OK let’s have a look at the Power Chords to start off with. Now Power Chords are also known as fifths. A Power Chord is ‘powerful,’ just as it is described. What we are actually doing is playing the lowest three notes of a major chord and making sure we use the root note for the lowest note.
The Power Chords
Video 1: Introduction
In this first video I’ll run through exactly what we’ll be playing so you’ve got a feel for the result we’re aiming for. I’ll then go on to explaining everything step by step in video 2.
Video 2: Teaching
I’ll explain. In an E5 Power Chord (open position) we are playing the bottom three notes of the E major chord. So we have an open E, we’ve a B which is the second fret of the A string and we’ve an E note which is the second of the D string, and these are the only notes we play for a power chord.
What JJ Cale has done, or the Eric Clapton version has done, is to take that E Power Chord and play it further up the neck. So the Power Chord we have and the three notes we are playing are E, B, E, but this time the E note is on the 7th fret of the A string. And then we have the D string where you hold down the 9th fret (the B note), and then the E note which is the 9th fret for the G string.
So we are now playing the E5 power chord one octave higher than when played in the open position. All the power chords used in Cocaine use this same shape, but in different positions on the fretboard. Because of this I am not going into a lot of detail. All we need to remember is that the root note of the E5 power chord is on the 9th fret of the string.
Using this same shape therefore (albeit in different positions on the fretboard) means the root note for each power chord you play will always be on the A string.
OK, when you’ve played that E5 chord twice, then the D5 and back to the E5, release all the pressure off your hands on your left hand so it doesn’t ring out. Or alternatively use your right hand to stop the strings or notes ringing out.
Now we play the D5 again and let the notes ring out. You can see the brilliance of this riff is, first of all, its simplicity, and secondly the timing. When we play the second D5 chord there is a slight gap.
So it’s like 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (letting the D5 ring out on the 5 count). It’s the accuracy of the timing that makes the riff distinctive. Next we are going to work our way down the fretboard, still using the same shape, strumming each chord just one, We start by playing the E5 chord, moving down 2 frets to the D5, down two more frets to the C5 and finally down one more fret to the B5. When we hit that B5 we do not let it ring out. And that’s all there is to it!It’s such a great riff to play and is actually not as simple as it first sounds. You need to try and make sure that your timing is spot on and that when you are playing the chords they come out very clean, very clear and there is that distinctive gap between the E5 and the D5. I hope you’ve had fun with that and I’ll see you again for another session in the next issue. So make sure you’ve subscribed to Guitar Coach Magazine. Bye for now!
Cocaine was originally written and recorded by American singer-songwriter and guitarist JJ Cale in 1976. Eric Clapton covered the song in 1977, and it has since become regarded as one of his greatest hits.