So what is a rock guitar chord anyway?
Rock guitar, or perhaps I should rather say heavy rock guitar, is mostly played with guitar chords called power chords.
A power chord is made up of only two notes, which are usually the root note, being the note the chord is named after, and the 5th note, which is the 5th note in the major scale that the chord is named by.
Okay, let’s cut out the technical talk and look at it the easy way.
A regular major or minor chord has three notes, which are the root, the third and the fifth. In the minor chords the third note is flattened.
Take away the third note and it doesn’t matter if it’s major or minor. That’s a power chord. These sound their most powerful when they’re played through a distortion pedal or an overdriven amplifier.
Here’s how you would normally play a power chord.
These are played on the 4th, 5th and 6th string, being the three wound strings on an electric guitar, the 6th string being the thickest.
Lest’s start with an E power chord, also known as an E5 chord.
- Play the 6th string open – the root note (E).
- Place your 2nd finger behind the 2nd fret on the 5th string – the 5th note of the chord.
- Place your 3rd finger behind the 2nd fret on the 4th string (This is the root note an octave higher)
The other three strings on the guitar must be silent so it’s best to find a way to mute them by resting your index finger on them and trying not to strum them.
This same kind of power chord played in a higher position on the fretboard would have the following fingering.
Let’s use a G5 as an example.
- Place your index finger on the 6th string at the 3rd fret – the root note (G)
- Place your third finger on the 5th string behind the 5th fret.
- Your fourth finger (pinkie) on the 4th string behind the 5th fret.
Here you can see that we’re playing the root note with the index finger, so in order to mute the three thinner strings, you can just rest your index finger on top of them so they don’t sound.
These are movable chord types, so once you have the note names of all the frets on the E string, you’ll know where to go to play whichever power chord you want. You can also these chord types off of the root notes on other strings as well.
The rock guitar chords cheat.
The previous set of guitar chords are all done with standard tuning. By tuning the 6th string down from an E to a D, it’s now possible to play these chords using only one finger.
These are still played using only the 4th, 5th and 6th string, so the down side to this is that they wont work using the root notes of other strings.
This alternate tuning is called Drop D, or Dropped D tuning. The lowest chord you can play with this is a D5 chord, which is the open 6th, 5th and 4th string.
Moving up from there, with your index finger behind the 2nd fret, you’ve got the E5 chord and so on. These are all movable chords, meaning you just slide it up and down the fretboard to get to the chord you want.