If someone tells me to play a D power chord a fifth "below", what am I to play and why?

  • If you are playing an A power chord with the root on the 12th fret of the A string or 7th string of the D string they want you to go down one fifth lower to the 5th string of the A string or 0th fret of the D string. If you are playing any other chord, it makes no sense and you should ask them what they mean. – Syntaxén Feb 20 at 8:26
  • If you play an E power chord off the D string, playing it with "the fifth below" will result in an inverted power chord like this (as opposed to playing it without the fifth below, like this). – James Whiteley Feb 20 at 10:05

A power 'chord' consists of a root note, the note a P5 above it, and sometimes the note an octave above that root. As in D - A - (D).

To play 'a fifth below' would be to use the same notes, but as an inversion. Probably called a second inversion, but who knows, as there's no 3rd there,(and with only two notes to play with, could there ever be anything more than a 1st inversion..?) but using theory, that inversion will have 5 underneath. So the notes would be A lower than the next D.

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    Doesn't the inversion have a 4th below then? We're not talking about the 5th of the power chord. He's asking about the interval. So the interval of an inverted power chord would be a 4th below the root. I think, the sentence above would only make sense, if you played an A power chord before and add that to the end of the sentence. "Play a D power chord (a fifth below A)" – Andy Feb 20 at 10:00
  • @Andy I think you're right; in a power chord, I think the person originally talking to OP was referring to playing the fifth below, ie playing a fourth below. Actually playing a fifth below the root note would result in a sus chord, not a power chord. – James Whiteley Feb 20 at 10:04

What does it mean to play an interval “below”?

You need the specific interval and the reference tone. Like: play a perfect fifth below A. It's not clear if the intention is to play both tones together, but I would expect that. Someone could say I'll play this riff and then add you play it an octave below to double the part.

...If someone tells me to play a D power chord a fifth "below"

...they are being vague, or just redundant.

Actually, they don't need to make any reference to what that chord is below. They just need to say what octave or, if this is guitar, what string to play it on. Saying play a D power chord a fifth below, means first of all it would need to be below an A to make sense and then you would play a D with an A above it. But you would do the same thing if simply told play a D power chord. You would still play a D with an A above.

If they meant for you to play A below the D, you could probably just call that an inverted power chord. Play power chords in fourths would seem to convey the same thing.

...play a D power chord [with the] fifth "below" [the root]

...something like that fills in the blanks.

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