When doing keyword research for this site, a popular search term I
discovered was "metal guitar chords". Because of the nature of metal
guitarists most commonly use dyads as opposed to chords.
Dyads are two notes played together, whereas chords consist of three or
more notes. Dyads (such as power
tend to be favoured
by heavy metal guitarists as they provide more definition and clarity
under high gain/distortion.
However, we will look at some ways in which you can use fuller sounding
chords that sound good under distortion. Musicians often refer to dyads
as chords anyway, especially when
used in a rhythm (non-lead) context.
guitar chords as power chord alternatives
The power chord is the most commonly used dyad form in metal without a
doubt. It involves the root and 5th intervals and is
considered neutral because it lacks the 3rd of major and minor triads
or any real tension. This interval is known as a perfect 5th...
A common variation on this is to flatten the 5th, giving us a more
dissonant diminished 5th
Or sharpen the 5th, giving us an augmented
Remember, just like the regular power chord shape, these can also be
used on A string and D string roots. Simple!
Then we have the major and minor metal guitar chords, still only using
two strings, so we omit the 5th...
So, just by moving that upper string around the root, we can create
chords that will allow us to give our metal more melodic intricacy. A
simple example (I'm sure you can come up with something better than
Try also experimenting with different dyad positions in drop tuning,
you can apply wider intervals due to the dropped 6th string.
This video looks at how you can use some of these diad forms in the
context of metal songwriting...
and 4 string metal guitar chords
If your guitar has good quality pickups (i.e. not too muddy, good
separation of chord tones), it should be able to ring out more than two
strings under high gain/distortion without sounding like mush.
Obviously it would be silly to limit the chords you can play to just
"metal chords", but here are some chord forms that I've commonly come
across in metal music. Remember, most of these shapes can be formed
both a low
E root note and an A string
root note, just like the regular powerchord shape...
chord (no 3rd)
chord (no 3rd)
Keep cutting chords down for metal
The only thing that makes these "metal guitar chords" is that we've cut
down the fuller barre/movable forms to 2, 3 and 4 string chords more
appropriate when using high gain and distortion.
Try creating your own 3 and 4 string chords. The great thing about
metal is that there is less emphasis on what sounds "right or wrong"
than with other styles.