There’s always been something special about playing a great guitar riff. Riffs that are memorable, get stuck in your head, and that everyone knows are actually in many cases relatively easy to play. That’s because most people remember simple melodies that they can hum along to. I don’t think many people would be able to hum along to “Through the fire and flames”.
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In this post, I’ve compiled a list of over 43 easy guitar riffs that are great for both beginner and intermediate-level players. Many of these guitar riffs focus on plucking technique (e.g. Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin) although I’ve also included guitar riffs that are chord or power chord-based (e.g. You Really Got Me by The Kinks).
In the list below, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be 43 of the best easy guitar riff songs I know.
If you prefer to learn a new song by tab, I’d highly recommend using the Guitar Pro tabs whenever available as it can definitely help you get a better feel for the timing of each tab and provide you with more tools to learn guitar riffs and songs in general much faster.
If you have trouble learning any of these songs then you might want to consider taking some online guitar lessons to help improve your skills.
This list is in no particular order so feel free to jump in wherever. Pick a song you like, and start learning how to play its riff with one of the options provided.
Happy guitar playing!
List of The Best 43 Easy Guitar Riffs
Here is my list of the best easy guitar riffs for beginner and intermediate guitarists.
1. “Heartbreaker” By Led Zeppelin
Heartbreaker is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin, released on their fourth album in 1971. The song was written by guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant, and is one of the band’s most popular tracks. The guitar work on the track is some of the most memorable and influential in rock history. Heartbreaker is a classic example of Led Zeppelin’s signature sound and remains one of their most loved songs.
2. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” By Guns N’ Roses
There is no doubt that “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is one of the most iconic rock songs of all time. The opening guitar riff is instantly recognizable, and the chorus is unforgettable. But what makes this song truly special is the way it captures the feeling of young love. The lyrics are full of innocence and longing, and the music conveys a sense of carefree joy.
3. “Seven Nation Army” By The White Stripes
“Seven Nation Army” is a song by American rock duo the White Stripes. It was released as the lead single from their fourth studio album, Elephant, in 2003. The song’s guitar riff has been described as “infectious” and “memorable”.
4. “Satisfaction” By The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and “Satisfaction” is one of their most iconic songs. The guitar riff that opens the song is instantly recognizable, and the rest of the song is just as catchy.
5. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” By Scorpions
“Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions is one of the most iconic rock songs of all time. Featuring easy guitar riffs and a catchy melody, the song is perfect for headbanging along to. It remains a staple of classic rock radio stations to this day. If you’re looking for a song that will get your blood pumping, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is the perfect choice.
6. “Crazy Train” By Ozzy Osbourne
Written in 1980, the song quickly became a metal anthem, thanks in part to its catchy riffs and Ozzy’s unique vocal style. But what really sets “Crazy Train” apart is its darkly humorous lyrics, which paint a picture of a world gone mad. With lines like “All aboard! / Ha ha ha ha ha ha!”, the song is both a celebration and a satirization of the excesses of the metal world. And while it may be almost 40 years old, “Crazy Train” still has the power to get heads banging and hearts racing.
7. “Day Tripper” By The Beatles
The Beatles were one of the most successful bands of all time, and “Day Tripper” is one of their most iconic songs. The song was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and it was released as a double A-side single with “We Can Work It Out”. “Day Tripper” was an instant hit, reaching the top of the charts in both the UK and the US. The song is known for its catchy guitar riff, which was performed by George Harrison.
8. “Do I Wanna Know” By Arctic Monkeys
“Do I Wanna Know” by Arctic Monkeys is a song about the anxiety of not knowing what someone is thinking. The lyrics are full of question marks, conveying the speaker’s uncertainty about their relationship. The music is similarly uneasy, with a tense bass line and jittery drums that reflect the speaker’s restless state of mind. “Do I Wanna Know” is a perfect example of Arctic Monkeys’ ability to combine catchy melodies with smart lyrics, resulting in a song that is both fun to listen to and thought-provoking.
