There’s always been something special about playing a great guitar riff. Riffs that are memorable and get stuck in your head. Usually, the ones 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”.
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).
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 to play it.
Happy guitar playing!
What Are the Best Easy Guitar Riffs?
Here is my hand-curated list of 43 easy guitar riffs that I believe are best for beginner and intermediate players.
1. “Heartbreaker” By Led Zeppelin
Heartbreaker is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in 1969 on their album Led Zeppelin II.
Below are the tabs for the intro (and what I believe) to be the most fun part of the song to play.
The riff was written by Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy page.
It’s pretty simple to play and doesn’t feature a whole lot of fancy technique besides a few bends and vibrato.
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.
If you’re not afraid of moving up the guitar’s fretboard and playing a riff that’s relatively fast, then you should give Sweet Child O’ Mine a shot.
The opening guitar riff is instantly recognizable, and the chorus is unforgettable.
Although this one is a bit of a workout for your fingers it shouldn’t take to long to get a grasp of once you’ve practiced for a while. I’d recommend using a metronome and start playing it slow before going full speed.
3. “Seven Nation Army” By The White Stripes
“Seven Nation Army” is a song by the rock duo the White Stripes.
With just a guitarist and a drummer you’d think that the song wouldn’t have a super rich tone to it. But this duo pulled it off and even won the best rock song of the year for it.
This song 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”.
Jack White uses a pitch shift effect to emulate the sound of a bass guitar but you can just turn down the treble if you want a cheap alternative.
This is truly one of those songs that no matter where you play it, it’ll be instantly recognized and heads will start to bang. Although you won’t advance your guitar skills too much with this one, it will be an instant crowd pleaser.
4. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” By The Rolling Stones
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was written by both Mich Jagger and Keith Richards.
The Rolling Stones are considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is one of their most iconic songs.
The guitar riff that opens the song is an attention grabber and the rest of the song is just as catchy.
The main guitar riff itself is only 3 notes: B, C#, and D.
There’s just something about the timing of how these 3 notes are played or maybe it’s the level of distortion Keith adds to his guitar – it all just works together to make this riff rock.
5. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” By Scorpions
I can’t really think of a more fun song to practice your power chords to as a beginner guitarist.
“Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions is one of their top hits and was number 31 on VH1’s top 40 greatest metal songs list.
This song is not only perfect for playing on guitar but also headbanging along to. It remains a staple of classic rock radio stations to this day.
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.
This song has quite a few parts to it and of course, one of the best solos ever created – thanks Randy Rhoads!
Learning this one from start to finish is definitely one that will impress everyone around you.
And while it may be over 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 – although they’ve had to SO many.
Day Tripper is just one of those fun songs to play that almost doubles as a warm-up for your fingers.
George Harrison did a great job turning something simple into something extremely catchy. But that’s what The Beatles are known for – catchy songs that aren’t overly complex.
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, and in the US it reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100.
8. “Do I Wanna Know” By Arctic Monkeys
This song is entirely built around its strong and in-your-face guitar riff.
When you listen to the recording they double-tracked the guitar and panned them hard both left and right. This gives a wide stereo image that is pleasing to the ear.
As for the riff itself, it makes use of the guitar’s top 3 strings, and implements slide and hammer-on techniques.
This riff is a bit longer than some of the other riffs on this list but if that doesn’t bother you then it’s a great one to learn.
“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 play and listen to.
9. “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” By Jet
This song takes me straight back to the early 2000s.
Everyone was learning this song on guitar when it was released and I mean everyone!
“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” was released as the lead single from Jet’s 2003 album Get Born.
The song starts off with some tambourine, then comes the bass, then some thumping drums, and lastly the iconic guitar riff.
Again, this song is pretty simple to play although does feature a double string bend which may be challenging for complete beginners.
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 on their album “The Spaghetti Incident”.
The riff itself is actually pretty similar to The Beatles’ “Day Tripper” so if you can play that one you should have no problem with this one either.
11. “Sunshine of Your Love” By Cream
“Sunshine of Your Love” was released in 1967 and became one of the band’s most popular songs.
The song features an easy guitar riff that is straightforward to play and only uses the top 3 strings.
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.
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.
This song makes use of 4 simple power chords: F, A#, G#, and C#.
If you’re just starting out, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the perfect song to learn.
It sounds great if you add a ton of distortion, you get to practice chord changes on a very beginner scale, and you’ll no doubt have a lot of fun doing it.
13. “Enter Sandman” By Metallica
“Enter Sandman” is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica, released as the first single from their self-titled fifth album, Metallica.
Written by guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, the song was one of the band’s most popular singles.
It features a guitar riff that’s just 6 notes and has been described as one of the most memorable in rock music.
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.
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.
But the opening guitar riff is what truly catches everyone’s attention when played.
This riff uses a combination of picking and chord strumming so if you’re a complete beginner and up for a bit more of a challenge, try out this classic.
15. “More Than a Feeling” By Boston
The success of Boston’s debut album in 1976 was driven in large part by the massive hit single, “More Than a Feeling.”
