Best Easy Guitar Riffs for Beginners with Tabs to learn
The best easy and famous guitar riffs for beginners to learn, each riff with their tabs and videos for you to learn quickly on your guitar.
Importance of riffs in learning to play guitar
The easy guitar riffs in this lesson will give any beginner a good starting point for playing some popular songs. Even when you start playing guitar, easy riffs are what you learn first.
Some of these famous riffs are fairly easy to play for beginning guitarists; unlike other popular riffs that can take a while to master.
We include the guitar tab and video for each riff and explain what to focus on when learning these famous and easy riffs. Once you learn these riffs, you will have a good idea of which songs to keep learning and which to learn later once you more advanced.
In our selection of the best simple, easy and popular riffs for guitar students we include different styles of music and guitarists: rock, metal and blues riffs. You will see that in this riff lesson you will find very different guitar tones; some songs use a clean tone, some use effects, and some use different tones with crunch and distortion. But you can learn most of these easy guitar riffs with acoustic or electric guitar.
If you can’t read or don’t recognize any of the symbols in the riff tabs, such as the brackets in the (0) or the X, read our guide on how to read a guitar tab. There you will find the explanation of the most common symbols used in guitar tabs.
The best easy and famous guitar riffs for beginners with their tabs
- Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
- Psycho – Muse
- In My Place – Coldplay
- Come As You Are – Nirvana
- Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
- Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
- Paranoid – Black Sabbath
- (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
- Enter Sandman – Metallica
- La Grange – ZZ Top
- Sweet Child O ‘Mine – Guns N’ Roses
- Eye of The Tiger – Survivor
- You Really Got Me – The Kinks
- Back in Black – AC / DC
- Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
- Iron Man – Black Sabbath
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Without a doubt, one of the simplest riffs you can learn on guitar is Seven Nation Army from The White Stripes. This hit from the early 2000s is easy for any beginner to learn Thus, Seven Nation Army could not miss in the selection of the easiest and most famous riffs to learn on the guitar for beginners. Also, you can play it on acoustic or electric guitar, both will sound good.
The guitar is tuned in Open A, although you can play this riff in standard tuning and it will sound exactly the same as the song. If you want to play it in Open A, you must tune your guitar in E A C# E A E.
You have a few different ways of playing a riff like this. The fingers you choose to use can completely change the feel of playing a riff. Typically beginners start with just one finger, which we don’t recommend.
We recommend that you use all your fingers at all times. In this case, you play the 10th fret with your little finger. The idea here is that you play all the notes with your first finger, but play the 10th fret with your fourth finger -pinkie-. The reason why this method will feel more comfortable than playing everything with your index finger is that the jump from the 7th fret to 10th is quite wide. So instead of sliding your index finger back and forth between those two frets, it makes more sense to use a different finger to play the 10th fret.
Play the 7th fret and 10th fret back and forth over and over again using your first and fourth fingers and once you feel comfortable using your pinky, you will understand why it is a better way to play this riff.
Seven Nation Army Tone Secret
This riff sounds like a bass in the song due to a Whammy pedal effect used on the guitar. This effect lowers the pitch of the guitar down an octave. Thus, they wanted the guitar to sound like a bass.
Psycho – Muse
This simple riff is a great way to get started with the Drop D tuning. The Drop D tuning is when you turn down the tuning of your sixth string from E to D. Many great rock and metal songs use Drop D and there are a lot of easy guitar riffs in Drop D.
The main thing to keep in mind when playing this riff is the rhythm. The timing of each note plays an important role. Listen to the song multiple times and try to match the timing of each note with what you hear. Start by memorizing the order of the notes, then you can spend time working on the rhythm by listening to the song.
Where up arrows are indicated you have to slightly pull on the string to bend the note up. A 1/2 bend means that you should make the note sound a half a tone higher, which is the same as a higher fret, so when you bend on the fifth fret it should sound the same as the sixth fret note. If this is your first time trying to play bends, it may take a while before you feel comfortable.
In My Place – Coldplay
This is another great easy guitar riff for beginners. With a clean tone, using the middle or neck pickups to give your audio a sweeter sound. Play the ninth fret with your first finger and the twelfth fret with your third or fourth finger.
This riff can take some time for beginners to learn due to the large spread and awkward way it moves back and forth between the two positions. But on the other hand, times are easy.
