20 Easy Guitar Riffs For Beginners (With Videos)
Playing some of the most iconic riffs in music history is a dream for every beginner guitarist. It not only motivates you to practice more, but it also helps improve your technique and overall skill. Luckily, there are plenty of famous and great-sounding riffs that are easy for beginners to learn and enjoy.
In this list of 20 iconic yet easy-to-play riffs, you’ll find the perfect mix of classic and modern guitar parts that will make you feel like a rock star. With the right instructions and some practice, every beginner guitarist can learn and master these recognizable riffs. So, get ready to have fun while improving your skills with these easy-to-play guitar riffs.
- 1. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
- 2. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
- 3. Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water
- 4. Nirvana – Come As You Are
- 5. Michael Jackson – Beat It
- 6. The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
- 7. Metallica – Enter Sandman
- 8. The Kinks – You Really Got Me
- 9. Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
- 10. Blur – Song 2
- 11. Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
- 12. Pink Floyd – Money
- 13. Metallica – One
- 14. Black Sabbath – Iron Man
- 15. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama
- 16. Bob Marley – Redemption Song
- 17. AC/DC – Highway To Hell
- 18. Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers
- 19. Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
- 20. The Beatles – Come Together
1. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
One of the most iconic riffs of rock history, the grunge king Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a great beginner riff that can make you feel on fire. The main riff of the tune is played with only four power chords and some amazing-sounding mutes in between.
To play the tune, you only have to be careful with the rhythmic aspect, as the mutes in between can be tricky to get right. When you get the hang of it, playing the power chords is so easy as they have pretty comfortable positions very close to each other. And, of course, remember to add plenty of overdrive to your tone to feel the spirit of rock.
2. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
The most famous guitar riff of the 21st century is arguably “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. The riff became a rock anthem thanks to its catchy melody and simplistic approach. It is a highly easy riff to play, as all the progression is on the same strings, and the rhythm is quite straightforward.
You can start by playing the riff with single notes on the low E string and later play the melody with power chords when you feel more comfortable. Add some overdrive to your tone, and there you go.
3. Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water
The iconic rock riff of the hard rock pioneers Deep Purple, “Smoke On The Water,” is another super-easy riff with a basic pattern and quite comfortable finger positions. You can play it in many different ways, but double-stops on the 3rd and 4th strings are the easiest.
The song’s main riff starts on the 5th fret of the D and G strings. You can first play the riff by only using the D string and add the G string later on when you get the hang of the melody. The song has only four chords, so it is one of the best first-time-riffs for beginners.
4. Nirvana – Come As You Are
Another Nirvana tune, “Come As You Are,” offers a fantastic main riff for beginners with its straightforward single-note layout and easy rhythmic aspect. You will only need to use two fingers to play the riff, and all the notes are in the same position, making the riff super easy to learn.
The riff is in the E minor key, so you start playing it with the open low E string. You will use your index and middle fingers to play the melody, as the notes you will use are all in the same position and are pretty close to each other. The moderate tempo and the basic rhythmic aspect also help make the riff even more straightforward.
5. Michael Jackson – Beat It
The groovy and catchy riff of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” is an amazing riff for beginners as it features many fundamental techniques in an easy-to-play pattern. You will play slides, key pauses that drive the groove, and some dotted 8th notes to spice up the rhythm.
The riff is played on the lower 3 strings and takes advantage of the fretboard with slides and changing positions. However, with the moderate tempo of the song, you will have enough time to prepare for the next move.
6. The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Moving to the mid-’60s, the legendary song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the mighty The Rolling Stones offers a highly straightforward riff for beginners as it only uses three notes on the same string.
You will need to use the index, middle, and pinky fingers to play the riff. There are some details to spice up things, like a slide and a pull-off, but they are not necessary to play the riff. It is a highly easy riff to play, so add some overdrive to your tone and go straight with it.
7. Metallica – Enter Sandman
One of the catchiest riffs of metal history is featured in the great song “Enter Sandman” by the thrash metal giants Metallica. The riff is played with single notes and a few power chords in the same position, making it easy on the fingers.
When playing, let the first note, the open low E string, ring all the time, and play the notes on the higher strings on top. You will only need 3 fingers to play the short main riff, and all have pretty comfortable positions.
8. The Kinks – You Really Got Me
“You Really Got Me” by The Kinks is an all-time beginner favorite song, thanks to its outstandingly easy-to-play riff. All you need is two power chords to play the riff, making it absolutely beginner-friendly.
So, the riff is played with an F and a G power chord, changing between them in a moderate to high tempo. You can play the F chord and slide your hand two frets higher up the pitch to the G chord. The only thing to be aware of is the rhythm, which is also very straightforward.
9. Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
The Rocky song “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor, is a great rock riff that can fire up the audience whenever you play it, and it is quite easy to do so. You need a few power chords and a repetitive, muted single-note to drive the rhythm forward.
The riff starts with the 3rd fret on the A string with steady muted notes. Later you start adding the power chords between the muted parts, which create the melody. There are only four power chords with quite easy positions, making the melody very straightforward.