9. “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” By Jet
“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” is a song by Jet, released as the lead single from their 2003 album Get Born. The song became a global hit, reaching number one in Australia and New Zealand and number three in the United Kingdom. The song is built around a catchy guitar riff, and its verses alternate between high-energy rock and more subdued, reflective moments.
10. “Hair of the Dog” By Nazareth
“Hair of the Dog” is a song by the Scottish hard rock band Nazareth. The title refers to the practice of using alcohol to cure a hangover, which is also known as “the hair of the dog.” The song has been covered by many artists, including Guns N’ Roses, who released their version as a single in 1993. “Hair of the Dog” is one of Nazareth’s most iconic songs and has been praised for its catchy riff and bluesy sound.
11. “Sunshine of Your Love” By Cream
“Sunshine of Your Love” is a song by the British rock band Cream. It was released in 1967 and became one of the band’s most popular songs. The song features easy guitar riffs that are easy to learn and play. The lyrics are about love and happiness. “Sunshine of Your Love” is a classic rock song that is easy to play and sing. It is a great song for beginners to learn and play.
12. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” By Nirvana
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is one of the most iconic songs of the 1990s. Nirvana released the song in 1991, and it quickly shot to the top of the charts. The song is known for its easy guitar riffs, which are perfect for beginners. In addition, the lyrics are simple and easy to sing along to. The combination of these factors makes “Smells Like Teen Spirit” one of the most popular songs for beginner guitarists. If you’re just starting out, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the perfect song to learn. You’ll be able to impress your friends with your skills in no time!
13. “Enter Sandman” By Metallica
14. “Sweet Home Alabama” By Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Sweet Home Alabama” is a song by American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd that first appeared on the 1974 album Second Helping. “Sweet Home Alabama” has been described as a Southern rock anthem and an ode to the Southern United States. The guitar solo in the song has been ranked one of the greatest of all time by publications such as Guitar World and Rolling Stone.
15. “More Than a Feeling” By Boston
Boston’s 1976 debut album is one of the most influential records ever made. The record’s success was driven in part by the massive hit single, “More Than a Feeling.” The song became an instant classic, due in large part to its catchy hooks and unique sound. Boston’s blend of rock, pop, and classical influences set them apart from other bands of the time, and “More Than a Feeling” is a perfect example of this musical fusion. The song features a massive opening guitar riff that is immediately recognizable, as well as intricate lead guitar work and soaring vocal melodies.
16. “Beat It” By Michael Jackson
When “Beat It” was released in 1982, it quickly became one of Michael Jackson’s most iconic songs. The song’s fusion of rock and funk elements was groundbreaking, and the accompanying music video featured some of Jackson’s most memorable dance moves. But “Beat It” also has a powerful message about overcoming prejudice and learning to accept others. This message is as relevant today as it was when the song was first released, and “Beat It” remains an inspiration to people all over the world.
17. “You Really Got Me” By The Kinks
You Really Got Me is a song written by Ray Davies and performed by The Kinks. The song is notable for its signature riff, which was created by accident. The result was a catchy, distorted sound that would become one of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time. You Really Got Me remains a timeless classic, and its impact on popular music cannot be overstated.
18. “Paranoid” By Black Sabbath
Released in 1970, “Paranoid” is a song by the English rock band Black Sabbath. Featuring a heavy metal sound and lyrics that deal with paranoia and mental illness, the song was an instant success, reaching the top of the UK Singles Chart. Drawing on elements of blues and psychedelic rock, the song helped to pioneer the heavy metal sound that would come to dominate the rock world in the 1970s. With its dark themes and aggressive guitars, “Paranoid” remains one of Black Sabbath’s most iconic and influential songs.
19. “Carry On Wayward Son” By Kansas
“Carry On Wayward Son” is a song by the American rock band Kansas. It was released in 1976 as the second single from their album Leftoverture. “Carry On Wayward Son” remains a popular song today and continues to be a staple of classic rock radio stations across the country.
