The Power Chords have been used in most of the epic rock guitar riffs of all time and can be heard in songs of iconic bands like Nirvana, Metallica, Iron Maiden, and many more. So what is a Power Chord, and how can you play it?
A Power Chord is made up of two different notes. The most common variation is made up of the fundamental or tonic (the note that gives the chord its name), it’s fifth, and in some cases, the eighth note of the fundamental is added. When written, the chord will have the number 5 next to the root note. For example, an A5 power chord consists of A, the root, and E, the 5th note.
Power chords are mainly used in rock, punk, blues, metal, and funk genres. They are great chords to play with distortion. The good news is that they only require two or three fingers with very comfortable fretting positions. So they are absolutely beginner-friendly.
You can quickly start adding some overdrive to your tone and play some of the most iconic riffs of rock history with these chords, as they are effortless and fun to play.
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Undoubtedly, the most famous song of Nirvana and grunge genre is Smells Like Teen Spirit. Released in 1991, the song features a tremendous iconic riff that is played with power chords.
The main riff, repeated in intro, melody, and chorus partitions, consists of 4 power chords. The trick with the riff is to catch the palm-muted transitions accurately. It can be challenging for an absolute beginner, but when your picking hand gets the feeling of it, it is incredibly cool and fun to play the melody.
It’s My Life – Bon Jovi
It’s My Life is the biggest hit by Bon Jovi, released in the year 2000. The song got extremely famous and became the symbol song of Bon Jovi with its epic riff and lyrics.
The song is pretty easy to play with an easy intro melody of power chords. The verse is played with palm mutes, and the chorus consists of regularly strummed power chords on the 5th and 6th strings.
The song also features a pretty easy and short solo that you can play to enrich the song.
Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor
One of the most known tunes of all time is the Rocky theme, Eye Of The Tiger by the American band Survivor. Released in 1982, the song has immense popularity thanks to the great scenes from the movie Rocky.
The song is widely used in events, commercials and covered by many artists. Its rhythmic epic pattern ideally motivates anyone for anything.
The song has pretty easy power chords to play with steady palm mutes in between. The struggle is to keep the high-paced rhythm constant with the strumming hand.
You can start slow and build up the speed while enjoying one of the coolest riffs ever. The melody is also a great palm mute and alternate picking exercise.
What I’ve Done – Linkin Park
What I’ve Done is the first single from the third album, Minutes to Midnight, by the famous Linkin Park. Released in 2007, the song tells about how humanity ruined nature and the world with greed.
The song is relatively easy to play for the rhythm guitar with steadily strummed power chords. The lead guitar partitions are also straightforward with basic melodies. Thus, it is a perfect song to play as a duo, even for absolute beginners.
Enter Sandman – Metallica
Enter Sandman is one of the most famous songs of the thrash metal legends Metallica with its well-known melody. Like most metal songs, the track features much fun to play power chords as its rhythm guitar part.
The rhythm guitar mixes many palm mutes, slides, and pull-offs to create some astonishing patterns to play. The sheet can be a bit challenging for absolute beginners but it is a great song to get familiar with different power chord patterns and techniques.
Sex On Fire – Kings Of Leon
Sex On Fire by the American band Kings Of Leon was a huge hit when it came out back in 2007. The song achieved huge success worldwide, hitting top positions on many music lists.
The rhythm guitar partitions are played with single-picked power chords in intro and verse followed by steady strums. It features rhythmic fun to play rhythm guitar with many different power chord variations. It is better to play the song with just a little bit of overdrive like the original recording.
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
One of the most famous melodies of music history is Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes, without a doubt. The melody is covered by many musicians, used in various worldwide events, commercials, and movies.
The famous single-picked melody is followed by its power chord variation. It is an utterly enjoyable melody to play and a great exercise to get familiar with different power chord positions throughout the fretboard.
All the Small Things is the single by the American alternative rock band Blink 182 from their album Enemy Of The State. It is the most successful hit of the band, which achieved worldwide popularity.
The song features one of the easiest power chord partitions, perfectly suitable for absolute beginners. The song is played with palm mutes and free strums among a bit of overdrive; it is a great song to start getting familiar with power chords.
American Idiot – Green Day
Power Chords are a big part of the Punk Rock genre, and one of the most famous examples is the American Idiot by the American band Green Day. The song’s high-paced rhythm and power chords create a punk atmosphere that is extremely fun to play.
