5 Easy Power Chord Ideas – Do This To Make Rhythm Guitar Power Chords Sound Huge
by Tom Hess
If you want to play awesome rhythm guitar riffs and give yourself endless cool rhythm guitar ideas for songwriting, you need to know how to beef up your rhythm guitar sound.
And when I say: “beef up your rhythm guitar sound”, I'm not talking about using pedals or buying expensive gear.
I'm talking about simple things you can do to make your power chords sound better with the gear (and guitar playing skills) you already have.
- Using 3rds and 6ths to make your power chords sound better
- Creating variations on rhythm guitar riffs you already play
- Using vibrato on power chords in your rhythm guitar riffs
- Spicing up the rhythm of your power chord ideas
... you’ll never run out of ideas for rhythm guitar riffs and become a much more creative guitar player and songwriter.
Want to see how to do this?
Watch this video on how to make your power chords sound better:
Question: “Tom Hess, do I need a 7 string to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge?”
Answer: No, not at all. A 7-string guitar simply makes the notes lower in pitch. But you can beef up your rhythm guitar sound no matter if you play power chord ideas in the low register or high(er) register.
If you can make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge on a 6-string guitar, you won’t have any trouble coming up with heavy rhythm guitar ideas on a 7-string guitar either. But if you can’t – a 7-string guitar won’t do much to beef up your power chord ideas.
Here are 5 more ways to make your rhythm guitar power chords sound huge and create awesome rhythm guitar riffs on command:
Playing in time is possibly the least practiced musical skill of all. (Partially because there aren’t any shiny exercises or tab examples of how to play rhythm guitar ideas in time.)
That said, the better you are at playing your power chord ideas in time, the easier it is to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge.
Because playing rhythm guitar riffs really tight (in time) projects an undeniable feeling of power and control. (Sloppy, out-of-time rhythm guitar ideas don’t sound powerful.)
How do you play rhythm guitar riffs in time?
Here is a simple drill to get you started (that helps to make your power chords sound better):
Level 1 Of Playing Power Chord Ideas In Time: turn on your metronome to 60 bpm and clap your hands to the click. Your goal is to clap exactly on top of the click – creating an illusion that the click has disappeared.
(Yes, I know you are not playing any rhythm guitar ideas here yet. But this step lays down the foundation that will help to make your power chords sound better.)
Level 2 Of Playing Power Chord Ideas In Time: At the same tempo, begin strumming (on your guitar) simple quarter notes to the click to get the same effect. For example, simply strum an open E power chord.
This is a bit harder (because you have to coordinate your hands to play the chord while focusing on playing in time).
That said, you’re now practicing one of the core skills that helps to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge.
Level 3 Of Playing Power Chord Ideas In Time: Practice strumming other note values (8th notes, 16th notes and triplets) to the click at the same tempo as the previous 2 levels.
Focus on making the first note of each beat line up with the click.
Question: “Tom Hess, strumming just 1 power chord sounds boring! Why not practice this exercise using actual power chord ideas or rhythm guitar riffs?”
Answer: Because you need to isolate the specific skill of playing rhythm guitar riffs in time. After you develop this skill in isolation, ALL of your rhythm guitar riffs will sound tight and you won’t struggle anymore to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge.
Another (obvious) tip: take guitar lessons from an expert guitar teacher whom you trust to help you make your power chords sound better. This way you can get feedback on your rhythm playing and increase your ability to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge.
Yes, palm muting. That technique every guitar player learns on day 1, but very few go on to use to enhance their power chord ideas and rhythm guitar riffs.
Here are the important points to know about using palm muting to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge:
- Make your palm muting consistent on all your rhythm guitar riffs.
To be clear: this does NOT mean you can’t ever vary the intensity of your palm muting when trying to beef up your rhythm guitar sound. (You can - see below).
It means that any changes in muting intensity need to be deliberate and controlled. When you want a chunkier palm muted sound in your rhythm guitar ideas – you need to be clear on exactly how much muting you want to hear. Then mute with that level of intensity – no more and no less.
And when you want a lighter level of muting in your power chord ideas – the same rule applies.
Question: “Tom Hess, what’s the best way to control the intensity of palm muting when trying to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge?”
Answer: Simply slide your palm closer the bridge (when you want a softer level of palm muting in your rhythm guitar riffs) and slide your palm further from the bridge when you want a more aggressive level of palm muting in your rhythm guitar ideas.
- Alternate palm muted notes and chords with unmuted notes and chords.
Palm muting your power chord ideas is similar to highlighting text. You don’t want to overdo it.
