Dyads & Powerchords

You can get a lot of mileage from a couple of notes!

Learning to play 2 notes simultaneously is usually the next step after learning to play single notes.  The first DYADS (2 note chords) you’ll probably want to learn are MAJOR 3rds (M3), PERFECT 4ths (P4) and PERFECT 5ths (P5).  They’re not really chords, since technically chords are comprised of 3 or more notes, but they are very useful and the cornerstone of many a rock-n-roll band.

In this section you’ll find the following:

MAJOR 3rds (M3)

The following graphic shows several different MAJOR 3rd finger patterns located within a C MAJOR scale spanning multiple strings and multiple octaves.  With the exception in RED the finger pattern stays the same.


An astute observer will also notice that for the C MAJOR scale this shape always creates a MAJOR/minor note pair.  As a matter of fact, this holds true for ALL MAJOR scales.   So playing an M3 in this form will always result in the middle finger sitting on the root of the IONIAN mode (a MAJOR mode) and the index finger sitting on the root of the PHRYGIAN mode (a minor mode) of that scale.

REMEMBER: Intervals are calculated based on the CHROMATIC scale and are the measure of distance between notes – NOT the note count!  So in the above, for the MAJOR 3rd (4 half-tone steps) spanning from C to E (either one), you would start counting with C# (1), D (2), D# (3) and finally E (4).  For ALL INTERVALS, you always start counting with the note immediately following the ROOT note.

Now if you think you’ve seen this pattern before, you’d be right. Watch any fairly advanced guitar player and you’re going to see a hand position similar to this used often – and with good reason. This M3 pattern, along with the P4 and P5 patterns shown below, are easily the most common interval forms and the starting point for a LOT of other chord types (TRIADS, 7ths) and scale patterns.

Learn them well!

PERFECT 4ths (P4)

Because guitar strings are a PERFECT 4th (P4) apart under normal circumstances (standard tuning), creating a P4 DYAD is as simple as playing the 2 notes on the same fret of adjacent strings.

The exception to this rule are 4ths that span from the G (3) string to the B (2) string.  They are separated by a MAJOR 3rd (M3) consisting of 4 half-tones.   So you’ll always have to raise the note that falls on the B string by a half-tone.

M3 + half-tone = P4.

Perfect 4ths in C Major


As with the M3 and P4 DYADS shown above, the following pattern can be TRANSPOSED (moved) to any 2 adjacent strings.  Again, the G/B string combination is the only pattern that’s different.

P4 + 2 half-tones = P5


NOTE: Only 5ths that span adjacent strings are shown. There are others that span across 3 strings but that’s left as an exercise for the reader to figure out where they’re located.


Beyond 2-finger 3rds, 4ths and 5ths are the 3-finger POWERCHORD.

To convert any of the above to a power chord is as simple as adding the trailing TONIC and closing out the OCTAVE.  By adding a single note, it becomes much fuller and “powerful” – thus its “powerchord” moniker.

Examples of M3 powerchords.

Major 3rd power chords C Major

Examples of P4 powerchords.

Perfect 4th power chords in C Major

Examples of P5 powerchords.


NOTE: Because of the overlap of some notes, I didn’t include all of the full octave P5 powerchords, but they should be easy for you to figure out from the graphic.

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