Satisfy your inner need to take on guitar riffs with these helpful videos, and impress your friends and fans!

Learning to play the guitar is fun, but learning to play some well-known guitar riffs can be even more fun when you are learning to play, especially if it’s a song you adore. Some of the greatest rock songs are distinguished by their powerful guitar solos rather than their lyrics and melody alone.

In addition, some of the best guitar riffs have even been so bold as to change the scope of music. For example, early jazz guitar riff pioneers like Benny Goodman helped pave the way for great rock stars like Jimi Hendrix to incorporate it into the mainstream and make guitar riffing an expected outcome of the best rock songs.

There are so many guitar riffs out there for your choosing, but the ones that you can’t wait to learn how to play are going to help you cover them better. This guide will show you how to cover some of the more famous guitar riffs and create those moments where someone goes “I know that song!” or sings and hums along to your rocking tunes.

These riffs are perfect for even beginner guitarists. So, you don’t need to have tons of experience under your belt to play them.


Before tackling the riff, it is a good idea to understand what it is. A riff in music is a repeated sequence of chords or notes within the song, usually with a catchy, easy-to-recognize structure. You hear guitar riffs more frequently in rock, funk, and jazz genres, but they can pop up in almost any style of music, such as heavy metal or Latin.

Sometimes guitarists will simply mimic the lead melody within a piece of music as a riff or combine a series of chords that reflect the melody. This is a good starting point if someone has a personalized song gift in mind. However, more advanced and experienced guitarists tend to venture off the beaten path and create their own innovative pieces with unique rhythms.

Whether or not you want to learn how to play guitar riffs, you can improve your guitar skills when you practice them. Riffs are sometimes easier for practicing since they are smaller pieces of an entire song and seem less overwhelming than trying to play the whole piece during a practice session. Also, sometimes breaking down the music and playing smaller parts before combining them can help you learn a little more quickly and play more cleanly.


Some of the most badass guitar riffs are featured here by Paul Davids going through the years. He starts with “Boogie Chillin’” by blues’ legend John Lee Hooker and goes all the way through to Aerosmith and Run DMC’s “Walk This Way” combining rock with hip hop, and ending with “No Good” by Kaleo, and adding a little bit in of our first famous guitar riff to cover, “Smoke on the Water.”


Riff #1: Smoke on the Water

Deep Purple created their infamous song “Smoke on the Water” from witnessing a fire from flares shot by an audience member into Frank Zappa’s equipment during a concert at a casino. The live show was in Switzerland, and the rowdy member who shot off the flare was held accountable for the building burning to the ground.

The guitar riff from Richie Blackmore that stemmed from this song has been coined by Pantera’s Dimebag Darryl as “the ultimate simple tune” since it was the first riff he learned on the guitar. It only uses three notes: G, C, D in chords, but they make a lasting impact. You would play it in the key of G Major. The chugging guitar line recognized by fans of this song stands out, even more so than the entire song. You could learn just to play this riff and have people immediately recognize it.

Riff #2: Come As You Are

Nirvana created a beginner’s favorite to play since it requires tuning your guitar down one whole tone. You can also use a capo on the second fret, use a tuner and then take the capo off to give your thick to thin string sequence as D, G, C, F, A, D. It can be a little bit difficult to understand finger placement to play each of the individual notes. You start by playing the E string using the sequence 0,0,1,2 – moving your fingers to the correct frets. Then you start playing the second string along with the first, and you can practice doing this back and forth to get the hang of it.

You can also create this guitar riff (and all of these others listed) easily by utilizing virtual guitars just like you would an actual one in your hands. In addition, the technology revolving around a virtual guitar allows for easy tuning down without having to mess with your guitar strings so that you wouldn’t be so concerned with all the tuning.

Riff #3: Back in Black

AC/DC’s Angus Young developed an amazing riff in E Minor with their hit “Back in Black,” starting with a low E power chord, D chord, then A chord. You hear this riff being played everywhere, as background on your favorite rock radio shows and in hit movies like Iron Man and School of Rock.

The opening guitar riff also works for the verse, and there are a couple of tricky licks that take some practice to harness. In addition, the blues-based open string across multiple strings needs an alternate picking technique played accurately to create the right sound. You can also learn the guitar solo from this song by breaking it down into smaller pieces before putting it all together. Virtual guitars also work well when learning this riff since you can be more precise with the trickier licks.

Riff #4: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

The Rolling Stones made probably one of the greatest songs with “Satisfaction,” one of the most straightforward guitar riffs with only three chords and one string. It is a perfect beginner riff to learn with open chords E major, A major, and B7.

Start with your first finger on the second fret of the fifth string and play that twice on the first two beats. Then, you play it again and move to your fourth and fifth fingers. Of course, you could play it with just one finger and practice sliding it up the guitar, but your hand doesn’t have to move so much if you can learn to play it with different fingers.

Riff #5: Walk This Way

Joe Perry made an awesome riff with the mashup of hip hop and rock music between Aerosmith and Run DMC for “Walk This Way,” so we had to include it in our list. Perry developed this riff during a soundcheck while in Hawaii when he opted to change up his tedious chord progression, and it has become one of the best riffs of rock music today.

The main riff is simple but challenging with the quick rhythms and fingering necessary to pull it off. You start with 0,1,2 on the fifth string and then using your third finger on the second fret of the fourth string, and you have to kind of slide your fingers up as you go, ending down on the low E initially and then on the second phrase, you repeat the play of the third fret but with an open string.


Power chords are used a lot on the rock song riffs, and you can use virtual guitars to punch those and experiment with creating your own variations and sounds. The professionals at Music To Your Home’s guitar lessons in New York City recommend some virtual guitars with the likes of IRON 2 to cover most rock riffs from the past, and can even create edgy sounds for independent artists who want to nail the riffs within their music by rephrasing and re-recording the samples that come with it.

You can change up the style and phrases as much as you’d like, and once you have mastered the art of working with the rhythms, you can see how notes may just come to you and create some original riffs. You can keep working with the sounds until you find just the right one to compliment your music and the sound you are going for. Riff on!