Power Chord Variations (Guitar Lesson)

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David MacKenzie

Power Chord Variations

David MacKenzie explains various power chord voicings. By simply moving a finger or two, new power chords can be formed.

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 18:43Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:42) Lesson Introduction Dave demonstrates some exciting new ways to play power chords in this lesson. These power chords are inversions of the most basic forms of power chords that you have already learned. An inversion of a chord changes the bass note of the chord to a different note. By switching the fifth of a power chord to the lowest note, interesting new sounds are created. Explore many of the JamTracks that Dave has recorded to hear examples of how these power chords can be applied to rock and metal riffs.
Chapter 2: (05:10) Power Chord Variations In this scene, Dave demonstrates some new ways of playing a D power chord in fifth position.

Note: Fretboard diagrams with proper left fingerings to all chords discussed in this lesson can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

D5/A (Four Strings)

Within this voicing, the fifth of the chord, A, is played as the lowest note. This note is located at the 5th fret of the sixth string. The first finger barres this note as well as the root note played at the 5th fret of the fifth string. The fifth and root are both doubled an octave higher at the seventh fret of the fourth and third strings. Respectively, the third and fourth fingers fret these notes. The inclusion of the low doubled fifth gives this voicing a brutally thick and heavy sound.

Note: This voicing can be transposed anywhere on the fretboard.


Begin with the D5/A chord shape described above. Then, use the first finger to barre the first and second strings at the 5th fret. The first finger is now performing a full or "grande" barre at the 5th fret. The inclusion of the notes E and A converts the D5/A chord into a Dsus2/A chord. Within this voicing, the fifth of the chord, A, is now tripled. If the A note on the sixth string is removed, the chord voicing becomes Dsus2 in "root position."

Sus2 chords are harmonically ambiguous due to the lack of a third. They are neither major nor minor. Consequently, they can be substituted for either chord type within the context of a progression.

Note: This voicing can be transposed anywhere on the fretboard.
Chapter 3: (08:18) More Chord Variations G5/D

Begin with a D5 power chord played on the fifth and fourth strings. Fret the root note on the fifth string with the first finger. Play the fifth of the chord with either the third finger or the pinkie finger. Now, remove the fifth of the chord so that the first finger is barring the fifth and fourth strings at the fifth fret. An inverted G5 chord is now produced. The fifth of the chord, D is played in the bass.

Note: This chord voicing can be transposed to any fretboard positions. This shape can also be played on the sixth and fifth strings as well as the fourth and third strings.

Like Dave mentions, the G5/D and D5 power chords are often used together within the context of a riff or progression. An example of this chord change can be found in the JamTrack entitled "Rock in the Saddest of All Keys." A transcription of this track can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Major Power Chords

Major and minor chords can be implied by power chord shapes that contain the root and third of the chord. The fifth chord degree is omitted from these voicings.

Watch as Dave demonstrates a C major type power chord at 02:20 in the lesson video. This voicing consists of the notes C and E, which are the root and major third of the C major scale. Together, these notes imply a C major chord. Refer to the lesson video or the "Supplemental Content" section for the proper fingering of this voicing.

Note: This voicing can be transposed anywhere on the fretboard. It can also be moved to the sixth and fifth strings as well as the fourth and third strings.

Inverted Major Power Chords

Begin with an E5 power chord played on the fifth and fourth strings. Fret the root note on the fifth string with the first finger at the 7th fret. Play the fifth of the chord with the pinkie finger at the ninth fret. Now, slide the first finger back a fret so that it is playing the note D# at the 6th fret. An inverted B major power chord is now formed. This chord is typically written as B/D#.

This voicing is used in the main riff to 38 Special's hit song "Hold on Loosely." Tablature to this riff can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Note: This voicing can be transposed anywhere on the fretboard. It can also be moved to the sixth and fifth strings as well as the fourth and third strings.

Massive E5 Chord

Dave demonstrates an alternate way to play an "open" E5 power chord. Begin by playing an "open" E5 power chord on the sixth, fifth, and fourth strings. The sixth string is played open. The fifth and fourth strings are barred by the first finger at the 2nd fret. Then, add the third finger to the 4th fret of the third string. The fifth of the chord, B, is now doubled. Next, add the pinkie finger to the 5th fret of the second string. The root of the chord is now tripled. The resulting voicing is a massive version of E5.

Note: If the sixth string is eliminated from this shape, a movable chord voicing is produced. Within this new voicing, the fifth of the power chord is played as the lowest note.

Massive Esus2 Chord

Begin with the E5 power chord described above. Instead of omitting the first string from the voicing, barre this string with the first finger. An F# note is now added to the chord. The inclusion of this note transforms an E5 chord into an Esus2 chord.
Chapter 4: (04:21) Sus4 Chords Suspended fourth chords are frequently used to embellish major chords. Dave demonstrates this idea at the beginning of the scene by embellishing a D major chord with Dsus4.

A suspended fourth chord is formed by raising the third of a major chord by a half step. For example, a D major chord contains the following notes: D, F#, and A. F# is the third of the chord. When raised a half step, this note becomes G. Consequently, a Dsus2 chord is spelled D, G, and A.

Suspended chords are named as such because they leave the listener in suspense. These chords create tension. Subsequently, they must resolve back to their standard major counterparts.

Using Sus4 Chords in Progressions

Dave demonstrates how an Esus4 chord, an E major triad, and an Esus2 chord can be used together in a progression. Watch at 01:18 as he demonstrates one possible way to finger an Esus2 chord. By sliding the pinkie finger down one fret within this voicing, an E major chord is formed. If the pinkie is removed from the voicing altogether, an Esus2 voicing is produced. These three chords can be used together to embellish the basic E major chord.

