‘5’ chords for strength and power

Substitute Chords – part 8

So far we’ve looked at alternative or substitute easy to finger chords in a variety of keys. Now let’s look at some chord shapes to change the flavour of the sounds we make. Some times we want our acoustic playing to sound less ‘nicey nicey’ and a bit ‘stronger’ for some out there abandoned moments in worship. For this I sometimes use ‘5’ chords, otherwise known as power chord – for their powerful sound.



Here comes the science… Normal basic chords, also known as triads, are always made up of just three notes (regardless of many strings you are playing). If you are familiar with music theory these are known as the 1st, the 3rd and the 5th. With any 3rd note you can move it up or down 1 semitone/ ½ step/ 1 fret and it give the chord a major (happy) or minor (sad) sound.

With ‘5’ chords the 3rd is removed although so not only are you only playing 1sts or 5ths but they are also neither major or minor. The resulting sound being neither happy nor sad – just somehow ‘stong’ sounding. They also work remarkably well with overdrive or distortion. To find power chords you can just play the one usual shape that every teenage uses in every guitar shop on every Saturday of the year or you can try the ones below. There are a few more alternatives on our Acoustic Intermediate Worship Guitar Course but these should get you going.