There are 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 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 is:
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” using three power chords (B5 – E5 – F#5) and this characteristic riff is easy to repeat:
A common chord 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”.
The chords here are G5 - D5 - E(m)5 - C5. The E(m)5 has a m for minor in parenthesis, but despite that this chord is different from the others, minor power chords really don’t exist.
The Clash – a famous riff with open chords
Ok, we have mentioned power chords a lot but the 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).
Nirvana – interesting progressions
Nirvana songs make big use of power chords, and also in some longer progressions like in "Lithium". If you have played the examples so far without big difficulties, this one will give you some more to handle.
G#5 - C#5 - A5 - C5 - D5 - B5 - D5 - E5
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
See all articles about guitar.