Using Sus2 Chords in Progressions

Within a group setting, try playing sus2 chords while another guitarist plays standard power chords. A thicker, more colorful texture is produced by the combination of these two chord types.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

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festergutsfesterguts replied


todd_pettittodd_pettit replied

Here is a tip that helped me out SO MUCH with barre chords. Take your second knuckle on your first finger and press that down on the lower strings. Also roll your finger to the side and press down right next to the fret rather than trying to use the bottom of your finger. Watch Mark Brennans lessons on Barre chords. They are really really good.

samuelito2011samuelito2011 replied

hey david What kind of guitar is that??? looks like the telecaster from J5 squier

calcarcalcar replied

Great lesson. From the start your teaching is very unconventional, starting with the fun of powerchords and only later coming to the chords like A, D, E etc. Starting with the open chrods too early puts too many people off. Thanks.

overlord1111usoverlord1111us replied

Cool lesson DMAC! Your lessons are great man, seems like things are starting to come together from everything you show on here for me. I agree I have learned more in watching these lessons than the last couple years trying to learn on my own!

ronweb71ronweb71 replied

great lesson DMAC! I always wondered how people got that little bit extra variation. I've learned more in the last five days than I have in the last 2 years.

viallivialli replied

Thought this was a great lesson. Learned so much variation in such a short amount of time.

tikinhokuntikinhokun replied

wow, freaking great lesson, just adding some fingers gives the riffs some magic thing, it is very nice :D

duayneduayne replied

Great lesson Super Dave!!

bany_rockbany_rock replied

great lesson, about the Sus chords i would like to share that "i can´t stop loving you" by van halen is a great example of the proggresion u show but in A chords, the main rhythm part starts with Asus4- AMajor- Asus2

rockerdonrockerdon replied

good lesson.R u going to put up tabs for the riffs u teach in the lesson?

accordsmagiquesaccordsmagiques replied

Yeah Rockerdon, u are right. I know it's a lot about self-experimentations and supplemental content give us the tools, but it would be great if you could put some tabs about riffs you show (especially in the scene3: more chords variations): it will be helpful for poor beginners like me! ;-)

obldaveobldave replied


flyrerflyrer replied

Again Thanks DMAC( one of my favorite instructors) Russ

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In his Phase 1 series, David MacKenzie will walk you through the basics of rock guitar.

About the GuitarLesson 1

About the Guitar

David discusses the parts of the guitar. He also gives you some basic techniques to get you started.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Power ChordsLesson 2

Power Chords

In this lesson, David introduces basic power chords. Great fun for beginners!

Length: 10:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Basic Chord ProgressionsLesson 3

Basic Chord Progressions

David introduces some basic chords and chord progressions.

Length: 14:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Notes, Chords and ArpeggiosLesson 4

Notes, Chords and Arpeggios

David provides a brief explanation of what notes, chords, power chords, and arpeggios are.

Length: 8:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Speed and CoordinationLesson 5

Speed and Coordination

This lesson is all about increasing your speed and coordination. David demonstrates basic picking exercises.

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Chord ExercisesLesson 6

Chord Exercises

David MacKenzie presents a mysterious sounding chord exercise. This exerices is designed to improve right hand technique.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Practice and DisciplineLesson 7

Practice and Discipline

In this short lesson David talks about practice, discipline, and how you should apply yourself when learning and mastering the guitar.

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Double StopsLesson 8

Double Stops

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Length: 7:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Major ChordsLesson 9

The Major Chords

David covers the basic major chord shapes. Every guitarist must learn these basic chords.

Length: 18:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Minor ChordsLesson 10

The Minor Chords

David MacKenzie walks you through the basic minor chords. Expand your knowledge of chords with this fun-filled lesson.

Length: 8:15 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Major ScalesLesson 11

Major Scales

Major scales are an essential component of all styles of music. They can also be used as a great way to orient yourself with the fretboard.

Length: 32:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Major Scale JamLesson 12

Major Scale Jam

David MacKenzie explains how to practice the major scales along with a fun backing track.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
The Minor ScalesLesson 13

The Minor Scales

David MacKenzie proceeds to an in-depth discussion of the minor scales.

Length: 15:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Minor Scale JamLesson 14

Minor Scale Jam

David MacKenzie shows you how to play the natural minor scale over a rockin' JamTrack.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
One String ExerciseLesson 15

One String Exercise

David demonstrates an excellent one-string exercise in this lesson. This exercise will improve your dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 16:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Hammer-Ons and Pull-OffsLesson 16

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are techniques that enable you to play with a smooth, legato feel.

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Basic Bends

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Cool Rock LicksLesson 18

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Hammer-On ExerciseLesson 19

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Return to Pull-OffsLesson 20

Return to Pull-Offs

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Practicing BendsLesson 21

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Minor Pentatonic ScaleLesson 24

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David MacKenzie introduces the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson.

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Full Major ScaleLesson 25

Full Major Scale

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Full Minor ScaleLesson 26

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Full Major Pentatonic ScaleLesson 27

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Full Minor Pentatonic ScaleLesson 28

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David MacKenzie teaches a two octave version of the minor pentatonic scale.

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Rhythm BasicsLesson 30

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Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Power Chord VariationsLesson 31

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David MacKenzie explains various power chord voicings. By simply moving a finger or two, new power chords can be formed.

Length: 18:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool Lick ExerciseLesson 32

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Tapping #3:  Adding Open StringsLesson 35

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David MacKenzie

About David MacKenzie View Full Biography Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.

Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.

Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.

Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!

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