10. Blur – Song 2
Blur’s “Song 2” is actually made to mock with grunge genre popular at the time, but it became one of the most iconic riffs ever. As with many grunge songs, it has an easy-to-play riff driven by power chords. All the riff is played with the same finger positions, so all you have to do is to slide your hand through the fretboard.
The riff can be played with 2-note power chords using your index and ring finger. All the notes are on the same two strings, so you will go back and forth on the fretboard while your picking hand drives the rhythm. It is quite a fun song to play and a great exercise to familiarize yourself with the fretboard and strumming.
11. Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
The famous indie rock song “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand has an amazing-sounding and easy-to-play clean intro riff with single notes and a steady picking hand. The single notes are all on the A string, and all the notes are 16th notes, making the riff quite elementary.
So, all you need to do is to change the notes down and up the fretboard while the picking hand steadily picks the notes. When you feel comfortable with the riff, you can try to play the open E string with each stroke to make it sound even spicier.
12. Pink Floyd – Money
Altough this one is actually a bass guitar riff, “Money” by the legendary Pink Floyd has an amazing intro melody that you can apply to guitar. The riff is completely played with single notes in the first position with a moderate tempo.
The riff is pretty easy to play with staccatos, which means you do not let the note ring but stop it by removing your finger from the fret. The only tricky part is when the ring finger barres two notes on the D and G strings, but you can get it pretty easily with a small practice session.
13. Metallica – One
One of the best ballads of Metallica, “One,” has a great opening riff with clean tones, which is a treasure for beginners. The slow tempo, easy finger positions, and the beauty of the melody make this one a must-learn for beginners.
The riff is played with two-note power chords but with the strings picked separately one by another. It is important to let the string ring and play the riff slowly. All the notes are in the same position, and the riff is highly easy on the fingers. You can also try your chances with the easy opening solo.
14. Black Sabbath – Iron Man
Black Sabbath’s iconic heavy metal song “Iron Man” is another great riff to play for beginners, thanks to its slow-moderate tempo and easy power chord progression. There are some tricks, like the sliding power chords part, which may feel awkward on the first try, but there is nothing to worry about.
If you find it hard to play the sliding part, try playing the riff without power chords but single notes instead. Just play the notes on the A string until you get the hang of it. Later you can add the D string to create the power chord progression.
15. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama
The sweet country-rock tune “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd features a great riff for beginners to challenge themselves with many techniques, chord shapes, and embellishments. The riff has a moderate tempo and is quite easy to play when all the parts are practiced separately.
The riff features three chords; D, Cadd9, and G. Don’t let the name “Cadd9” scare you, as it has a pretty easy shape. The chords are arpeggiated, and there are some nice country embellishments in between. Try to learn the parts separately and start with a slow tempo, building the speed later. Another great trick for making it sound better is to mute the lower strings while letting the higher strings sound strong.
16. Bob Marley – Redemption Song
The king of reggae, Bob Marley’s iconic “Redemption Song” opens with a juicy acoustic guitar riff with basic single notes in the same hand position. The riff can be played only with two fingers and sounds amazing before you go into the simple chord progression.
The riff opens with a G note on the third fret of the low E string and goes around that note the whole time. Listen to the riff carefully to get the timings right, as there are dotted notes and staccatos.
17. AC/DC – Highway To Hell
The Australian hard rock giants, “AC/DC,” is famous for their easy-to-play but great-sounding rock riffs, and one of the first ones to come to mind is “Highway To Hell.” It is a highly easy and fun-to-play killer rock riff with many stops, easy chords, and plenty of gain, and mutes.
The riff has only three chords; A, D/F#, and G. The last two chords have very similar fingering positions making the riff even easier to play. The only thing to be careful with is the rhythmic aspect and timing the mutes correctly. Just add plenty of overdrive and enjoy this rocky riff.
18. Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The famous Red Hot Chili Peppers tune “Californication” offers a perfect-sounding main riff for beginners to enjoy. It basically consists of arpeggiation of A minor and F major chords in a straightforward pattern, along with a great transition with C major, G major, F major, and D minor chords.
The riff is pretty straightforward, as it uses some of the fundamental chords. The tempo is also slow, giving you enough time to think and create the position changes.
19. Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
The legendary Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” is one of the greatest rock riffs ever written, and it is perfectly easy to play, even for beginners. The riff features a single power chord strummed pretty quickly, along with a two-note opening melody.
The riff opens with the 7th fret on the low E string and goes to the 5th fret on the A string for the short opening melody. Then it is all about the E power chord played on the 7th string of the A string and the 9th fret of the D string. The challenge is keeping up with the rhythm of the fretting hand, which is a great exercise for beginners.
20. The Beatles – Come Together
The final song on the list comes from The Beatles, “Come Together.” The iconic riff in the intro sounds great with slides and an easy pattern. You can play it with single notes or power chords as you prefer.
The riff opens with the 5th fret on the A string, and all the notes are in the same position. You go between the 3rd and 5th frets on different strings, adding some slides and little vibratos here and there. Start by playing the melody with single notes, and change to the two-note power chords later.
Learning and mastering these iconic guitar riffs is great for developing your skills and having fun. With some practice, online tutorial videos, and tabs, you can add these riffs to your repertoire at your own pace. When you cover the basics, you can move on to the more advanced riffs, and with hard work and dedication, you can start playing like a pro!