So, one of the best ways to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge is to plan out which parts of your rhythm guitar ideas will have muting and which ones won’t.
Then practice to beef up your rhythm guitar sound by making the notes of your power chord ideas have that exact blend of muted and unmuted notes. This is a powerful (but simple) way to make your power chords sound better.
Watch this video to see what I mean:
- practice opening up the muting gradually to go from a muted chord to an unmuted chord.
This one of my favorite rhythm guitar ideas that can also make your power chords sound better.
All you do is start strumming a power chord with palm muting. Then gradually lighten up the muting (without speeding up or slowing down the strums).
The next level above that is to do it in reverse. Start with an unmuted power chord and gradually layer more muting onto it. The key is to do it gradually (not suddenly).
This will take some practice to do, but it will help your rhythm playing immensely.
When you are playing your rhythm guitar riffs live (in a band, for example), your main challenge will be: hand fatigue.
Hand fatigue makes it hard to play in time and maintain precise control when doing palm muting. (Which makes it hard to execute all your rhythm guitar ideas.)
How do you develop picking hand endurance?
Here are the best techniques for doing this with your rhythm guitar riffs:
- Play your rhythm guitar ideas at speeds that are faster than what you’ll need for performing. This will train your top-end speed (helping your endurance) and make your regular speeds feel easier.
One way to do this is to use speed bursts on your rhythm guitar riffs, like this:
- play your rhythm guitar ideas at tempos below your normal speeds, but challenge yourself to play them for longer. As you do, pay attention to excess muscle tension in your body.
- play at tempos slower than you are used to, but make your pick attack harder. This makes your regular rhythm playing (with normal levels of pick attack and articulation) feel easier and gives you more endurance and articulation in your picking hand.
The more control you have over your picking hand, the easier it is to practice the other tips in this article on how to make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge.
Bonus tip that helps to beef up your rhythm guitar sound and make rhythm guitar power chords sound huge: pay attention to how you strum power chords.
A common mistake guitarists make is: strumming power chords in their rhythm guitar ideas by moving the pick down and away from the strings. (This is especially common during the final chord of a guitar riff.)
The problem with this?
This motion bends one of the strings in your power chord and makes your rhythm guitar riffs out of tune. (It sounds worst of all when playing power chords with an open low E string.)
The solution is: strum power chords by moving the guitar pick straight down - cutting through the strings like a knife. This keeps your chords in tune and does a lot to make your power chords sound better.
Few things will beef up your rhythm guitar sound like pinch harmonics can.
How do you practice doing pinch harmonics?
First, learn the steps involved in doing pinch harmonics. They are:
Step 1: Play a note (as a regular note). Use your normal pick attack. Change nothing in the way you hold or angle the guitar pick.
Step 2: Turn the wrist so your picking hand’s thumb touches the string you just played. This is what creates the pinch harmonic.
Step 3: Remove your thumb immediately off the note you just played. This is important for allowing the harmonic to ring.
Step 4: Add vibrato to the harmonic to make it sound better.
Steps 1-3 are easy to do you rhythm guitar riffs. (they simply take a bit of attention to detail).
Step 4 will likely take a bit of specialized coaching. But the beauty is – once you are able to play screaming pinch harmonics with (good) vibrato, they’ll help you tremendously to beef up your rhythm guitar sound.
Watch this video to see how to do pinch harmonics (in your rhythm guitar riffs) the right way:
Here is how:
Come up with a rhythms first by writing it out on paper. (Or, if you struggle with this, just clap the rhythm out with your hands.)
After you have the rhythm you are happy with, fill it in with notes or chords (or both), as you see fit.
This way the ‘rhythm’ of your rhythm guitar ideas will always sound good. On top of this, you will be able to come up with rhythm guitar ideas, you’d never have created practicing any other way.
Now you know a lot more about how to beef up your rhythm guitar sound and come up with creative power chord ideas.
The next step? Learn how to control excess muscle tension in your guitar technique, so your beefy power chord ideas don’t slow down the rest of your playing.
Want some help with that?
I have a free, online training master class called: “Total Guitar Playing Tension Control – Say Goodbye To Tension Today And Experience A Lifetime Of Bigger, Faster & Easier Guitar Gains.” It helps you identify all 9 types of excess muscle tension and shows you exactly how to overcome them all, so you can finally get on the fast track to playing guitar the way you want to play it.
Sound good?Watch this master class today and discover guitar technique mastery secrets few guitar players know.
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About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.Get on the quickest path to becoming a great guitar player with proven rock guitar lessons online.
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