20. “Funk #49” By James Gang
One of the most popular songs from the James Gang’s 1970 album Rides Again is “Funk #49”. The song features a simple, yet catchy guitar riff and some of Joe Walsh’s most iconic guitar solos. Despite being nearly 50 years old, “Funk #49” continues to be a popular song.
21. “Cocaine” By Eric Clapton
Though it was released almost 40 years ago, Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” remains one of the most popular and influential songs in rock history. Though it is ostensibly about the dangers of drug addiction, the song’s easy guitar riffs and catchy melody have made it a favorite among both casual listeners and dedicated fans alike.
22. “Jessie’s Girl” By Rick Springfield
“Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield is one of the most iconic pop songs of the 1980s. The easy guitar riffs and catchy chorus make it an easy song to sing along to, and its message of unrequited love is relatable to many people. The song was reportedly inspired by Springfield’s experience of falling for a friend’s girlfriend, and its lyrics capture the frustration and heartache of wanting someone who is unattainable. The song became a huge hit when it was released, and it has since been covered by many artists.
23. “Bad to the Bone” By George Thorogood
There are few songs that are as instantly recognizable as George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone.” With its catchy riff and swaggering attitude, the song has come to embody the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. But what is it that makes “Bad to the Bone” so special? Part of it is certainly Thorogood’s bluesy vocal performance, which conveys both a sense of cool detachment and raw charisma. The song also benefits from a tight, energetic rhythm section that gives it a propulsive feel. But perhaps the biggest reason for its lasting appeal is its simple, straightforward message.
24. “Black Betty” By Ram Jam
Black Betty is a song composed by Lead Belly in the early 20th century. The song became popular in the 1970s when it was covered by the band Ram Jam. The double entendres in the lyrics help to create an atmosphere of both desire and danger. Black Betty is a classic example of the blues genre, and its popularity has endured for decades.
25. “The Ocean” By Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” is a song that has always been shrouded in mystery. Few people know the meaning of the lyrics, and even fewer know the story behind the song. “The Ocean” is a perfect example of Led Zeppelin’s ability to create music that is both beautiful and enigmatic. It is a song that has inspired multiple generations of fans, and it will likely continue to do so for many years to come.
26. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” By Tom Petty
Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is a song about chasing your dreams and never giving up. The song is an ode to the strength and determination of the human spirit. It is a reminder that anything is possible if you stay focused on your goals and never give up. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is an inspiration to everyone who has ever had a dream. It is a reminder that we all have the power to make our dreams come true, if we only believe in ourselves.
27. “La Grange” By ZZ Top
“La Grange” is a song by American rock band ZZ Top, from their 1973 album Tres Hombres. The song was written by guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill, and it is one of the band’s most popular songs. The song is named after a brothel in La Grange, Texas, which was frequented by the band members during their youth. “La Grange” is a classic example of the band’s signature Tex-Mex style of music, with a heavy groove and Gibbons’ distinctive guitar playing.
28. “American Idiot” By Green Day
“American Idiot” is a song by the American rock band Green Day. It was released as the lead single from the band’s seventh studio album of the same name on September 21, 2004. The song’s easy guitar riff and simple chord progression helped make it one of the band’s most popular songs, and it became a staple of their live performances.
29. “Smoke on the Water” By Deep Purple
“Smoke on the Water” is a song by English rock band Deep Purple. It was first released on their 1972 album Machine Head. The song is one of the most famous and instantly recognizable examples of the power chord, due to its easy-to-play guitar riff. The riff was actually inspired by a real-life incident in which a fire broke out during a concert by the band The Who. While witnessing the destruction, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore came up with the now-iconic opening riff. “Smoke on the Water” quickly became a staple of hard rock and heavy metal bands, thanks to its simple yet catchy melody and powerful guitar sound.
