 note Power Chord.  What’s a Power Chord you ask?  It is a simple 2 note chord that has a lot of power behind it when played properly.  Especially when you play with hi-gain or distortion.

This chord type is very popular and once you learn it you can play many, many rock songs.  So I’d recommend learning how to play these types of chords to start.  Then you can progress to playing natural chords.  These are popular as well but a bit harder to form & move.

Power Chords Lesson Conclusion

As stated before, these are great chords for starting out with and many songs can be played from learning them. If you feel you are having difficulties with them, email me and I will do my best to help you further.

Remember, it takes time and effort to learn guitar and you must be patient. Take your time and don’t get frustrated.  Playing music is a lot of fun once you get it down and like anything else, there is a learning curve.  Go through the learning curve and you will come out a victor.

And if you haven’t already, I recommend that you grab my FREE action-guide “Rhythm Guitar Secrets”  for insider tips to excel your guitar playing.

Until the next lesson, take care.

Dwayne