Like many punk tunes, American Idiot is played with fast and steady strummed power chords. As the chords are pretty simple, your attention should be on the rhythmic part, which has many stops in between.
La Grange – ZZ Top
The iconic blues rock band ZZ Top’s most famous tune La Grange is another great song that can be played with power chords. The song’s great melody is the same throughout the song, making it an easy song to learn.
The song uses a different kind of power chord that is called inverted power chords. To play this variation, you can simply shift the chord’s root to be the top note, inverting the interval of a perfect fifth to a perfect fourth.
It is a great melody to experiment with different rhythm patterns and add some single notes to the power chord patterns.
Hold The Line – Toto
Released in 1978, Hold The Line is the globally famous song by the American rock band Toto. The tune has a simple and melodic structure, making it a great song to play for novice players.
The main melody of the song consists of a power chord partition with slides down the fretboard. The chorus is played the same way while the verse has a single picked straightforward melody. It is a bit of overdrive added; it is a fun song to play, especially the power chord slides that sound fantastic.
Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin
The famous song, Whole Lotta Love by the legends Led Zeppelin, is a great tune with its iconic rock-solid guitar riff. Released in 1969 as the opening song of the Led Zeppelin II album, the song is one of the most successful hits of the band.
The main riff played throughout the song features an E5 power chord with a single-picked four-note transition. Although it is a comfortable melody to play for the fretting hand, the picking hand can struggle with the fast-paced rhythm and palm-muted 6th string.
So, start slowly and build up the pace as you get familiar with the melody. It is an amazing iconic riff, very cool to play with plenty of distortion.
Run To The Hills – Iron Maiden
One of the greatest songs of the heave metal genre is the famous Run To The Hills by Iron Maiden’s metal legends. The song about the massacre of the indigenous people in America by the English armies was released back in 1982 with considerable popularity and became an iconic song of the band.
The song’s intro is fairly straightforward to play with power chorded triplet sections, while the verse sections require a fast picking hand with a repeated down-down-up pattern.
Ultimately it is a fast rhythmic song that shows many characteristics of a heavy metal song. It is a must-learn for the lovers of the genre.
Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
Another iconic tune to play with power chords is the famous Smoke On The Water by the hard rock legendary band Deep Purple. Released in 1972, the song became so famous that the melody is probably known by every music listener on the planet.
Just like La Grange, the melody uses inverted power chords as the main melody. It is one of the easiest and most played melodies on electric guitar. It is easy and cools as hell.
The verse and chorus sections consist of arpeggiated power chords and are highly beginner-friendly. Just grab your guitar, add the overdrive and play this song from start to end with joy.
Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz
Released at the end of 1998, Fly Away is the globally known tune of the virtuoso Lenny Kravitz. The song hit the top of the list worldwide with its uplifting rhythmic structure.
The funky hard rock song features rhythmic power chords that are beginner-friendly yet utmost enjoyable. Listen to the rhythm guitar carefully to get the hang of the mutes, stops, and dynamics.
When I Come Around – Green Day
When I Come Around is the single from the album Dookie released in 1994 by Green Day. The fans loved the tune with its extensive pop influences.
The song is played with steadily fast strummed power chords. It has a simple structure, yet the song requires a strumming hand with good stamina.
Fire It Up – Black Label Society
Fire It Up is the hit song by Black Label Society, the heavy metal band formed by the virtuoso guitarist Zakk Wylde. The song has a heavy tone with plenty of distortion and characteristics of heavy metal.
It is a relatively easy song to play with an easy melody and power chords as accompaniment. The main melody is played with a talkbox and is quite simple. The power-chord rhythm guitar partition consists of two chords, making the song enjoyable to play and sing along with.
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Fortunate Son is the hit song by the American group Creedence Clearwater Revival included in the album Willy and the Poor Boys from 1969. As one of the most representative songs of the anti-war movement unleashed in the late 1960s, the tune has global popularity.
The song is played with 8th note power chords with mutes in between. The palm mutes give the characteristic rhythmic spirit of the song.
Vertigo – U2
Released in 2004, Vertigo is the Grammy winner hit song by the Irish rock band U2. The rhythmic and tonal characters of the song make you go dizzy, as the name hints.
Vertigo has a very cool melody with heavy distortion, power chords, slides, and mutes. It has everything a good rock melody needs, making the song utterly a joy to play.