The slow fade-in and almost angelic tone immediately catches your attention. The opening riff itself is pretty easy to play. You simply need to pluck through the notes of a Dsus4 chord and do a bit of step-down work on the A and low E strings.
If you want to start practicing your plucking technique and prefer to start off with something easy this riff is a great one to try.
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 late, great Eddie Van Halen is to thank for the awesome guitar work on this tune.
Although the riff itself isn’t too difficult to play you’ll need to work on your timing and tone to get this one sounding right. What’s great about learning this guitar riff is that it’s instantly recognizable and doesn’t use any fancy guitar techniques. Just straight-up picking.
17. “You Really Got Me” By The Kinks
Two power chords…
Two power chords is all you need to know in order to play the main riff to this song. If you can learn how to play F5 and G5 you’ve got it down.
The only thing I will say about this one is that you’ll need to switch between both power chords fairly quickly in order to get it sounding right. Consider using a metronome as you practice “You Really Got Me” as it can be easy to lose track of the beat when switching between chords too quickly.
18. “Paranoid” By Black Sabbath
If you’re a fan of hammer-ons then this one is for you!
The riff to “Paranoid” basically exclusively makes use of hammer-ons down on the 12th and 14th frets.
Beware, the last 2 notes don’t use hammer-ons though so be sure to single-pick those as you work through the song.
19. “Carry On Wayward Son” By Kansas
“Carry On Wayward Son” was released in 1976 as the second single from their album Leftoverture.
This song in its entirety is pretty advanced. It features some pretty facemelting solos and employs a few advanced guitar techniques that can take years to perfect.
That being said, the opening riff is pretty straightforward.
You’ll only need to make use of strings E, A, and D to get through the first part of the riff and also slide up once as well as pull-off once.
20. “Funk #49” By James Gang
I absolutely love playing this riff on guitar.
You can ignore the little intro lick that’s tabbed out below because where the real fun begins is in the main riff.
As long as your index finger is strong enough to press down on 3 strings at a time you should have no problems with this one. Through in a couple of hammer-ons and you’re off to the races.
21. “Cocaine” By Eric Clapton
If you’ve got a friend you want to learn a song with then “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton is a great one.
It does take some technical skill to get this one right and it’ll likely take a few hours of practicing together in order to get the groove of both guitar parts playing synchronously.
That being said, It’s a great song to have fun with and practice your guitar chops.
22. “Jessie’s Girl” By Rick Springfield
If you want a good, easy power chord based song then “Jessie’s Girl” should be a top contender.
Everything from the chugging to the quick chord changes makes this one super fun to play.
The main riff itself is only 4 chords and although the chorus and bridge have a few more chords it isn’t anything that’s too difficult no matter your guitar skill level.
23. “Bad to the Bone” By George Thorogood
If you’re a fan of slide guitar then “Bad to the Bone” features a super easy guitar riff that makes use of a slide.
You’ll need to be comfortable with sliding up pretty high on the neck (up to the 12th and 15th frets) but with a between of practice, this one is pretty easy to master.
Alternatively, you don’t even need to use a slide if you don’t want to. Simply slide up to the correct frets with your fingers and your audience will get the point.
24. “Black Betty” By Ram Jam
Whoa black betty… bam ba lam.
Who doesn’t immediately recognize this classic?
The author of this song is often accredited to Lead Belly although it’s Ram Jam that really made this tune a global hit in 1977.
The rain riff itself is pretty straightforward to play. It consists of mainly just a few common power chords: A, B, D, E, G.
If you want to play a song that has a relatively easy-to-learn riff section this Black Betty is a great choice.
25. “The Ocean” By Led Zeppelin
I love playing the main riff to “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin.
It’s just one of those riffs that makes you want to play it over and over again.
Coupled with the right tone you’ll have a ton of fun learning and practicing this one. The second half of the riff gets a little faster, which may take a bit more time to learn, but that’s honestly what makes it so much fun.
26. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” By Tom Petty
“Runnin’ Down a Dream” has a super beginner-friendly guitar riff.
It uses a sort of stepping-down melody to it where you alternate between the open low E string and a descending pattern of frets on the low E string.
You don’t just have to stop at the main riff for this one. The rest of the song is pretty simple too with easy to play chords at a moderately fast tempo.
27. “La Grange” By ZZ Top
“La Grange” is from ZZ Top’s, 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.
It’s a classic example of the band’s signature Tex-Mex style, with a heavy groove and Gibbons’ distinctive guitar playing.
The main riff starts out with a clean tone which eventually leads into the gain being cranked up. The riff itself isn’t difficult to learn but pay close attention to the timing and feel of how the riff is being played. If you don’t get the feel right with this one it just won’t sound the same.
28. “American Idiot” By Green Day
Perfect one of the easiest guitar riffs on the list is the one performed by Green Day for their hit song “American Idiot”.
For this song you essentially just need to move from a power chord at the 4th fret and the 2nd fret (with the root note alternatively between the low E and A strings).
29. “Smoke on the Water” By Deep Purple
Oh, Smoke On The Water.
If you’ve ever worked at a music store you likely don’t want to ever hear this song being played again because you’ve likely listened to every beginner guitarist play it an infinite number of times.
