Punk Rock Guitar 101

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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 14 – New York-inspired

If you want to hang with the New York City punk rock royalty, you have to get your punk rock guitar chops in top working order.

In this lesson, you’re going to learn the essentials of punk rock guitar so that you can go forth, armed with your guitar and melt some faces.

Power Chords

Power chords are essential in punk. They are simple chord shapes that you can move all around the guitar. Your power chords get their note name from the root note, which is the lowest note you play in the chord.

This means you need to know a little about how your fretboard works if you want to know the names of them.

Alternatively, you could just move the shape around until it sounds great!

Palm Muting

When you want to make your riffs and rhythms chug out a little, you have to palm-mute them. This is a technique that involves resting your palm on the bridge of the guitar where the strings cross the saddle. This creates a deadened version of the notes.

Make sure you get your hand right on that bridge; otherwise, you’re muting the strings totally and losing the note pitch. You should hear the notes as you play them but as a deadened form.

Here is a great exercise that uses palm-muted single notes paired with power chords that aren’t palm muted. In this example, you’re palm muting the single notes and lifting off for the chords.

Downpicking Stamina

Punk is all about speed and intensity. Many punk players prefer to down pick rather than strum up and down. Constant and consistent down picking creates intensity in the riff.,

This example is just straight sixteenth notes (four per beat). Play this along with a metronome. Start by down picking four times per beat at a slow tempo and then slowly increase the metronome speed as your stamina increases.

Simple Chord Progressions

Punk doesn’t have to be complicated. Many punk players stick to the traditional 1-4-5 progression that you see most commonly in blues music (for instance: A-D-E). As you write your punk rock masterpiece, you can use simple patterns like the one below.

As this is a transposable idea, you can move these chords to whatever area of the fretboard you want while keeping the shape of the pattern the same.

Crossing Strings

If you really want to get adventurous in your chord progression, you can add the two chord from the major scale as a power chord along with your 1, 4 and 5. Many punk players probably don’t think in theoretical terms, so you could think of this as a 4-note box pattern.

Imagine your power chords are rooted on the fifth fret of the E, the seventh fret of the A, the seventh fret of the E, and the fifth fret of the D.

Look at the pattern of root notes here (A-E-B-D). You can move that around as you please too.