Introduction To Rock Guitar




Let me take you back to the late 1960's and early 1970's when distorted rock guitar was coming into its own. Tube amplifiers were about all you could find and depending on the amp, you could achieve a desirable amount of distortion by turning up the amp volume beyond a certain point. The result was a very complex set of overtones that gave the electric guitar a hard-hitting, over-drive sort of sound (to use very non-technical terms). Simple chords became much more powerful-sounding while more complex chords just sounded garbled so many early rock players began to truncate the chords down to the lowest 2 or 3 notes. It made them easier to play and, with distortion, a little more powerful-sounding. And so, there you have it, the power-chord is born.

I'm not a real history buff so if any of you serious Rock'n Roll historians out there have a more accurate story, let us know. It's what I remember anyway and hey, I lived through that era.


There are really just a few points you need to know about power-chords.

First, the name implies the way it should sound. These chords weren't meant to be pretty and sweet sounding. They're supposed to have some "crunch" to them. So, when playing them, hit the strings with a little extra force.

Secondly, you should allow your fingers to slightly touch the strings that aren't supposed to be fingered (see the example below) thereby blunting them so that they won't sound if you accidentally strike them with your pick.


When playing the "G" chord, shown above, the 4th through 1st strings should be blunted. This gives your right hand a little more freedom to really dig into the strings with your pick to create that Rock'n Roll crunch sound.

Keep your hand position fairly stationary throughout. Use an arm movement to change from one position to another. Another thing you'll need to coordinate is when to press your left-hand fingers against the strings and when to release the pressure.


I prefer the sound of an overdriven tube amp for Rockn' Roll but you can use any distortion effect that sounds good to you. You can find any number of pretty cool-sounding distortion effects I refer to as stomp-boxes. Go to your local music store or check out some of the deals online. But, if you prefer to use the distortion sound in your amp, how you set it can make a big difference in your sound...

There are generally 2 different volumes on your amplifier, a master volume and a channel volume. Sometimes the channel volume is referred to as a pre or pre-amp volume. Follow these simple guidelines and you'll be in business:

  • Start by turning the master volume all the way down.
  • Set the pre or channel volume at about 75% of it's total range.
  • Now pluck your guitar strings open with your right hand as you SLOWLY turn up the master volume.

You can adjust the pre or channel volume up or down to suit your taste but the general rule is the higher you turn it relative to the master volume the more you'll be "over-driving" the master volume and producing a compressed and distorted sound.



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