30. “Say It Ain’t So” By Weezer
Released in 1994, “Say It Ain’t So” was the second single from Weezer’s self-titled debut album, commonly known as The Blue Album. The song was written by frontman Rivers Cuomo and is based on a personal experience from his adolescence. “Say It Ain’t So” was an instant success, reaching number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming one of Weezer’s most well-loved songs.
31. “Takin’ Care of Business” By BTO
Released in 1974, “Takin’ Care of Business” quickly became a rock staple, thanks to its catchy hooks and upbeat tone. Written by Randy Bachman, the song was inspired by his own experience of working long hours to make a living. Over the years, the song has been adopted by many as an anthem of self-reliance and determination. In recent years, it has also taken on a new meaning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with people around the world using it as a motivational force to get through these tough times. Whether you’re facing personal obstacles or global crisis, “Takin’ Care of Business” is a reminder that we all have what it takes to succeed.
32. “I Wanna Rock” By Twisted Sister
In 1984, American heavy metal band Twisted Sister released “I Wanna Rock”, a song that would become one of the most iconic anthems of the 1980s. Penned by lead singer Dee Snider, “I Wanna Rock” is a fist-pumping ode to the power of rock ‘n’ roll. With its driving guitar riff and catchy chorus, the song quickly rose to the top of the charts, cementing Twisted Sister’s place as one of the biggest bands of the decade.
Despite its commercial success, “I Wanna Rock” has also been praised for its positive message about the transformative power of music. In a world that is often filled with negativity, “I Wanna Rock” serves as a reminder that music can be a force for good. For generations of rock fans, this song is a powerful reminder that rock ‘n’ roll will never die.
33. “T.N.T” By AC/DC
“T.N.T.” is a song by Australian rock band AC/DC, released as the second single from their fourth studio album, High Voltage, in 1976. The song was written by guitarist Angus Young and bassist Cliff Williams, and produced by Harry Vanda and George Young. The opening guitar riff of “T.N.T.” has been described as one of the most memorable riffs in rock music, and the song’s chorus is considered to be one of the most recognizable in popular music.
34. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” By The Clash
Formed in 1976, the British punk rock band The Clash released their sixth studio album, Combat Rock, in May of 1982. The album included the hit single “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” which was penned by the group’s frontman, Joe Strummer. The song is widely considered to be one of The Clash’s most popular and well-known tracks. Whether you interpret the song as being about love or about The Clash’s own turbulent history, there is no denying that “Should I Stay or Should I Go” is a punk rock classic.
35. “Shine” By Collective Soul
“Shine” is a song by the American rock band Collective Soul. It was released in December 1993 as the lead single from their second album, Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid. It remains one of Collective Soul’s most popular songs and is often considered to be their signature song. The song’s positive message and catchy melody have made it a favorite among fans of all ages.
36. “Feels Like the First Time” By Foreigner
Foreigner’s song “Feels Like the First Time” is a classic rock anthem that holds a special place in many people’s hearts. The song was released in 1977, at the height of the band’s popularity, and quickly became a radio staple. The lyrics tell the story of a young man who is experiencing love for the first time, and the excitement and anticipation that comes with it. The catchy chorus is instantly recognizable, and the song has been used in countless movies and TV shows over the years.
37. “Whole Lotta Love” By Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin is considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and “Whole Lotta Love” is one of their most iconic songs. The song was released in 1969 on the album Led Zeppelin II, and it quickly became a fan favorite. The opening riff is instantly recognizable, and Robert Plant’s vocals are some of the best in rock history. The rest of the band is also at the top of their game, with John Bonham delivering a masterful drum performance. “Whole Lotta Love” is a perfect example of Led Zeppelin’s talent, and it remains one of their most popular songs to this day.
