I can still remember the day in grammar school when my teacher told me that a tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable. "How can you say such a thing?" I asked in utter disbelief. "Everyone knows it's a vegetable. Sometimes things are not what they seem." she replied. A cold, hard fact of life...
Welcome to the power chord. You see, despite what it seems, a power chord requires no power and it is barely even a chord at all. Cold. What is it then? A power chord is a combination of two notes: the root tone and fifth tone of a major scale. Like the texture of a tomato it's difficult to describe without an example.
Take a look at the E Major scale below (E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#-E).
As you can see, the first note of the scale is the open E note. That note is called the "root". A quick count to five from that note will land you on the B note, which is called the "fifth" of the scale. Those two notes in combination make an E "power chord" which is shown below:
How does a power chord differ from a non-power chord? Good question. The full E Major chord or open E Major chord, shown below, is composed of the first, third and fifth tones of the E Major scale.
Thus, a full E Major chord contains the G# (the first fret on the third string) which is called the "third" of the chord. That's the middle note of the E triad, and it helps to determine more specific aspects of the chord, like whether it's major or minor...(keep that in mind, but we'll save the gory details for another lesson.) So the E power chord (Also described as the E no 3rd) is simply a smaller piece of the larger E Major chord. It's an E Major chord without the third tone of the E Major scale. I know that may sound kind of confusing now, but it should fall into place in a little while.
Now take a look at the other charts below and look for the roots and fifths of the chords.
Notice how the shape of the power chord stays the same even when the root moves to a different string or fret. In this lesson we'll play with power chords rooted on the sixth, fifth and fourth strings, and see if we can't simmer them up into a few saucy grooves. Shall we?