Learning a few simple licks is a great way to get started playing the guitar! Even better, some of the most famous riffs in rock and roll are incredibly easy to play. Guitar teacher Matthew K. explains how…
Anyone can learn the guitar, but it can be frustrating at first. Sore fingers and cramping hands can deter anyone from getting their first song down. This is why I compiled a list of five of my favorite simple guitar licks that sound great, and once you get them down, you can impress your friends and family. A couple of them are only on one string! This will help your dexterity and fuel your confidence to learn more.
If you haven’t learned how to read guitar tabs yet, take a moment to familiarize yourself. I’ll be right here when you get back.
Remember, always start slow, and if you cannot get it at first, break it down into sections. Get the first half down, then the second half, and when you are ready, put it together.
Let’s start with the easiest one first. This is an old stand-by, and the very first song I learned on guitar.
1. “Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple
You can start by only using one finger on one string, but when you get that, try it with your index, ring, and pinky fingers. Use your index finger on the 3, your ring finger on the 5, and pinky on the 6. Doing so will make the rest of the songs easier.
2. “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes
Second we will take on a more modern classic riff. It can be played on only one string. Just make sure to sure to use your pinky finger to hit the 10th fret. Then you can slide your index finger down the neck to play the rest.
Now let’s involve the other stings. Take your time with the next three songs. They are broken into sections. If you have trouble. Take it one section at a time.
3. “Beat It” – Michael Jackson
4. “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Sweet Home Alabama” looks tricky, but there is a simple way to play it. First make the D chord shape, but instead of putting your middle finger on the 2 of the high E string, keep it open like this:
Use that middle finger for the A and low E notes.
In the fourth section of the lick, you will want to use your index finger to hammer on for every 2nd fret.
5. “Day Tripper” – The Beatles
“Day Tripper” seems trickier than it is. For the notes on the second fret, make sure bar your index finger over the A and D strings. Also, use a hammer on for the last note. When you get that, move the same pattern up to the A string.
The only way to learn is to practice guitar licks daily, and have fun while doing it!
Matthew K. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music composition at Mercyhurst University, and he has been teaching lessons for four years. Matthew is available to teach in-person lessons as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Matthew here!
Photo by Stuart Dallas