Now you are going to learn something which for many guitarists has been a real mood-lifter! The great Steve Morse (of Deep Purple) said himself that it wasn't until he learned these simple chords that he felt that his guitar playing really took off.

In Swedish we also refer to these as "rock chords", because they are so widely used in rock. Any AC/DC song, practically, would just not function without these chords

Powerchords have a special feature compared to the chords you previously encountered: you can fret them anywhere on the fretboard, and the root note of the chord is always on the string closest to your chin, i.e. the bass string of the chord.

I recommend you to watch this video in which I explain powerchords to you, as well as read the text and look at the diagrams below.

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Here are the four different powerchord patterns, in this case demonstrated with the root on the third fret of each bass string of the chord (the most commonly used patterns are the first two with the root note on the low E string and A string respectively):


355XXX (A5)
X355XX (C5)
XX356X (F5)
XXX366 (Bb5)


This is how you will see the chords in chord books.

5 Powerchord E Shape
5 Powerchord A Shape
5 Powerchord D Shape
5 Powerchord G Shape

The R indicates the string with the root note. For simplicity I have only marked out one string with R, but actually two strings have the root in the powerchords - this wil be clear to you when you look at the fretboard diagram below ad you fret the powerchords.

There are no frets numbered as they are moveable chords, i e as long as the spacing between your fingers is constant (i e maintain the pattern!) you will have a 5th chord/powerchord. Try and have your index finger on the root note. 

When I learned these chords I usually just played around a little to hear what sounded good or not - it is a great way to get to know your guitar:). In principle, you can play the backing track of nearly all songs with these chords, although to get the full harmony you need to play complete major/minor chords.


Thinking chromatically

A good way of keeping track of the chromatic scale and remembering where there is no "signed" halfstep between the natural notes is simply repeating the chromatic scale up and down for yourself, over and over again. Go to lesson 12 to read about musical thery  and the chromatic scale if you have no clue as to what I'm talking about.

When talking "chromatically", say the sharps when you go up, and the flats when you go down the scale - ie

From A, up 

A, A sharp, B, C, C sharp, etc.

A    A#    B   C  C#    D     D#    E     F   F#    G    G#  (A)

From A, down

A, A flat, G, G flat, F, E, etc

A    A♭    G    G♭    F    E   E♭     D    D♭    C   B   B♭   (A)

Here are all of the notes of the chromatic scale (i e all the notes of the fretboard) on the fretboard in a nice diagram. The numbers correspond to the frets, and you can see which string is which at the far right and left (fret 12 and 0 respectively)

Remember that the chromatic scale, no matter which note you start on, always repeats at the 13th note.


all fretboard notes

You can always find this handy diagram under Guitar tools - All notes of the guitar fretboard

Naming the powerchords - know what you are playing

If you want to know what chords you are playing you need to know which notes lie where on the fretboard. There is a good guide on how to memorize the fretboard - I would strongly advise you to look at it.

For now, however, it suffices for you to learn at least the E, A and D strings' note names.

Now - back to the powerchords. As I said above the root note is always (or should always be) on your index finger of the fretting hand. You then name the chord accordingly:


Root note + 5



Therefore the following chord    -     X133XX

Is called A#5 (or Bb5)

and this chord                           -      355XXX

Is called G5


Now try to name the chords in the picture below (you may use the diagram above with all the fretboard notes, of course):


Scroll down for the answer...









Green - F5

Red - G#5 or Ab5

Yellow - C#5 or Db5

Blue - A5


Rock on!

Of course learning chords is one thing, playing them is another. so be sure to practice to play the powerchords more with these songs below before you move on to the next lesson!

When I Come Around by Green Day
Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple
Polly by Nirvana
Hypnotize by The White Stripes