Left Handed Power Chords

Power to Lefties!

Power chords are written as 5 chords ... a chord name followed by the number 5, e.g., A5, B5, C5 etc., They consist of the 1st (root) and 5th notes of any given major scale with a chord formula of 1-5.

Whenever you see a 5 chord, it is a Power Chord. They can also be played with the inclusion of an octave above the root note or 5th note depending on the sound you are after.

Here are some examples of how these chords are constructed:

Chord Major Scale Formula Notes
C5 C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C 1-5 C - G
A5 A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A 1-5 A - E
B5 B - C# - D# - E - F# - G# - A# - B 1-5 B - F#
F5 F- G - A - B♭ - C - D - E - F 1-5 F - C
E♭5 E♭ - F - G - A♭ - B♭ - C - D - E♭ 1-5 E♭ - B♭

Featured practice Song for this session... Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol


Power chords are neither major or minor because the 3rd interval is missing.

Both major and minor chords require a 3rd interval, as that is part of their structure:

  • Major chord formula: 1-3- 5
  • Minor chord formula: 1-♭3-5.

This means you can play a power chord over a major or minor chord belonging to the same family without having any effect on its individual sound characteristics. If you play C5 over a C Major chord, it will still sound like C major. If you play C5 over a C Minor chord, it will still sound like C minor.

Power chords are most often used by guitarists who like playing with distortion. Because the sound has overwhelming tendencies, it can be 'too much' when played over an entire chord. However when played using power chords over 2 or 3 notes, it strengthens the sound rather than drowning it out.

Most guitarists play these chords using a down-stroke leading with the bass note, enhancing the fullness and chunkiness of the chord. They are also played with fingers - generally the thumb and 1st and/or second fingers depending on whether you are playing a 2-note or 3-note chord.

The 2 most commonly used types of power chords are the 2-note and 3-note chords.

  • 2-note chords - use the 1-5 (root - 5th) OR 5-1 finger position (5th - octave above the root)
  • 3-note chords use the 1 - 5 - 1 finger position (root - 5th - octave above the root)

In the following charts, we will be using 3 note power chords with a 1-5-1 pattern. You can change these to 2-note chords very easily by simply removing the highest or lowest note, depending on the sound you want. The most important thing is that you have a root and a 5th note.

Charts with the root-note on the 6th & 5th strings

Chart Legend:
Root notes - Yellow
5th notes - Blue
Octave above the root note - White
X - don't play the string
O - play open string
Numbers - Fingers
Left-Handed Power Chords - Root on 6th string ↓ Left Handed Power Chords 1

Try using your 3rd finger on strings 4 & 5 in place of fingers 3 and 4 - basically a mini-barre over the 4th and 5th strings with your 3rd finger. It may seem a little uncomfortable at first but becomes very easy with practice.

If you are using 2-note chords instead of 3, simply play the blue and white notes on strings 4 and 5, or the yellow and blue notes on strings 5 and 6.


With the root note on the 5th string, you need to avoid hitting the bottom string - string 6. A way around this is to rest your strumming hand on string 6 as you would if you were dampening a chord. That way, if you do accidently hit the string, it won't affect the sound too much. You may want to use a mini-barre over the 3rd and 4th string with your 3rd finger.

Another way of playing to ensure you only hit the required strings is to play the strings with your fingers using a picking style. That way you will avoid hitting the wrong strings. The thumb generally picks the bottom note while fingers 2 and 3 pick the other 2 strings.

If you are using a 2-note power chord, the thumb will pick the bass note while the first finger picks the other note. You can play the 2-note chord with the yellow and blue notes, or the blue and white notes.

If you are using the 2-note power chord using the 5-1 pattern on strings 3 & 4, you will notice that when we reach the 12th fret, it is an octave away from playing those same 2 strings in an open position. A good example of this is G5.

On the chart above you will notice this chord starts on the 10th fret using the 3-note method of 1-5-1. But what if we use the 2-note method of 5-1 using the blue and white notes - they lie on the 12th fret. We could play this exact same chord by playing the same 2 strings in an open position. They are exacly the same notes except one octave lower.

To show you this in TAB form, lets look at the famous riff in the song Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple: Use your thumb and index finger to play the notes. The 1& 2& 3& 4& refers to the timing with each timing count directly above each note.

   1& 2& 3& 4&   1& 2& 3& 4&   1& 2& 3& 4&   1& 2& 3& 4&
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