Breaking The Law – Judas Priest
One of the most known and played rock riffs of all time is, undoubtedly, Breaking The Law by the American heavy metal band Judas Priest. The song is widely known for its extraordinarily melodic and easy-to-play riff of rock guitar history.
Besides the main melody, the song is played with basic power chords that are strummed beginning of every line in the verse and let ring. There are also three-chord transitions at the end of the lines. The chorus is played with 8th note palm mutes. It is a super easy song to play and sing along with.
Rock You Like A Hurricane – Scorpions
One of the first songs that come to mind is undoubtedly Rock You Like A Hurricane by the German hard rock band Scorpions when it comes to power chord melodies. The heavy tone and the iconic riff are some of the most known rock tunes worldwide.
The song can be played just with power chords. The iconic main melody is effortless and fun to play with different power chords down the fretboard. The verse is played with palm-muted power chords while the chorus has the melody again.
Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield
The power-pop hit Jessie’s Girl by the Australian musician Rick Springfield is another famous song that can be played with power chords. The song is a great example of power chords used in many genres outside rock and metal.
With only 4 power chords, the song is pretty straightforward to play. You can add a bit of overdrive and listen to the song carefully to get the rhythmic pattern and the stops right.
Holy Diver – Ronnie James Dio
Holy Diver is the first single of the same-named album from the heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio. Although the song did not receive any commercial success, it became one of the classic songs of the good old Dio.
The song’s guitar structure features a characteristic distorted heavy metal riff with triplets that are made up of two palm mutes followed by a power chord. It is a great riff and extremely enjoyable to play while it is a great exercise for the picking hand with palm mutes and triplets.
Iron Man – Black Sabbath
Iron Man is one of the most famous tunes from the heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath. The song has an iconic riff and chorus that are played and sung many times by listeners worldwide.
The iconic melody is played with power chords on the 6th string. With many slides and single-note transitions, it is ultimately a great song with an outstanding riff—definitely, a must-learn for every rock guitarist.
Symphony Of Destruction – Megadeth
Symphony Of Destruction is the most famous song of the American thrash metal band Megadeth. The song is remembered with its heavy guitar tones and solos, amazing lyrics, and great drum partitions.
Different variations of power chords are used in the song. The central iconic riff uses standard power chords and is terrific with palm mutes in between. The verse and chorus use inverted power chords, and their pattern is more complicated.
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett
I Love Rock ‘n Roll is a rock song written in 1975 by Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker of The Arrows. The song was a hit performed by Joan Jett in 1982. The song is widely known for its classic chorus shouting, “I Love Rock and Roll!”
It is utterly an easy and fun song to play and sing along with. The main melody repeated throughout the song is quite simple with power chords and a little hammer on, followed by a bend transition.
Talk Dirty To Me – Poison
The first great success of the American glam metal band Poison came with Talk Dirty To Me in 1987. The tune is energetic, rhythmic and shows the classic characteristics of glam metal with repeated distorted guitar riffs, shredding guitar solos, and simple structure like pop songs.
The song is relatively straightforward to play with the easy main riff played with power chords. The verse uses fast-played palm mutes, and the chorus only uses single strummed power chords.
Give It All – Rise Against
Give It All is the hardcore punk hit by the American rock band Rise Against. The song was released back in 2004 and became one of the classic songs of the band.
The song is played with power chords from the start to the end. As a punk tune, the chords are steadily strummed at a fast pace. Although it is an easy song to play, it requires stamina for the strumming hand.
Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) – The Offspring
Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) is the most famous song of the American punk rock band The Offspring. After its release, the hit was so huge that it became the most downloaded song just in 10 weeks.
The song structure consists of different power chords and slides that are quite simple to play. You have to listen to the recording closely to get the timings right.
God Save The Queen – Sex Pistols
God Save The Queen is the most famous of the provocative songs of the controversial British punk band Sex Pistols. The song is considered a direct attack on Queen Elizabeth II and a mockery of the British crown.
The song has a high tempo with power chords strummed at a high pace. It is a beginner-friendly song with easy power chords and little slides.
Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones
Blitzkrieg Bop is the most famous song of the punk band The Ramones from the year 1976. The song is considered a milestone for punk and the rock and roll genre in general.
The catchy rhythm iconic to punk style was born with this song. With only 3 power chords used, it is a very easy song to play. There are no slides or techniques used, just steadily strummed power chords.