38. “Walk This Way” By Aerosmith
“Walk This Way” is a song by the American rock band Aerosmith. It was released in 1975 as the lead single from their third album, Toys in the Attic, and quickly gained popularity, eventually reaching the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100. “Walk This Way” has been covered by many artists, including Run-D.M.C., who had a hit with their version in 1986. The song remains one of Aerosmith’s most iconic and popular tracks, and it continues to be widely heard on radio and television.
39. “Born to Be Wild” By Steppenwolf
Few songs are as Iconic as “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf. The opening riff is one of the most recognizable in rock history, and the lyrics perfectly capture the feeling of freedom and rebellion that defined the 1960s. “Born to Be Wild” is an anthem for anyone who has ever dreamed of hitting the open road and discovering new horizons. It’s a timeless classic that continues to inspire people of all ages to seize the day and follow their dreams.
40. “My Generation” By The Who
“My Generation” is a song by English rock band The Who, released as a single in December 1965. The song is credited with helping to popularize the term “generation gap.” The lyrics are about the frustrations of young people in the 1960s, who felt that they were being left behind by the older generation. The Who’s lead singer, Roger Daltrey, was just 18 years old when he wrote the lyrics. He later said that he had no idea how prophetic they would turn out to be.
41. “Rockin’ In the Free World” By Neil Young
“Rockin’ In the Free World” by Neil Young is an anthem for those who believe in freedom and the power of music. The song speaks to the struggles of everyday people and the need for solidarity in the face of adversity. The opening guitar riff is both catchy and defiant, setting the tone for the rest of the song. Young’s lyrics are full of hope and determination, calling on listeners to “stand up for your rights.” The chorus is an empowering call to action, urging people to “keep on rockin’ in the free world.” “Rockin’ In the Free World” is a song that speaks to the best of humanity, and reminds us that we all have the power to make a difference.
42. “Ocean Pearl” By 54-40
54-40 is a Canadian rock band that formed in the early 1980s. 54-40 is known for their catchy hooks and sing-along choruses, and Ocean Pearl is no exception. Overall, Ocean Pearl is an enjoyable and well-crafted album that will please longtime fans and newcomers alike.
43. “Rocky Mountain Way” By Joe Walsh
“Rocky Mountain Way” is a song by American rock guitarist Joe Walsh. The song was released in October 1973 as the lead single from his second solo album, The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get. Written by Walsh, Bob Ezrin and Bernie Leadon, “Rocky Mountain Way” peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained in the top 40 for six weeks.
43 Easy Guitar Riffs [Infographic]
What Exactly Is a Guitar Riff?
A riff is a repeated sequence of notes or chords used in a song. How riffs are used isn’t always the same. Some songs use riffs as the basis of the entire song while others use a riff for just a short section of the song.
A great riff is memorable and easily identifiable. That’s exactly what each of the songs in the list above have, they’re guitar riffs that most people would recognize.
However, this brings up the question of how does a lick differs from a riff? Well, a lick is usually a short phrase or sequence of notes used to add a bit flair or color to a section of a song. These are typically used in accompaniment with the main melody and typically aren’t repeated like most riffs.
Which Riffs Should You Start Off With?
When looking at the list above, it may be a bit overwhelming to see 43 guitar riff song suggestions. You may not know where to start depending on your skill level. Below, is a shortlist of 5 songs you should start out with and learn the main riffs of as a beginner guitarist as well as 5 songs you can start with as an intermediate guitarist. Once you’ve learned these, feel free to head back up to the list above and start learning others as you wish.
- Walk This Way
- Enter Sandman
- Seven Nation Army
- Funk #49
- Beat It
- The Ocean
- Do I Wanna Know
- Crazy Train
Hopefully, this list of easy guitar riffs has provided you with some ideas of memorable riffs you can learn as a beginner or intermediate player. The great thing is, that there are tons of resources out there to help you learn all of these songs. Depending on which medium you prefer to learn from (written, audio, or video) links to each are included above for all songs.
If you think I may have missed any great easy guitar riffs in the list above, don’t forget to leave a comment below. Let us know what your favorite guitar riff is!