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Power Chords : A Key Element of Rock Musics

In music, a power chord (also fifth chord) is a chord consisting of only the root note of the chord and the fifth, usually played on electric guitar, and typically through an amplification process that imparts distortion. Power chords are a key element of many styles of rock music.
Link Wray is commonly cited as having introduced power chords with his hit 1958 instrumental "Rumble". Wray used a pencil to punch holes into the loudspeaker of his amplifier in order to replicate a distortion effect first improvised at a show in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Link Wray pioneered electric guitar distortions, like overdrive and fuzz, and was the first guitarist to use power chords to play a song's melody. 
However, power chords can also be found in earlier, less commercially successful recordings. Robert Palmer has argued that blues guitarists Willie Johnson and Pat Hare, both of whom played for Sun Records in the early 1950s, were the true originators of the power chord, citing as evidence Johnson's playing on Howlin' Wolf's "How Many More Years" (recorded 1951) and Hare's playing on James Cotton's "Cotton Crop Blues" (recorded 1954).

A later hit song built around power chords was "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks, released in 1964. This song clearly demonstrates the fast power chord changes that would become typical of heavy rock riffs. Early heavy rock bands such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple also helped to popularize power chords. Pete Townshend, having been influenced by Link Wray, is often credited for introducing the term and the power chord in general and is an avid user of them.

Theorists are divided on whether a power chord can be considered a chord in the traditional sense, with some requiring a 'chord' to contain a minimum of three degrees of the scale. When the same interval is found in traditional and classical music, it would not usually be called a "chord", and may be considered to be a dyad or simply an interval. However, the term is accepted as a pop and rock music term, most strongly associated with the overdriven electric guitar styles of hard rock, heavy metal, punk rock, and similar genres. The use of the term "power chord" has, to some extent, spilled over into the vocabulary of other instrumentalists, such as keyboard and synthesizer players.

Power chords are notated 5. For example, C5 (C power chord) refers to playing the root (C) and fifth (G). These can be inverted, so that the G is played below the C (making an interval of a fourth). They can also be played with octave doublings of the root or fifth note, which will make a sound that is subjectively higher pitched with less power in the low frequencies, but still retains the character of a power chord.

A power chord is neither major nor minor, as there is no third present. This gives the power chord a chameleon-like property; if played within the context of major chords, it will sound like a major chord, but when played with minor chords, it will sound minor.

Power chords are often performed within a single octave, as this results in the closest matching of overtones. Octave doubling is sometimes done in power chords. Power chords are often pitched in a middle register. If they are too low, they tend to sound unclear and boomy. When played too high they lack depth and power.

Although the power chord is associated with a distorted sound, most guitarists would consider that a power chord fingering can be called a power chord whether played through distortion or not. [source : Power Chords]

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