Have you just started writing your first guitar riffs with power chords?
They cool aren’t they? And they seem to fit in everywhere.
Well, there’s a reason for that, something I explain detail in this lesson on power chord theory.
The short answer to why power chords fit in easily more than major and minor (or other types of) chords is that they’re simple, and they’re made up of just two notes.
In fact, using strict music theory terms they’re not even a chord, but a dyad.
And while their simplicity makes them easy to use, playing a progression of power chords may soon become boring.
Unless you do something on purpose to make them interesting!
Any of these 5 things you’ll learn in this lesson can be added to your power chord guitar riffs to make them stand out from just a monotonous sequence of chords.
1. Use Palm Muting Technique
You palm mute a chord by resting your right hand on the strings near the bridge of the guitar, while strumming the chord.
You should press enough to produce a different sound (more like chug-chug-chug-chug) from the chords, but not deaden them completely.
This is how a palm muting is notated on guitar tabs/standard music notation.
To play the example above, apply palm muting technique only to the quaver notes, the ones that have PM written under them or fall under its bracket.
In this lesson on palm muting patterns I explore different ways you can milk this technique to make your guitar riffs more interesting.
2. Use rests
Silence, if placed in the right place, can make a riff sound great.
Yet, it’s so obvious, some players seem to forget it.
As you can see in the next example, rests can make your power chord riffs stand out much more than a series of power chords that don’t stop at any point.
3. Use semiquaver patterns
The examples above use only crotchets and quavers as note values. Semiquavers give us more options, since you can use patterns like this:
The pattern above, especially when used with palm muting, has been nicknamed the heavy metal gallop and is frequently found in the music of Iron Maiden among others.
Similar to the pattern above it, but starting with the semiquavers.
A semiquaver, followed by a quaver, followed again by a semiquaver.
Or any combination you may want to include in your riffs, such as in this example:
4. Pick single notes
While strumming power chords sounds great, you don’t need to strum all the time. The notes of the power chord, can be played one by one as in this riff.
Or, if we want to be a bit more creative, in this one:
Another phrasing technique you can use when creating power chord riffs is slides.
You can see an example of their use in this riff:
A famous power chord riff that uses slides a lot is that of the song Iron Man by Black Sabbath.
Conclusion: Beyond Power Chord Riffs
These 5 techniques will surely spice up your power chord riffs and give you a variety of options to make them more interesting.
That being said, if you play power chords only you’re still restricted in your solos. This lesson on major and minor triads shows you even more notes you can add to your riffs to make them even more interesting.
If you would like to learn more about guitar playing, songwriting, music theory and the pursuit of happiness, subscribe here so that you will receive an email with my next article.
You may consider giving a donation, by which you will be helping a songwriter achieve his dreams. Each contribution, no matter how small, will make a difference.