10 Easy Guitar Riffs For Beginners
A great way to start learning guitar is to dive straight into playing recognisable songs.
These riffs are a sort of “right of passage” for almost any guitarist.
Among these riffs are some of the first parts of music I learnt to play on guitar myself, and I'm sure almost every other guitarist will say the same!
Many of these riffs are timeless classics, and will suit every beginner guitarist at any age, no matter whether you're an adult or a kid. They can also be played on any guitar, acoustic or electric, but for extra fun I like to add a nice healthy dose of distortion when playing some of them.
I’ve listed the riffs in order of perceived difficulty from the easiest to play, to less easy.
Click the titles to hear the original songs.
1. Hit The Road Jack - Ray Charles
A great place to start your riff journey, the entire riff is placed on a single string, you start at the 5th fret and work your way down.
Another feature which makes this riff great for beginners is that each note is played exactly on each beat of the song, which means you can start jamming along with music straight away!
2. Smoke On The Water - Deep Purple
Perhaps the most famous beginner guitar riff ever, there're many different ways to play this riff but I believe the most beginner friendly and best place to start is on the open low E string. This way you can play the entire riff on one string, and comfortably find your way around the frets.
In my guitar lessons, I like to break the riff into four sections when teaching new students, this makes it easy to remember, so much that I often hear my students using the riff to warm up months later!
3. Kids - MGMT
This riff wasn’t typically played on a guitar in the original song, but it works well as a guitar riff and is super catchy!
4. You Really Got Me - The Kinks
This riff is as simple as it gets, all you need are two notes! Once you've mastered the one string variation, try playing the riff using power chords! One aspect of this riff that might be tricky, is getting it up to full speed, as the song is played at a high tempo. Don’t worry if this is the case! Be patient, keep playing at a comfortable pace and the speed will come as your hand dexterity develops.
5. Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
Another extremely famous guitar riff! You may recognise this riff being sung at football matches among other types of sporting events.
6. Eye Of The Tiger - Survivor
Made famous by the film Rocky, this is a well recognised guitar riff. Make sure to rest in between each phrase to capture the dramatic effect. Once you’ve mastered the one string version try using power chords!
One of many recognisable riffs from metal pioneers Black Sabbath, I first learnt about this riff when watching the film “School Of Rock” and since then I've heard it all over the place.
Once you’ve got the hang of the fast notes in this riff, it can be extremely fun to play.
8. Sunshine Of Your Love - Cream
One of my personal favourite riffs to play, this song is more mellow and chilled in nature, but that doesn’t take away from its epic-ness.
9. Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
Depending on different people, this riff can be one of the easiest to play, others find it a bit tricky getting the timing right, either way it has to be included in this list. Put some distortion or fuzz effect on your guitar for extra fun.
Lots of notes in this riff when compared to the others, however don’t let this put you off as it is surprisingly easy once you’ve got the hang of it.