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Power Chords

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A power chord is a dyad (2 notes played together, a chord is at least 3 notes) seperated by an interval of a 5th. Sometimes a 3rd note is included as an octave of the bass note. The reason chord is used in the name as the power chord is intended as a major or minor chord with the 3rd removed.

Although it has moved onto other styles and instruments the power chord is really identified with the distorted electric guitars of rock music.




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They turn up in a lot of acoustic tunes as well as rock (but usually with the two notes doubled or trebled) and are used a lot in accompanying session tunes.

I used to listen to the beginning of Dylan's 'The Times They are a Changin" and wonder why it didn't sound quite right when I played it and that's because the first chord has no third. 'Lord Franklyn' played like John Renbourn makes use of it.

There's a tune I love called Canyon Moonrise written by an East Coast American Mandolin and guitarist called John McGann (Canyon Moonrise chords etc). I was in touch with him via email a couple of years ago discussing the tune and the chords that he plays with it. He plays a 079900 chord for the E and likes the ambiguity of the tune that moves from major to minor and sometimec could be either rather than defining the harmony by choosing one or the other. A lot of DADGAD music (and things in CGCGCD tuning) also uses the same ambiguity and that adds to the distinctive sound of those tunings and the music they often accompany. It's interesting to experiment playing a song with major chords or with the equivalent dyad and compare and contrast.

But "power chords" tend to be associated with rock as John has so eloquently and succinctly described already.

Edited by Nick
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