How power chords can turn you into a jazz player
The origin of the term power chords is still a bit unclear to me, but to most guitarists, it is when you play the root of the chord and the fifth note of the chord, and if need be the octave of the chord together, usually with a distorted tone and usually very loudly. That sound became a staple in rock music for decades and for good reason it sounds really good and is simple to play, and lends itself to tens of thousands of iconic tunes heard all over the world.
In the world of Jazz, the chords are much more sophisticated, and lots of them. Lets take the major seventh chord and the minor seventh chord a true staple in the jazz world. When you analyze the Major seventh chord you have a root, third, fifth and a seventh. (Article Continues Below and is a tiny bit advanced, we always offer online music lessons to help 🙂 )
ex. Cmajor7th equals the notes ( C, E, G, B)
The only two notes that really define that chord is the 3rd and the 7th, the natural third determines some kind of major chord and the natural seventh tone lets you know that it cannot be a minor seventh or a dominant chord because that tone would have to be lowered by a half step. The root and the 5th of the chord does not determine major or minor tonality. So the two notes that we have in a Cmajor seventh chord that really matter are the notes E and B which when played together becomes (Yes you guessed correctly, power chords)
Now if you analyze a Cm7th chord you get
Ex. Cm7th equals the notes ( C, Eb, G, Bb)
Once again the two notes that really define the chord are the Eb which is the flat 3rd of the chord and the Bb which is the flat 7th of the chord and yes when played together becomes a power chord.
The same goes for a major sixth chord
Ex. Major 6th equals ( C, E, G, A,)
The notes that really matter are the 3rd and the 6th (E and A) which is an inverted A power chord.
I will leave the Dominant seventh chord, the minor 7th b5 chord, and all the altered chords for another discussion.
As you can see the power chords do appear in more sophisticated chord voicing’s and are used extensively by all the great jazz pianist and guitarists around the world. With a little jazz theory and harmony lessons you will be able to use the chords that made rock music what it is into a fine jazz art form. On the down side for guitarists you will most definitely have to lose the distortion and lower your amp considerably.