To achieve a tone more similar to that of the song, you can add some effects such as Reverb or Delay. Reverb is a great way to give your clean tone some extra life and feel.
Come As You Are – Nirvana
This simple song is one of the first that one learned in the 90’s, today it is a classic that every guitarist knows how to play. This song is played on a guitar with a clean tone. Also, Kurt Cobain used a Chorus effect pedal in the song, but you don’t need to use it.
The guitar in this song is tuned one key down. Although you can play it with the standard tuning and it will sound good. If you want to play along with the song, for proper tuning, tune the strings in DGCFAD.
Riff tab from Nirvana’s Come As You Are intro:
In the tab above, start out slow and make sure each note sounds clean without hum or fret noise. Those thick lines with the colons at the beginning of the second bar and at the end of the third bar mean repeating those sections over and over again. That means when you reach the end of the last bar, repeat the second and third bars.
How to play the riff of Nirvana’s Come As You Are?
Use your first finger, the index finger, to play the first fret notes and your second finger, the larger middle finger, to play the second fret notes. Practice this riff slowly until you can play it easily and without mistakes. Gradually increase the tempo -speed-, until you can play it on top of the song.
A good way to know how well you can play a riff like this is to try playing it with your eyes closed. Learn to feel where to place your fingers and where to play each string with your right hand – or left if you are left-handed. If you can easily play this easy riff with your eyes closed and don’t make any mistakes, you can move on to more complex riffs.
You can use alternate picking for this riff or play everything using down picking. The alternate picking is when the pick is played down and up, down, up, and so on. We recommend that you always try to use alternate picking, although at first you can use all-down-picking to facilitate learning.
Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
This classic guitar riff is so easy to play that for many it is the first thing they learn when picking up a guitar. To play this famous and easy riff, flatten the first and third fingers over the third and fifth frets. This makes it easier to move between fret positions without any sliding noise.
Everyone learns with this tab of the Smoke On The Water riff:
After playing the open strings from the beginning, use your left or right hand to dampen the strings before moving on to the next notes. If you listen to the song, you’ll hear the short, punchy sound of each note hit, so muting the strings with your hands is an easy way to create that punchy sound.
The old version is a slightly simplified version that makes use of open strings. The actual way this riff is played is shown below:
Everyone is used to seeing the riff written as 0-3-5, but it’s not really played that way. While the two versions may appear identical, they are not, in fact the real one sounds better. The basic idea is that you have more control over how fretted notes sound compared to open string notes.
How to play Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple?
When you play the fifth fret instead of open strings, you don’t need to use your hand to mute the strings. You just lift your finger off the fret and the note cuts out. This is how they got that punchy sound on record.
If you really want to play this song correctly, you need to play it with your fingers and pluck the strings hard. The vibrant sound you get from plucking the strings with your fingers will help you get closer to the actual pitch of the song. Playing with a guitar pick will sound good, but playing with your fingers will get you closer to the right sound.
Use a slight distortion or overdrive. Riffs like this sound better with less gain. If you use too much gain, it will sound dirty and poorly defined.
You will find that if you listen to 10 beginners playing this riff and compare it to 10 advanced guitarists, the main difference you would hear is that advanced guitarists would use much less distortion. So while it can be fun to increase your profit, more is not always better. The reality is that the distortion hides the errors a bit, but it also brings out the expressiveness of the advanced guitarist. This is why the less distortion you use as you learn to play.
Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
This is an Eric Clapton riff from his Cream era that sounds really cool. What makes this riff great to play is that any guitarist can learn it, and you can make it sound better as you learn more guitar skills.
Here is the first version of the riff that you hear at the beginning of the song:
How to play the riff of Sunshine of Your Love?
In the first bar, play the 12th fret with your third finger, the 10th fret with your index finger, and the 11th fret with the second. On the second bar, play the first tenth fret with your index finger. Next, move your hand down two frets and play the next 10th fret with your third finger.
The reason you’ll want to do this is so that you can easily play the eighth fret with your index finger. If you don’t move your hand down, the riff will suddenly feel awkward to play.
The wavy line above the eighth fret is for vibrato. Vibrato is when you gently move your finger up and down. If you still don’t know how to play the vibrato, just ignore the symbol and play it normally. So you can add vibrato later.
