Playing rock music on your guitar is probably the coolest thing you could ever do! There’s no feeling like being up on stage in front of hundreds, or even thousands of adoring, screaming fans – complete with “mosh pits”, a mic stand covered in bras, and the amazing feeling that comes with being the center of so many people’s attention for that fleeting moment when nothing else matters but your music *daydream ends* – er – so I’ve heard. ;) Before you can reach this awesome level of greatness, however, you need to master the fundamentals of rock guitar – and that’s where this post comes in! :)

The rock guitar chords you’ll come across most are power chords. Often played in Drop D tuning (which I’ll get into later on), these chords are the building blocks of most rock guitar chord progressions and – best of all – they’re ridiculously easy to play! :D I have a specialized article all about power chords here :) In that post I showed all the different chord forms and shapes and detailed how to change power chords by just sliding a finger up and down the neck. In this article, however, I’ll focus on how to incorporate them into rock guitar chord progressions. :P

By the way, that link opens a new tab so you can always use it to refer to the fingerings as I explain below. :)

Power chords are often labelled as punk rock guitar chords because they’re used in this genre more than in any other. All you need to play a beginner rock guitar rhythm is rhythm. Haha! :D You’ll see what I mean! :)  A good way to start is a fairly fast paced eighth note rhythm. This simply means that you sort of start a fast count going in your head (or feel free to say the numbers out loud at first) as you strum.

1 – 2- 3 -4 -5 -6 -7 -8 -(switch to another power chord) 1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7 -8 – (switch again) – 1- 2 – and so on. How fast you do it is up to you and will vary by song but you’ll need a moderately quick pace to make it sound like a good backing rhythm for a song. It’s important, however, to keep timing! The beat MUST be consistent for it to sound good so start at a pace that allows you to hold the rhythm and then work your way up.

Here’s a power chord progression to start you off: B5, G5, D5, A5 (incidentally this the progression used in the intro of All Time Low – Dear Maria, Count Me In). Remember I have a separate post with all the power chords and how to play them easily here! :P You’ll hang onto each chord for 16 strums instead of 8 though – so basically you won’t switch until you’ve completely two sets of 8. It’s still an eighth note rhythm so you still count up to 8 and start at one again. Give it a try! :) Your first rock guitar progression from a real song! ;)

P.S. You’ll need a fairly quick pace for that intro but remember that timing is more important than speed so don’t over-stretch yourself before your ready to go that fast! ;)

Now I’ll tell you how you can make this sound even better! :D You might have noticed that it doesn’t sound quite like your favorite rock bands – even if your strumming a fast paced, consistent, 8th note rhythm. This is because rock guitar chord progressions are usually played with distortion. The short version of how you can achieve this effect is to turn the “gain” control on your amplifier way up and the volume control considerably down. This will take a lot of tweaking but you’ll know the right amount of distortion when you hear it. :) Once you feel like you’ve got just the crunching sound you’re looking for, try that eighth note pattern again and see if it sounds more like what you were hoping for ;)

Now that you have the basics down, just play around with different power chords and rhythms. Just remember that timing is more important than speed and that, over time, you’ll develop the co-ordination to keep a steady beat at a higher tempo. :) You also shouldn’t tie yourself down to power chords or you’ll end up stereotyped. Barre chords – and even open chords (uncommonly) – have their place as rock guitar chords and you can mix them right in if it sounds good to you! :)

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P.S. Check out the new forums I set up to give more personal advice!