Supplemental Material for Page 17 (Chapter 2)

Power Chords ("5 Chords")
First form

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Page 17 presents "power chords". Power chords are made up of just two different notes, and are commonly used on the guitar.

In traditional music theory, it takes a least three different notes to create a proper chord. For example, a major chord is made of the first, third and fifth notes of a given major scale; minor chords are made of the first, flatted third, and fifth notes. (A "C" chord contains the notes C, E, and G, while a "C minor" chord contains C, Eb, and G.) A "power chord" is just the root (e.g. the note "C" in a C chord, or the note "G" in a G chord), and the fifth. Therefore, "power chords" are more accurately called "5" chords, as they omit the third, and contain just the root and fifth. "Power chord" is a nickname for these root & fifth combinations played in the lower register of the guitar. This is because they tend to have a big, full sound, even though they're made up of just two different notes.

In case you're interested, here's a little look at how the chord construction works:
Major chord = 1 (root), 3, 5
Minor chord = 1 (root), b3, 5
5 chord ("power chord") = 1 (root), 5

Using C as an example:
C major chord = C, E, G
C minor chord = C, Eb, G
C5 ("C power chord") = C, G

Without the very important "third degree" (the E in a C chord, or Eb in a C minor chord), the chord can't really be designated as major or minor, because there's insufficient info. Therefore, a power chord is neither major nor minor; it's simply a root and a fifth, so it's called a "5" chord (indicating the root and "5" only, no "3"). Played in musical contexts, a power chord may have an "implied" major or minor quality, (your ear might tell you whether you're leaving out the 3rd of a major or flat 3rd of a minor chord), but on it's own, it's simply ambiguous.

Naming the power chords
For the first form power chords, the root is on the sixth string. (Notice that the root is often circled in chord diagrams.) This means that the name of the chord will be derived from whatever note is being played on the sixth string. Therefore, a first-form power chord played on the third fret is a G power chord. It's called "G five" and written "G5". So, in a "chord symbol" (the way a chord is written on a page), "5" means "power chord". For example, the chord symbol "C" would mean to play the chord presented on page 4, while for "C5" you could play the first-form power chord with 1st finger on the eighth fret.

Playing the power chords
I recommend using the two-note version of the power chord at first (the first, bigger diagram on the page), because it's easier to play, but the 3-note version is also commonly used. (Even though the second version contains three notes, it only contains two different notes; the notes on strings 6 and 4 are the same note, an octave apart. That's why the note on the 4th string is optional/unnecessary.)

If your third finger has trouble reaching, you may prefer to use your pinky on the 5th string.

For exercises 2 and 4, use the E5 as shown above the exercises (the "open position" E5; don't go up to the E5 on the 12th fret). Power chords are called "power chords" because of their big, full, deep sound, so you'll often opt to play these in the lowest possible octave. Also, on pg 19, you'll learn that the higher E5 is playable on the 7th fret (5th string), so racing up to the 12th fret isn't really the most productive thing to practice.

Be careful with the "harmonic rhythm" (the timing of the chord changes) in the examples. Number one plays the G5 and Bb5 for two beats each, and gives a full measure (4 beats) to the C5. Example two plays the E5 for a full measure (4 beats), but the A5 and B5 receive just two beats each. In exercise four, the second measure is two beats of Gb5, with F5 and E5 getting just one beat each (on beats three & four).

Notice that there's text recommending the use of different rhythms (play the exercises in 8th notes as well as quarters), and palm muting. Try other rhythms as well. Regarding palm muting, this commonly used technique affords plenty of control over the amount of sound these chords generate. To palm mute, rest the side of your picking hand on the strings close to where they cross the bridge (or saddle) of your guitar. Shifting closer to the bridge produces a more mild, semi-muted effect, while moving away from the bridge (further up the string) quickly creates a more dramatically muted result. Experimenting with different tones and rhythms is highly recommended.

A word about forms
Why is this power chord form designated "first form"? Here's the deal:
As noted previously, there are five basic "forms" on the guitar. That is, there are five fairly useful ways to approach playing many of the chords and scales. The form with its root played by the first (or sometimes second) finger on the sixth string is designated "first form", and the remaining four forms move up the neck from there. As you can see, this power chord has the root played by the first finger on the sixth string, so it's the first form. For power chords, there are really only two forms. These correspond the the first and fourth forms of "bigger" (more complete) chords, so Sensible Guitar presents the first form here and the fourth form power chords on pg 19. For most practical purposes, there's no second, third or fifth form power chords.




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