CONSIDER THE COMMON POWER chord: Most of us already know how to manipulate these parallel perfect fifths (root+5) and their related perfect fourth inversions (5+root) into power chord riffs and rhythm figures based on their root notes (Think “Smoke on the Water”). But what happens if we maintain those same intervals and change up the bass notes beneath them? We get an extremely versatile and valuable way to construct virtually any chord sound, that’s what! Power intervals present a great way to create major seventh, minor seventh, suspended, and altered power-chord voicings that will cut through any amount of distortion like a hot knife through butter.
Bar 1 in Fig. 1 shows five C5 fingerings using root+5 and 5+root configurations, as well as several alternate versions on adjacent string groups. Playing these over a C bass, as shown in bar 2, produces the common power chords we all know and love. Things begin to get interesting in bar 3, where we change the bass note to D and transform the same intervals into C5/D, D7sus4 (root+4+b7), or Gsus4 (5+root+4) depending on your perspective and current musical context. Thoroughly examine each of the next five measures and you’ll discover formulas for generating the following power-chord voicings: C5/E, a.k.a. a C triad with the 3 in the bass (bar 4); C5/F, a.k.a. Fsus2, Fadd9, and Csus4 (bar 5); C5/G, a.k.a. a C5 with the 5 in the bass, or Gsus4 (bar 6); C5/A, or Am7 (bar 7); and C5/B, a.k.a. Cmaj7 with the 7 in the bass (bar 8).
Fig. 2 presents the same C5s played over the remaining minor and altered bass notes relative to the key of C. Follow the same course of exploration and you’ll find a very Mahavishnu-esque C5/Db, a.k.a. Dbmaj7b9, Eb13 with the b7 in the bass, and A7#9 with the 3 in the bass (bar 1), C5/Eb, a.k.a. Eb6 or Cm with the b3 in the bass (bar 2), C5/F# (or /Gb), a.k.a. C7b5 or F#7b5/Gb7b5 (bar 3), C5/Ab, or Abmaj7 (bar 4), and C5/Bb, a.k.a. Bb6/9 or C7 with the b7 in the bass (bar 5). Transpose all of the previous voicings to every key, play them straight up or arpeggiated, and try dropping some into your favorite progressions at will. You can play any of the previous power intervals as written (this works better with lower gain tones), or let your bassist cover the bottom while you crank up the fourths and fifths. Get to know them and get workin’!
Jesse Gress is the author of The Guitar Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Rhythm, Melody, Harmony, Technique & Improvisation [Backbeat].
Linda May Han Oh Releases Fourth Solo Album 'Walk Against Wind'
Famed Guitar Maker Dean Zelinsky Discusses Starting Dean Guitars as a Teenager
Peter Hook Discusses His Live Recordings of Classic Joy Division and New Order Albums (WATCH)
This Week in Free Stuff: Light-Load Plug-in Instruments
Superbooth17 Day One: The Weird and the Wonderful
Puremagnetik K-Station Atmospheres Revives Love for the Kawai K5000S Additive Synth
Jazz Piano Legend Junior Mance and His Struggle with Dementia Profiled in New Kickstarter Film
The Art of Synth Soloing: Joe Zawinul, the Syndicate Years
Steinway Unveils Art Case Piano Celebrating Composer Modest Mussorgsky
Tal Farlow: Seven Guitars That Reveal the Jazz Giant’s Vision as a Design Innovator
Four Chronographs That Put You in the Driver’s Seat
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT: The Weekday Warrior
Killswitch Engage Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz Leaves Show Mid-Set for Beer
In This Moment Announce 2017 Summer Tour
Trivium Frontman Matt Heafy Performs Acoustic Version of Alice in Chains' "Down in a Hole"
Is This the Mother of All Finger Exercises?
Watch Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr Perform "Something"
Watch Amy Winehouse's 2004 Promo for the Fender Stratocaster
Copyright ©2017 by NewBay Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10016 T (212) 378-0400 F (212) 378-0470