Power chord

From Academic Kids

In music, a power chord is an interval which serves the diatonic function of a major or minor chord. It consists of two pitches or three pitches with one doubled at the octave, and thus only two pitch classes. The pitch classes are separated by a perfect fifth, or its inversion, the perfect fourth. It is sometimes notated 5, as in C5 (C power chord).

Power chords are commonly used in various forms of rock music including hard rock, metal, and punk. The power chord's prevalence in these electric guitar-based styles is likely due to two reasons:

  • First, as it contains only two pitches, the power chord is the easiest chord to form on the guitar (requiring only two or three fingers) and easily movable anywhere on the neck. If the guitar is re-tuned in drop D, then its lowest strings form a D power chord already, which can be shifted up and down with a single finger.
  • Secondly, the distortion essential to rock guitar tone acts both to produce odd harmonics, and as a non-linear mixer, mixing the various overtones within a chord to produce new sum and difference frequencies that produce greater dissonance. The power chord contains the most consonant intervals in Western music: unison, octave, perfect 5th and perfect 4th. As a result, it largely avoids the noise produced by more complex chords on overdriven guitar.

Many young and/or beginning guitarists, especially those who teach themselves to play by emulating other guitarists from records, pick up basic power chords (especially A and E) first, before learning "proper" chord shapes and other more formal techniques. For new guitarists, power chords are often the quickest route to playing popular music on the guitar without a lot of training or practicing.

Missing image

Shown are four examples of an F5 chord. The most common voicing is the 1-5 perfect fifth (A), to which the octave can be added, 1-5-1 (B). A perfect fourth 5-1 (C) is also a power chord, as it implies the "missing" lower 1 pitch, and indeed with enough distortion this lower pitch is sometimes audible. Finally, either or both of the pitches may be doubled an octave above or below (D is 5-1-5-1).

Since power chords lack a third, they are ambiguous as to mode: they are neither major or minor. However, the musical context often implies or provides a frame of reference for major or minor. For example, in the progression bVI-bVII-I, the I chord is implied to be minor by the bVI chord, and other instrumental parts may confirm this during the one chord by playing a minor third, or may contradict this by playing a major.

Composition wise, power chords in succession should be used sparingly, as this can create parallel motion (parallel fifths), which is shunned especially in classical music.

One of the first power chord hits was "Rumble" by Link Wray and his Ray Men (1957).

Another early hit song built around power chords was The Kinks's "You Really Got Me" released in 1964 (Walser 1993, p.9): Missing image
The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" guitar riff


See also

da:Powerchord de:Powerchord


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools