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7 of the Best Guitar Riffs for Beginners to Learn

Do you know that iconic guitar riff for the song “Hey Ho” by Red Hot Chili Peppers—the one with the really cool-sounding progression and hammer-ons?

Yeah, that’s probably a bit too advanced for you right now. As a beginner, you need to start with some easier riffs to build a strong playing foundation and good technique.

So where exactly do you start? It’s difficult for beginner guitarists, especially self-taught ones, to know where to start when learning riffs. So we’ve curated for you seven of the best guitar riffs for beginners to learn. These riffs are easy to learn but still challenging enough to take you to the next level as a beginner player.

1. Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes

This iconic riff is practically an anthem for beginner guitarists. It’s a simple sequence of notes that’s easy to learn, and you can play it with one finger.

At the beginning, the riff is played with just single notes, but as it progresses the same notes are played in power chords. This makes it not too repetitive and is a good way to brush up on your power chords as well.

The riff also uses a slide technique that is useful to learn as a beginner. It’s important to note that in the original the guitar is tuned to open A in case you want to play along but standard tuning is also fine. Once you learn the riff you can increase the difficulty by playing the tenth fret with your pinky.

You can find a good beginner lesson here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHlTQ0biOig

Playing style: Single-note and power chords

Techniques: Slide technique

Guitar Riffs For Beginners

Seven nation army guitar tab from ultimate guitar

2. Do I Wanna Know by the Arctic Monkeys

The Arctic Monkeys are famous for their great riffs. “Do I Wanna Know,” in particular, is a fairly popular indie-rock song that’s a good choice for beginners.

It has an easy single-note riff for beginners to start with, but it has some challenging rhythms to keep you on your toes. It uses a minor pentatonic scale with a bluesy feel to it. It’s not fast, but it has a really good groove.

Here is a link to the full lesson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmz9AlS6Yjo

You can also get the full tab here.

Playing style: Single-note

Techniques: Hammering, vibrato, and slide

3. Back in Black by AC/DC

This riff is so popular that it has been a part of soundtracks for many iconic movies. It’s heavy on the power chords, but there’s also a short melodic motif. It requires you to learn how to mute in order to get that particular rhythm that it’s well known for.

This is one of the best guitar riffs for beginners to help you learn how to bend notes. It uses the bend technique on the second fret and might need some getting used to.

You can find a lesson for this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCyM7tjz2YA&t=19s

Playing style: Mostly power chords

Techniques: Muting and bending

Guitar Riffs For Beginners

4. Beat It by Michael Jackson

This funky riff from “Beat It” by the King of Pop, MJ, is a good beginner song to add spice to your repertoire. The guitar is played by the legend Van Helen.

It’s an arpeggio in E minor, and it’s slow enough for beginners to play with ease. To play along with the original recording, you will need to tune your guitar half a step down, but otherwise you can play it in standard tuning.

The most important part of the riff is the rhythm, so pay close attention to it when playing.

You can find a good beginner lesson here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJfwgrDcH3A&t=4s

Playing style: Single-note

Techniques: Sliding

Guitar Riffs For Beginners

5. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

If you grew up in the 90s and early 2000s, then this song is a must-have in your library. The song has a simple riff that uses power chords in two shapes. You will need to memorize a few different positions, but they all use the same two shapes.

The famous riff in the intro and chorus has four power chords. The most challenging part about this riff is learning to mute. The verse has a simple two-note riff from C to F.

You can find the full lesson here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlt0V3p31D8

Playing style: Power chords

Techniques: Muting

Guitar Riffs For Beginners

6. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

“The Eye of the Tiger” is another classic rock song with a really cool riff. When you listen to this riff, there’s a very particular image that comes to mind with a character running up a long flight of stairs and at the end jumping triumphantly in slow motion.

This riff has been used to the point where it has become a running gag. The riff for this is heavy on the chords and has a very specific rhythm that’s achieved by muting the strings.

After the first three chords, the strings are muted to create that rhythmic percussive sound it’s famous for. This is a fun riff to learn as a beginner, and it’s repeated throughout the song, so you can play along with the original audio.

You can find a good lesson here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWy4WxRHqs4

Playing style: Chords, one-note pedal

Techniques: Fingerpicking style, palm muting Guitar Riffs For Beginners

7. Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple

Of course, we have to save the best for last. “Smoke on the Mirror” is a song that every guitarist, whether beginner or pro, has come across at some point while playing. It’s so common it’s almost nauseating, but there’s a reason why this song is so popular.

It’s very easy to play, which makes it a good beginner song. However, most people usually get it wrong. There are two versions of this riff. The first one with open strings is easier to play, but the second one, though more advanced, has better control over muting and the strings. The tab below shows the advanced version.

You can find a good beginner’s lesson here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCQ0r7vqkFQ

Playing style: Power chords

Techniques: Sliding

Guitar Riffs For Beginners

Final Thoughts on the Best Guitar Riffs for Beginners

There are hundreds and hundreds of riffs that are good for beginners out there. These are just seven of the best guitar riffs for beginners to learn in our professional opinion.

You should try out as many of these riffs as you can to increase your library and advance to the next stage. We hope you have a great start with this list!

Author

  • Guitar Riffs For Beginners

    My "day job" used to be teaching but I decided to give that up to play music full time. I have gigged all over the world playing in bands or as a solo act since then. I still have a passion for teaching others anything related to music. Writing content for InciteMusic.com gives me an opportunity to combine my love of music and education.

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