One Chord to Rule Them All…or At Least Get You Started

OK – I know, it’s not been the most exciting week so far. But everything here is designed from the perspective of starting you at the beginning. Hence, we are only going over one chord this week.
Be patient! We’ll eventually add more and things will roll more quickly.

So, with that being said, let’s meet the Power Chord! Oh, wait, we’re not ready for that yet. Allow me to introduce the chord diagram first.

The chord diagram has six vertical lines – one for each string. The line at the far left represents the sixth string, while the one on the far right is the first string. The horizontal lines represent frets. Unless otherwise noted, the very top horizontal line is the nut.

In addition to the lines, the numbers in the circles represent which fingers are used. An “X” below the string means the string isn’t to be played.

This example puts the first finger on the first fret of the second string, the second finger on the second fret of the fourth string and the third finger on the third fret of the fifth string. One final note before we get to the actual Power Chord. A Power Chord is not actually a chord. It’s actually an interval. However, there’s not really a better name for it. Many methods and charts call these “5” chords (like a G5,) but that’s not correct, either – I’ll explain why a little later.

NOW, we can introduce the Power Chord:

Just to review: the sixth string is open, the second finger goes on the second fret of the fifth string.

Before we even attempt strumming, let’s make sure all the notes are clean, shall we? Of course, we shall.

Grab the chord, and starting with the sixth string, pluck each string with the pick and make sure each and every note rings cleanly. We are only plucking three strings! If one or more notes is not clean, there are several things to check.

The most common mistake is that the fingers are not standing up on the tips. Make sure that each finger is as close to perpendicular to the string as you can get it. What I find, especially with beginners, is that the fingers tend to get lazy and lean over. That actually stops adjacent strings from ringing.

After you’ve made sure that your fingers are standing on the tips, check to make sure that your fingers are as close to the frets as you can get without going on top of the fret or past it.

The last thing on the list is to press down a little harder. Many beginners try to press down harder initially and it really should be the last step. Playing the guitar should not be painful. Pain is a sign that something is wrong.

Well, OK. There will be a little pain until you build enough callouses to press the strings down without feeling them. But other than that…

Now we move on to the strum. A strum is really nothing more than an extended “pick.” Starting just above the sixth string, move toward the floor, crossing all six strings. Gradually, this motion should be made more and more quickly, until it sounds like all six strings are being played at once.

As a final note on today’s installment, I’d like to include some variations you might see on a chord diagram. The first variation is the name. You may see it referred to as a chord block or a chord chart. All three ways are correct. I just happen to like big words. So I use “diagram.” Secondly, you will sometimes see the chord diagram lying on its side, with the top line representing the top string and the bottom line representing the bottom string. The third most common variation is the fingering will sometimes be listed underneath the chord diagram, allowing several possible fingerings to be listed. Other times, there will be no fingers, just dots where the fingers go.

Until next time…Play in the Key of YOU!

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