You Really Got Me – The Kinks
The oldest song on the list comes from 1964 and is called You Really Got Me created by the British band The Kinks. The song earned vast popularity right after its release.
The tune has a catchy riff and rhythm repeated throughout the song, created by two different power chords and fast transitions between them. It is an entertaining and easy song to play.
Man On The Silver Mountain – Rainbow
Another great heavy metal hit on the list is Man On The Silver Mountain by Rainbow. Released in 1975, the song features Dio on vocals and Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, a great collaboration.
The song uses inverted power chords just like Smoke On The Water. The great main melody is repeated in intro, verse, and chorus, basically in the entire song. Luckily it is a beginner-friendly melody and sounds fantastic with a distorted guitar.
Anarchy In The UK – Sex Pistols
Another controversial Sex Pistol hit played with power chords is Anarchy In The Uk from 1977. It is a punk rock song played loud at a high tempo.
The rhythm guitar partitions show the punk rock character with a fast and aggressive playing style. The power chords are played in a descending order to create the main melody of the song.
Metal Health Bang Your Head – Quiet Riot
Metal Health Bang Your Head is the most famous song of the heavy metal band Quiet Riot, released in 1982. The song features catchy and energetic guitar riffs that are composed for the audience to bang their heads.
The song uses standard power chords in the main melody, while the verse uses inverted power chords. It is a straightforward song to play, even for absolute beginners.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Benatar
Hit Me With Your Best Shot is the hit song of the American rock singer Pat Benatar recorded in 1980. The song has immense popularity and is played in many sports events.
With the simple main melody repeated in the entire song, it is a straightforward song to learn.
Whole Lotta Rosie – AC/DC
Another legendary band that uses many power chords is AC/DC. Released in 1977, Whole Lotta Rosie is one of the many great examples of it.
The song has a lovely rhythmic riff that is fun and easy to play. It uses 3 standard power chords with stops in between the repetitions.
Polly – Nirvana
Considered one of the band’s best songs, Polly is the hit song of the grunge legends Nirvana, released in 1991. The song has pop influences with many repetitions, catchy riffs, and its acoustic tone.
This is one of the few songs that is played with power chords and without a distorted guitar. The main melody uses palm mutes in transitions and stops in between the chords.
All Day And All Night – The Kinks
Another old hit by The Kinks on the list is All Day And All Of The Night, released in 1964. The song was loved by many listeners from the ’60s to today.
The song has a very similar structure to You Really Got Me, with lightly distorted guitar riffs with power chords played as staccatos. Listen to the song carefully to get the timings accurately.
The Zoo – Scorpions
The Zoo is a song by the German hard rock band Scorpions, released as a single in 1980. The song is remembered with its solo featuring a talk box.
Although the song’s partitions are easy to play individually, the structure is a bit complex, with many different sections and nuances. So try to learn the song step by step.
Wicked Game – HIM
Wicked Game cover of the American alternative rock band HIM is a widely popular song which is probably the easiest song to play on this list.
You only have to play 3 power chords with palm mutes repeatedly in descending order to learn this tune. That is all! It is a perfect song for absolute beginners.
Sweet Leaf – Black Sabbath
Sweet Leaf is a heavy metal song by British band Black Sabbath from their 1971 album Master of Reality. The tune can be considered the first stoner rock song of history.
The song essentially consists of the repeated main melody, which is a great riff with power chords. There are many transitions between the repeated main melody, but all are easy to play individually.
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker – The Ramones
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker is another hit by the first punk rock group in history, The Ramones. The song has a high tempo with a cleaner tone, unlike many other punk songs.
The song is pretty straightforward to play with different power chords down strummed at a high tempo, creating the punk tone.
Molly’s Lips – Nirvana
Released in 1991, Molly’s Lips is the cover song by the American grunge band Nirvana. The song was initially composed by the Scottish band The Vaselines but got its popularity with the Nirvana cover.
The song largely consists of the man riff, which features only 2 power chords. It is a very easy song to learn and play. Perfect for absolute beginners.
Power chords and related techniques are essential for every rock guitarist. If you want to be a fully equipped guitar player, you need to learn and practice these chord variations to enrich your guitar vocabulary and compose more freely.
All of these songs on the list are great to get familiar with power chords. So, either you use them to play your favorite songs, or you use them to practice or both at the same time, add these great songs to your guitar repertoire to take a step towards becoming a rock star!
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