Learning to play the guitar can be challenging and intimidating. After all, that is one big piece of wood with strings and frets! However, playing the guitar is a skill that anyone can learn — you just need the right motivation and some simple practice tips to get started.
Furthermore, there are several songs with easy riffs that you can learn in no time. And once you get started, you’ll see that learning this musical instrument is not so difficult after all.
What are Guitar Riffs?
A guitar riff refers to notes played in sequence over a given chord progression. The chorus is the most common part of the song you’ll hear this from. It is a short yet repeatable idea, a solo-played specific pattern.
Here’s an example. You can play short repeated phrases from chords or individual notes on the lower part of the guitar like a rhythm. You can also play the higher frets with the lead guitar part. Of course, playing guitar riffs with clean tones or effects is possible if you have the skills. But if you’re playing a song’s main riff, then chances are you’ll be playing a solo riff.
Another term for guitar riffs is “licks.” These two terms are often interchangeably used, but little do people know that they’re actually different from one another. Their main difference is how they use melody. A riff will have its tune along with the chorus, while a lick employs melody as a creative idea.
10 Beginner-Friendly Guitar Riffs
One – Metallica
If you’re a fan of “The Big 4” of the metal genre, then it’s impossible for you to not know the song One by Metallica. It’s one of the best beginner riffs you can practice since the song’s riffs are easy, pleasant, and slow for the notes.
As you listen to the song, you’ll hear that each note has its own spotlight, making it relatively easy to learn. Just be careful not to hit the adjacent strings; you’ll cut the sound off and ruin the riff!
Each bar will force you to think about which finger you should use. You’d want them to ring out and shine on their own when playing each note. This is why we’ve said earlier not to hit the adjacent strings while playing a note because if you do, it will cut the note off, and it won’t sound right like it should be.
It’s also important to understand that “Fade to Black,” another one of Metallica’s iconic songs, uses the same finger patterns. So, once you properly learn how to play the riffs from “One,” it should be easy for you to play “Fade to Black.”
Beat It – Michael Jackson ft. Eddie Van Halen
If you want a straightforward riff that’s relatively easy to learn, you should check out Beat It by Michale Jackson. This iconic riff only involves four bars you can play on an electric guitar. It will also allow you to use a distortion effect to perfectly mimic the sound of the original song.
The notes for this riff consist of G, B, G, E, and F# for the first bar and E, D, D, and E for the second bar. The first notes from the first bar will repeat on the third bar, and the E from the second bar will repeat on the fourth. The only articulations you will have a difficult time on are the slide down to the G on the 3rd fret of the 6th string of the first bar and the E of the 4th string on the 2nd fret on the second bar.
Come as You Are – Nirvana
This song is arguably one of the most straightforward songs you can play on a guitar with a clean tone. A reason why Come as You Are is a great beginner riff is that you can play the whole intro using the thickest strings on your guitar, whether it’s an electric or acoustic guitar. Of course, if you’re using an electric guitar, you can use a chorus pedal to sound like how Nirvana played it, but it’s only optional.
Playing this riff will involve two bars and three eight-note pickups, particularly D, D, and D#. Start playing with full notes as D, D#, E, G, and A, and remember to alternate between the open, 1st, and 2nd fret positions. It will help you a lot if you listen to the song while practicing simultaneously to help you pick up its rhythm a little bit easier. But if it’s a quicker riff, focus on practicing without music until you get comfortable with movement patterns.
If you want to properly learn how to play riffs easily as you progress, try playing with your eyes closed. By doing so, you can feel the finger placements and understand where to pick on the strings without relying on your sight. This practice will give you a level of mastery of your technique.
Redemption Song – Bob Marley
Not a fan of alternative rock or metal? How about something unique like reggae? The “Redemption Song” is one of the classics of the legendary Bob Marley, which sounds terrific when played on an acoustic guitar.
Listening to this song can flood many good memories you can reminisce on, so imagine learning how to play it effectively. It has a simple four-bar riff that initially starts with G and involves playing major scale notes.
This classic reggae-influenced song is perfect for the acoustic guitar. This simple guitar riff is written in the key of G, so start on the G-string to learn the major scale notes and master this riff.
You must play the first note sequence G, A, B, and G on the 1st bar to learn this riff. The second notes C, E, D, and B will be on the 2nd bar, the 3rd and 4th note sequence, G, A, B, D, B and C, B, A, and G will play the 3rd and 4th bar respectively.
To properly play this riff, you must be familiar with the major chords, particularly the G, C, D, and E.
