A couple of days ago I put together a video lesson on a song that uses guitar power chord vibratos quite extensively. So I thought it might be helpful do to another quick and separate ‘Power Chord Vibrato Guitar’ follow-up tutorial for those of you who are new to the topic. Well, chances are you know power chords, but you might have not used them in conjunction with the vibratos.
While not always the case, you typically see guitarist using this type of playing nuance when playing down-tuned pieces with slower, heavier and doomier riffs. Tony Iommi is probably the prime example. I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that he invented the power chord vibrato, but he is certainly its most famous ambassador. As the result of a hand injury, he was forced to play light gauge strings and tuning his guitar down for a good portion of the Black Sabbath songs. His primary concern was to make sure that his guitar doesn’t sound too thin. A massive amount of gain coming from his amps certainly helped with that, however, adding vibrato to the power chord riffs added an additional level of presence and richness.
What is a guitar power chord vibrato?
Technically speaking, it’s a regular, pulsating change of pitch (Wikipedia.org). In guitar language, it means that you bend and release a string or multiple strings repeatedly. One of the main differences between playing a single note with vibrato vs. a power chord vibrato is the technique. It’s better explained in the video guitar tutorial on power chords below.
How to play power chord vibratos?
As shown in the video, the vibrato comes from the joints in your fingers. You can alternatively just use your underarm, but I personally don’t like that and as mentioned, I don’t even know how other guitarist actually do it that way.
When you play power chord vibratos on a down-tuned guitar, you need to be careful that you don’t over-bend the strings. The lack of tension on the strings lends itself to that. It takes a little bit of practice. Speaking of practice, I know it’s more fun to crank up the amp and play with tons of gain/distortion, put when it comes to practicing power chord vibratos, I recommend that you also try things out in the clean channel. This allows you to identify and work on technical inaccuracies, such as what I mention before regarding over-bending the strings. You can also experiment with different string gauges. Switching to a set of thicker strings can make a significant difference, but it’s obviously not everybody’s cup of tea and may require adjustments to the action of your guitar.