That being said, most beginner guitarists learn this song for good reason. It’s catchy, it’s fun to play as a beginner, and best of all it’s easy!
30. “Say It Ain’t So” By Weezer
Say It Ain’t So is a bit on the harder side of easy guitar riffs.
It uses a combination of different guitar techniques and the individually plucked section of the song needs to be performed pretty quickly.
You can obviously slow down the tempo of the song when you’re originally trying to learn it but eventually you’ll want to speed it up to its full BPM.
31. “Takin’ Care of Business” By BTO
Released in 1974, “Takin’ Care of Business” quickly became a rock staple, thanks to its catchy hooks, upbeat tone, and feel-good message.
As for the guitar riff, this one will put your pinky finger to work!
The main riff is all power chords although you’ll need to alternate the position of your pinky finger from its original power chord position to 2 frets up.
It can be a bit of a stretch for newer guitar players therefore you may want to do some finger exercises before you start practicing this one.
32. “I Wanna Rock” By Twisted Sister
“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, peaking at 68 on the US Billboard Top 100. This song was instrumental in cementing Twisted Sister’s place as one of the biggest bands of the decade.
As for the guitar riff, it consists of mainly power chords and makes use of a few more chords than some of the other easy guitar riffs in this list.
33. “T.N.T” By AC/DC
As I’ve mentioned many times before, AC/DC are the kings of easy to play guitar riffs that are also fun and sound great.
T.N.T is certainly no exception. You’ll want to crank up the distortion for this one and make use of power chords E5, G5, and A5.
34. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” By The Clash
The only chords you’ll need to learn to play “Should I Stay or Should I Go” are D, G, A, F.
The main riff is essentially an alternation of chords D and G strummed a few times.
This song is widely considered to be one of The Clash’s most popular and well-known tracks. Whether you’re a fan of The Clash or a fan of punk rock in general, this tune is a cool one to learn.
35. “Shine” By Collective Soul
“Shine” is a bit of an interesting one on this list of easy guitar riffs.
For starters, you’ll need to tune your guitar a half-step down. Feel free to visit this guide to alternate guitar tunings to hear what that should sound like.
Next, you’ll need to leave the Ab and Db strings open while playing the main riff over the Gb string.
It might take a little practice at first to learn how to simultaneously pluck the open strings while also fingering the appropriate frets on the Gb string.
36. “Feels Like the First Time” By Foreigner
This song was released in 1977, at the height of the band’s popularity, and quickly became a radio staple.
It doesn’t use much fancy guitar technique besides a simple slide down and a hammer on at the end of the riff.
It’s a fun one to play and a great song to jam out to if you have a full band you like to practice with.
37. “Whole Lotta Love” By Led Zeppelin
“Whole Lotta Love” is considered one of Led Zeppelin’s most iconic songs.
There’s just something about this easy guitar riff that makes it so much fun to play over and over again.
Maybe it’s the chugging of the low E string or maybe it’s the way Jimmy Page bends the 5th fret of the A string while also playing the open D
Regardless, of what makes this song so special, it’s an awesome one to learn on electric guitar. Led Zeppelin has so many songs that are fun to play but this one is especially great.
38. “Walk This Way” By Aerosmith
What kind of guitarist didn’t want to instantly learn how to play the iconic “Walk This Way” riff the first time they heard it?
It’s so beautifully simple and catchy. 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.
The main riff simply uses the E5 power chord but you will need to stretch your pinky finger to the 11th and 12th positions of the D string in order to pull this one off.
If you can’t comfortably keep your hand in the E power chord while stretching your pinky to the higher frets, simply abandon the power chord formation and play the 11th and 12th fret notes on their own.
The section won’t sound as full but it beats struggling with a shape you can’t manage.
40. “My Generation” By The Who
“My Generation” is basically a combination of playing the A chord along with the A/G chord. The latter just being the A chord shape with an added G note on the Low E string.
Once the chord strumming section of the riff is done, you’ll need to do a bit of picking between the 3rd and 5th frets of the low E string. Albeit, nothing too crazy.
41. “Rockin’ In the Free World” By Neil Young
This is another one of those extremely simple rock riffs.
It features 3 chords, Em, D, and C.
The opening guitar riff is both catchy and defiant, setting the tone for the rest of the song.
In order for you to nail this song you’ll need a lot of distortion and be able to chug the Em chord just like Neil Young does.
42. “Ocean Pearl” By 54-40
You may not have heard of 54-40 before but they’re a Canadian rock band with some really cool music. I love their song “Ocean Pearl” because it basically all open notes!
The only fret you need to press down in order to play this riff is the B note on the A string.
Get that down and you can get this one under your belt pretty quickly.
43. “Rocky Mountain Way” By Joe Walsh
Yes, yes… by now you’ve probably noticed somewhat of a recurring theme in terms of having to stretch your pinky to play a note one step up in a power chord.
“Rocky Mountain Way” is no different. You’ll essentially need to remain in the E5 power chord position but stretch your pinky up to the 11th fret on the D string. This song also features 2 separate guitar parts which makes it a great guitar duet song.
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 has, 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.
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 easy guitar riff is!