Day Tripper – The Beatles
The “Day Tripper” by The Beatles is on the list of the most straightforward rock riffs beginners should learn. John Lennon is a master in creating simple yet iconic melodies that are bound to be extremely popular, even today.
Of course, you’d need a distortion effect to play it precisely like the original. Don’t worry because it’s playable on acoustic and electric guitars without losing its charismatic impact on your audience.
This classic riff is based on the E minor pentatonic scale and has two repeating bars throughout the song. You can learn this by playing the notes on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings. Once you learn to play these riffs, you can easily play the whole song. The first bar’s note sequence is E, G, G#, B, E, D, and the second bar’s note sequence is B, F#, B, D, and E.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
Do you want to play the guitar like Keith Richards? Then try learning the riffs from The Rolling Stone’s (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. This is a famous song amongst beginner guitar players because it has a great riff that only requires three notes played on the same strings.
However, this song wasn’t meant to be a guitar riff. Keith Richards had an entirely different plan involving a horn section hook, but he used his trusty fuzz pedal and this riff to guide the horns.
You won’t need to worry so much about sliding and pulling to be able to play this riff. Instead, pick out every single note, then let your ears grasp the rhythm. You will only need three fingers to play this riff: your 1st, 3rd, and 4th fingers.
This song’s riff is simple to pick up, even for starter players. Once you do this, you will find it easier to play the riff. Then, you can add nuances to make those simple changes to bring the riff together.
Paranoid – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath’s Paranoid is a popular classic rock song with a riff that’s easy for beginners to learn. In fact, many experienced guitar players learned to play this riff while learning. Because the hammer-ons you’ll hear on the first bar are quite quick, some individuals may find playing this riff scary at first..
But don’t let that discourage you! You will only need to practice both of your hand’s coordination so you can pluck the strings correctly before even hammering on the 14th fret.
Try to listen closely to the song so you can have a comprehensive understanding of its rhythm. Additionally, practice playing the riff at a relatively slower tempo. Once you gain more confidence in playing the riff, you can start playing it faster.
It’s also good to know that the riff used in verse is excellent for practicing palm-muted power chords. To emphasize the chugging sound like the ones you’d hear from the song, play all the power chords by down-picking them.
Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
This song has one of the most iconic intros in the rock genre ever. Deep Purple used a classic riff that’s so easy to execute, but unfortunately, a lot of guitarists misunderstand this riff since it is written as 0-3-5, although it shouldn’t be performed that way. What you can do instead is to utilize the open strings and play something simpler without needing to slide.
Misplaying it on the low E string has every guitar store owner frowning. While both versions sound virtually the same, playing it with open strings will help you develop more control over the sounds made by the fretted notes. There’s no doubt that playing it open can be much easier to play for beginners.
Back in Black – AC/DC
AC/DC has been immortalized not only in their songs but also in movies. Their song’s popularity made its way to movies like Iron Man, The Avengers, and School of Rock, which made new fans realize how great it would be to learn how to play their riffs. Back in Black contains a terrific riff that beginners can practice upon. It’s relatively easy to understand since it heavily emphasizes power chords.
You can start by focusing on playing the power cords before bringing in the single notes. Don’t worry too much about playing a full bend on the 2nd fret because it would take a solid finger strength. But keep working on it until you get better.
Remember that the most crucial part of playing this riff is ensuring the rhythm is intact throughout the song. Guitar riffs in heavy metal and rock music are used as a rhythm section, with the beat being one of the most significant elements. There are also some broad jumps, so make sure to utilize the fingers needed to play the riffs easier.
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Last is the “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. You can play this on an acoustic or electric guitar, standard tuning, or Open A, where the song is played initially. This song has one of the straightforward riffs you can learn on your guitars, even if you’re a beginner.
To play this song, start with your index finger on the 7th fret, and move it back and forth to hit all the notes. You’ll eventually realize that while it’s simple to play with one finger slowly, it will start to get awkward once you play it fast. This is because you’re most likely to jump around the fretboard quickly if you want to play this riff at full speed.
Once you learn how to play it using one finger, you can try playing the riff using the same notes, but on the 10th, fret with your pinky.
Understanding other music compositions and performance areas, such as rhythm, harmony, and melody, requires learning guitar riffs. It also aids in the development of your own distinct style. We hope this article has helped you pick the next guitar riff you want to practice on. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get it right at first. Remember that even seasoned musicians with good hands start from the beginning!
If you need help learning how to play guitar like a pro, don’t hesitate to contact us! We provide some of Northvale’s best guitar lessons, along with other classes for instruments like drums, piano, and bass guitar.