Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate guitarist, you probably have a few songs and riffs on your must-learn list. Well, it’s time to get to work! Here, Boston, MA guitar instructor Christopher S. brings you the 10 signature guitar riffs that every guitarist should know…
No matter which type of music you’re into, when you learn guitar, you’re entering a new, sometimes cult-like world. Like any pursuit in life, the more you know about that skill, the more you have to say about it. The cult aspect of guitar is that you have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk.
Electric guitar is what many people want to explore when they begin guitar lessons. For this reason, I have put together a road map of easy guitar riffs that will help you navigate this new world. Having a good supply of well-known guitar riffs is a right-of-passage into the rock guitar players world.
Learn these 10 guitar riffs, and I guarantee, you’ll be accepted into any and all rock ‘n’ roll circles.
“Purple Haze” – Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix is one of my personal favorite rock guitar heroes. This opening line is one of the most well-known guitar riffs out there. Hendrix’s heavy use of the distorted guitar is a killer sound that makes this relatively simple guitar riff sounds awesome.
Learn to play this, and you’ll be well on your way to learning the life and techniques of the rock guitarist.
“Layla” – Eric Clapton
This iconic rock song ranks at number 27 on Rolling Stone’s top 500 rock songs. The song was actually dually written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, and first released by their band Derek and the Dominos. Clapton recorded it later in his career as an all-acoustic song.
Both versions are equally well-known in the rock world, but the original version has the awesome guitar riffs that make the song so incredible.
“Johnny B. Goode” – Chuck Berry
This song is a true classic and an excellent example of how blues music bridged the way for Rock “n” roll. The amazing bluesy intro gives this song an awesome start, and the fast vocals were a completely innovative way to sing the blues at the time.
The must-know guitar riff comes when Berry is shouting “Johnny B. Goode” in the chorus. This riff is an absolute staple for rock guitarists.
“Back In Black” – AC/DC
Speaking of amazing guitarists, while AC/DC’s guitarist is technically simple, he’s one of the most most rockin’ guitarists known to man. This list would not be complete without an amazing riff by the one-and-only, Angus Young.
The song “Back in Black” is one of the most well-known rock songs in the rock guitar repertoire. It’s such an easy riff to play, so why not learn it and show off your rock moves?
“Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
This guitar riff may not be as easy as the others, but it’s one you need to know! “Stairway to Heaven,” by the legendary Led Zeppelin, is at the top of several rock music charts. We have a lot to learn from the great Jimmy Page.
“Rebel Rebel” – David Bowie
David Bowie was a huge influence on the rock scene and he made some exceptionally awesome songs. This is a cool song for all guitarists to learn.
Bowie uses this riff through almost the entire song; which means, if you learn this riff, you have practically learned the whole thing!
“You Really Got Me” – The Kinks
The Kinks are one of the classic bands from London that came onto the scene with greats like The Beatles. They were soon part of the “British invasion,” and were active in the music scene from 1963-1996.
This song was a Billboard hit, and to this day, still covered by many rock groups. The riff is a true classic that every guitarist should learn. If you’re really ambitious, you can even learn the rocking guitar solo!
“You Only Live Once” – The Strokes
Besides the fact that this song is accompanied by a cool music video, The Strokes are an awesome rock band with some really fantastic guitar licks for the modern rock guitarist.
“Paranoid Android” – Radiohead
One of the most influential rock groups of the century, Radiohead formed in 1985 and the band members are some of the greatest musical innovators of our time. This song, from their album Ok Computer, was one of their most popular songs in 1997. To this day, this rock guitar riff is well-known among guitarists. It’s is one of the pivotal points that brings us into the true modern rock ’n’ roll of today.
The song begins with a harder fingerpicking pattern by Thom Yorke, however, this is the main guitar riff which appears in the second half of the song when it really starts to pick up. Learn this riff and watch other guitarists bow in awe of your skills.
“I can’t Get No Satisfaction” – Rolling Stones
Last, but certainly not least, one of my favorite songs by one of the greatest rock groups of all time, the Rolling Stones. This song is a must-know rock classic.
The band has been a rocking since 1962, and they’re still at it! This band has been known to have a long rivalry between who is better, the Stones or the Beatles. People say that if The Beatles were the white knights of music, then the Stones are the black knights. For the time, they were extremely controversial; filled with rocking lyrics and a stage presence that you would not want your mother to see, this band stormed the billboards with hit song after hit song.
I suggest that you learn this guitar riff, it’s really not that difficult!
Remember, while you can try to replicate other artists, when it comes to guitar, the goal is to be yourself. Learn the songs and guitar riffs that you love, and develop your own way to play them. Learn these 10 amazing guitar riffs, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a great guitarist and artist!
Photo by Gabriel Pollard