Hit the notes hard and lift your fingers off the frets for a short, punchy sound. Use a slight distortion or overdrive to help give the riff more punch.
If you want to improve how this riff sounds, you can add some glides as shown in the following version:
How to Make a Glide Riff Sound Better
Little glides like these can turn a good-sounding riff into a great-sounding riff. If you’ve ever heard an advanced guitarist play a riff that you know how to play and wondered why it sounded so different when he played it, they probably used little techniques like this to improve the riff.
The way you play this first slide is to start with your hand lower than the 12th fret, maybe place your finger on the 8th fret. Then you start sliding your hand up while pressing your finger against the string. Before reaching the 12th fret, play the string with the pick.
If done correctly, you will hear a quick glide towards the 12th fret. Just remember to start gliding before picking the string or it won’t sound right. If you really want to test your skills, try playing the next version that appears in the song after a few repetitions.
This time, the riff uses chords instead of individual notes. If you don’t know how to play these chords, practice the other two versions and come back to this version later. It’s a lot of fun to play so keep working on it. It may seem confusing at first, but with practice, you will be able to play as easily as you did the first version.
Paranoid – Black Sabbath
Paranoid is another classic rock riff that is fun to play and ridiculously easy to learn. Many advanced guitarists you listen to today grew up learning riffs like this. The hammer-ons in the first bar are fast, so practice your coordination between both hands to make sure you hit the strings just before hammer-on to the 14th fret.
Listen to the song to get an idea of the rhythm, and you may need to start by practicing this riff at a slower tempo and gradually speed up as your confidence increases.
The riff used in the verse is a great way to practice muted power chords with the palm of your hand. Play all of these power chords with down picking to emphasize the chugging sound you hear in the song.
If this riff is too fast to play, practice it slowly until you develop your skills. If you practice constantly, you will succeed.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
This simple guitar riff only uses three notes on the same string, undoubtedly one of the easiest, ideal for beginners. Use your first, third, and fourth fingers to play these notes.
The first few times you touch it, ignore the pull-off and slide symbols. Play every note and get used to the rhythm. Once you can play it easily, try adding the pull-off and slide to see how the feel of the riff changes.
This song uses a Gibson Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone fuzz distortion pedal, this was the first widely marketed guitar and bass effect. However, if you don’t have a fuzz, you can use a normal distortion or overdrive pedal.
Enter Sandman – Metallica
Metallica’s Enter Sandman is a heavy metal anthem, plus it has a riff that’s easy to play even for beginners. This is an intro riff, played on a clean electric guitar.
Hold down your fourth finger on the seventh fret, then use the first, second, and third fingers to play all the other notes. While this form may seem more complicated at first, this is how James Hetfield plays the riff. Playing it this way allows the strings to sound all the time.
If you want to go beyond the intro, below is the main riff that sounds distorted:
La Grange – ZZ Top
If there is a riff that every rock guitarist has in mind, it is that of La Grange by ZZ Top. The simplicity of this riff is ideal for any beginning guitarist to learn.
There are two different riffs as soon as the song starts and another one later when the whole band starts to play, but it’s essentially the same. You can see the first Riff in the following tab:
The guitar has a classic Rock tone: guitar with a classic Overdrive and you will have the tone of Billy Gibbons. Here is the tab for the second Riff of La Grange by ZZ Top.
Sweet Child O ‘Mine – Guns N’ Roses
If there’s one quintessential Slash riff from Guns N ‘Roses, it’s Sweet Child O’ Mine’s intro. This intro is a true work of art, but it is an easy riff that even a beginner can learn to play.
The greatest difficulty is the right hand, since it changes the string all the time. You should use the first finger -index- for the 12th fret, the third -ring- finger for the 14th fret and the fourth finger -pinkie- for the 15th fret. Start playing it slowly and in tempo, and as you gain confidence, speed up.
To play this just select the neck pickup of your guitar and use a lot of distortion. If you have Delay, use it with at a low level that is almost subtle. Thus, you will get the tone of the Slash guitar in the song.
Eye of The Tiger – Survivor
This is an excellent easy-to-play power chord riff, perfect for beginners. Eye of The Tiger by Survivor is a song immortalized by the movie Rocky, and from there used for many boxing events.
