by M A N
You've all heard it before. The kraaaang, the crunch, the chug-a-chug. It's the two (sometimes three*) note chord that has laid the foundation of music from Chuck Berry to Kelly Clarkson to Disturbed. And if any of you have ever tried to play the guitar, it is also one of the first things you ever learn.
***Beware. Miniscule amounts of music theory ahead.***
So what is a power chord? At it's most basic, it is simply two notes: the Root note and the Fifth. That's it. That's all it takes to rock out. If you're unfamiliar with those terms, don't panic. It really is easy to figure out. Let's say you want to play a C power chord. Well then, your root note is C. Pretty easy, huh? But a single note does not make a chord (there are those who would argue that neither do two notes, but we'll ignore them for now). So what do we do? We add the Fifth (so named by being the fifth note in the scale--see how easy this is?). In this case, it's a G. Together, the two notes make a power chord.
But let's face it. Being able to recite the circle of fifths won't get you the groupies. So let's put the theory aside and focus on the physical aspect of playing the chord so that we can get down to it. All you need are two fingers, one for each note. Then just place them on the fretboard like so:
Notice something? That's right. The shape your fingers make stays the same. All you need to do is just move them to the position you want. In five minutes, you can be playing complete songs, even if you've never played before. I've known players who never even bothered to learn anything else because of the vast library of music power chords allow you to play. They're easy, versatile, and sound great.
Now, the reason it's called a "power" chord is because it sounds best when the guitar is distorted in some way. There are country, blues, and even the very rare jazz song that use power chords, but they are most common in rock because, well, they ROCK!
For some nice examples of power chords in action, take a look/listen at these videos.
Smells Like Teen Spirit -- This is an example of how power chords can change the world.
No Sleep Til Brooklyn -- Obviously dated, this is still a great example of how power chords and fist pumping go hand in hand.
Killing Me -- There's a lot more than just power chords going on here, but I wanted to include it because I just LOVE this band.
Start All Over -- Mock all you want, but pop music is always better with power chords.
*Quite often, the power chord is played by adding the higher octave of the root note, thus giving it three notes and full "chord" status.