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7 Rock Riffs Every Beginner Guitarist Should Know

The guitar riff is a timeless, integral piece of both musical history, and the guitar playing skillset. Almost every student in my coaching practice was inspired to pick up the guitar and learn due to hearing the hypnotic power of a great, simple guitar riff. For me it was the likes of ACDC, Guns and Roses, Queen and The Darkness. After those riffs reached my ears, there was no going back! So here is a list of the greatest, most well-known and well-requested riffs from my students that are easy, recognisable and most importantly, inspiring to play! Let’s get straight to it!

Riff 1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

One of the most famous riffs from one of the most famous bands in modern music history. The riff from this song was played by Keith Richards, and one of the only Rolling Stones songs to feature an effects pedal, which was a fuzz to be exact, Keith’s reasoning for using the pedal was to attempt to recreate the sound of horns, and was meant to be replaced later, but the band liked it so much, they kept it in.

Play this riff: By ascending up the A string, on frets 2, 4 and 5. Then back down again using slides!

I Can't Get No Satisfaction Tabs

Riff 2. Seven Nation Army

Another awesome A string riff written by Jack white.

Play this riff: With one finger going up and down the a string.

Seven Nation Army Sheet Tabs

Riff 3. Another One Bites the Dust

This must be one of the funkiest riffs of all time. Written by John Deacon and was one of his main contributions to the Queen catalogue.

Play this riff: On the low E string open, 3rd and 5th fret. Make sure to try to alternate pick those fast semi-quaver notes!

Another One Bites The Dust Tabs

4. Smoke on the Water

One of the most famous guitar riffs, written and played by Richie Blackmore. The first riff I ever learned on the guitar too.

Play this riff: We’re moving on to two strings now, playing the G and D strings between the open, 3rd and 5th position, try this plucked with your fingers for an extra Blackmore effect!

smoke on the water tabs

5. Nothing Else Matters

For a metal band, this is a very easy listening riff inspired by classical guitar techniques on open strings. This riff is an awesome exercise for developing finger picking technique too and a great one to work on if your fingers are sore from doing lots of fretting practice.

Play this riff: Try using the index finger for the G string, middle finger for the B string and 3rd finger for the high E and move them independently.

Nothing else matters tabs

6. Day Tripper

Another world-famous guitar riff, by arguably the greatest songwriters of all time in Western music. This one’s a little more challenging, scaling frets and across different strings.

Play this riff: Remember to use one finger per fret, and start fretting by playing the G note with your middle finger, this may feel uncomfortable but keep it going to make the positioning work perfectly, it will be much more efficient.

day tripper tabs

7. TNT

Ok, now we’re getting there! Let’s get really rock and roll with this last riff. ACDC are famous for their simple, yet highly effective brand of Australian rock music. This is the only riff on the list to feature power chords (a two chord played using the root and the 5th)

Play this riff: Hard and aggressive with your pick, and take note of the rests, they are key in getting the rock and roll feel to sit just right!


So there you have it, 7 rock riffs that all beginner guitarists should know. I hope this article has been of value to you and helps you in your guitar playing journey, rock on!

All my best,



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