If you master the power chords, this riff will be learned in minutes, or seconds. The secret is to mute the strings with your right hand after each pick strike.
To play this riff just select the bridge pickup of your guitar and use distortion.
You Really Got Me – The Kinks
This riff is as simple as it is powerful, it is a classic that transcends generations of guitarists. In fact, Van Halen covers this great song. Plus, it’s super easy to learn in a short time. It also allows you to play it in different ways, to regulate the difficulty. It is also a great way to learn and practice power chords.
The first version shown below is intended for beginners trying to learn your first riffs. Use your first finger -index- and third -ring finger- and practice moving back and forth between the two positions.
The second version uses two-string power chords. This time you need to practice sliding your hand back and forth between the two positions.
The riff is quite fast so practice moving back and forth slowly until it feels easy, the important thing is to respect the tempo. Once you begin to feel that you have it mastered, then you can accelerate the changes of position. Aim for precision rather than speed. You don’t want it to sound sloppy or rushed.
The third version is the actual way the riff is played. These are still three-string power chords. Use your first finger -index- on the sixth string, your third finger -ring- on the fifth string, and your fourth finger -pinkie- on the fourth string to play these forms of power chords.
If this version is too difficult for you now, keep practicing the second version. It will sound essentially the same as the real version. But I recommend that you keep practicing until you can play all three versions. You’ll make it easier when you master three-string power chords in other songs.
Curiosity about You Really Got Me from The Kinks
If you look up the tab for this song on any free guitar tabs site, you will see two possible versions. The first version matches the previous guitar chart, while the other version will be one fret higher, playing the riff on the second and fourth frets. This is because the recording is not quite in tune; the speed of the song was probably changed by speeding it up, which affected the tuning.
Back in Black – AC / DC
AC / DC has a lot of great guitar riffs that are easy to play. This is probably the most complex of this selection, but with a little dedication, even a beginner can play it.
It begins by playing the chords that a beginner has mastered, such as E, D, and A. After the chord progression EDA closes with two single-note phrases. Angus Young uses a lot of the resource of silencing the strings after each chord, and it is characteristic of his style. It is important to pay attention to the tempo and keep the perfect rhythm on this riff.
Practice strumming the chords along with the song until you can play it easily. Then you can work on the parts of single notes and add them. Don’t worry if you have trouble playing a full bend on the second fret. This takes some finger strength to do this, so your bends may be a bit weak at first.
With the single-note part at the end, think about which fingers to use for each note. There are some wide jumps, so be sure to use your fingers that make it easier to play.
This may be the most complicated riff in this lesson, so take the time to learn it one note at a time.
Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
There are a lot of fun riffs and licks in Jimi Hendrix’s music, and Purple Haze’s intro is a relatively easy one; even beginners can learn it.
Purple Haze’s main riff is pretty simple once you learn a few basic techniques like bends and slides. Unlike other Hendrix songs, this song is in standard tuning. Note that Jimi normally tuned down half a tone. This means that you can play along with the recording without having to change the tuning of your guitar.
The first two bars are straight forward. Pick the notes hard to make a punchy sound, and lift your fingers off the frets to shorten each note. Use the first and third fingers, and in the third bar, add the second finger when you play the second string at the eighth fret.
Begin the riff on the third bar by sliding your third finger to the ninth fret. With the bends in the third bar, just push the string up slightly. A 1/4 bend is the easiest to play because you don’t need to push the string too far.
Whenever you learn a new riff, try to think carefully about which fingers you use to play it. Taking the time to plan which fingers to use will reduce the time it takes to learn to play a riff correctly.
For more information on the gear Hendrix used, see our note on Jimi Hendrix’s tone and style. It covers everything you would like to know about the guitars and effects pedals that Jimi used to create his iconic tone.
Iron Man – Black Sabbath
This is an other guitar riff that uses power chords by sliding them. Get used to each individual slide and practice them over and over again. Then you can put it all together and get used to sliding up and down the fretboard.
Once you feel comfortable sliding the power chords, think about their rhythm. Listen to the song and try to sync your slides so that each chord is ready to play at the right time. Being able to slide power chords is a great exercise to work on. Practicing this riff will increase your confidence with the power chords and will get you used to moving across the fretboard.
If you’re interested in us adding another riff to this lesson, leave us a comment below.