Punk chords

Punk guitarThere is no group of chords that actually are called punk chords. Nonetheless, there are chords as well as chord progressions that are typical in punk songs.

The most used chord type in punk rock is probably the power chord. You can find it in songs by Ramones, Nirvana and Green Day for sure. The power chord is movable so all you need is one shape, and here it's:

Power chord shape with htree fingers
Fingerings for a power chord

The numbers indicate index finger (1), ring finger (3) and little finger (4). Find out more about power chords.

Ramones – simple and fast

The Ramones song “Blitzkrieg Bop” use three power chords (B5 – E5 – F#5) and this characteristic riff is easy to repeat:

Tab Blitzkrieg Bop

A common progression in this music style is three chords with a specific relation. The chords in “Blitzkrieg Bop” can also be written in scales degrees: I - IV - V. The Roman numerals are the same regardless of the key you playing in.

Green Day – adding some minor

The next example is almost similar in regards of scale degrees to the previous, but the order is changed a little and one chord is added, the vi. The riff in the tab below is taken from the Green Day song “When I Come Around”.

tab When I Come Around

The chords here are G5 - D5 - Em - C5. The Em chord should be played as a barre chord, but without the highest string in it.

The Clash – a famous riff with open chords

We have mentioned power chords a lot but open chords are not banned in punk music. In the song “Should I Go or Should I Stay” by The Clash, you come across a famous riff consisting of open chords (D and G). Use hammer-on in measure four.

tab Should I Go or Should I Stay

Nirvana – complex progressions

Nirvana songs make big use of power chords, and also some longer progressions, as in "Lithium". If you have played the examples so far without big difficulties, this one will give you some more to handle.

Chord pogression:

G#5 - C#5 - A5 - C5 - D5 - B5 - D5 - E5

Anarchy in the U.K.

Sex Pistol's "Anarchy in the U.K." is one of the punk anthems and the riff is relatively easy to learn and once again power chords are the method.


G5 - F5 - E5 - D5 - C5 (intro)

C5 - F5 - E5 (verse)

Comment: All power chords should be played with the bass note on the fifth string (G5 = X 10 12 12 X X etc.).

Story of My Life

Artist: Social Distortion
Album: Social Distortion (1990)


G - C - D (verse & chorus)

Comment: Open chords works fine.

Basket Case

Artist: Green Day
Album: Dookie (1994)


E5 - B5 - C#5 - G#5 - A - E5 - B5 (verse)

Comment: Power chords are best suited for the job.

California Sun

Artist: Ramones
Album: Leave Home (1977)


E - A (x4) E - C# - A - B - E (riff)

Comment: Power chords or barre combi open chords without highest strings with lots of gain and distortion are recommended.

This article is only an introduction in the punk rock style for guitarists, and there are of course lots of other things to explore in this musical genre. For more in-depth reading, see: Punk: The Guitarist's Guide to Music of the Masters.

Drum tracks

The backing tracks are for punk guitar and involves only drums.

Jam track 1
Jam track 2
Jam track 3

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