When you first start playing guitar, there’s nothing more exhilarating than showing off your chops by playing some of the most widely-recognized riffs in the world! Some of these riffs may seem complex, but once you learn them, you’ll realize that they’re actually pretty simple! Here are 12 of our favorite legendary, easy-to-play guitar riffs that perfect for beginners and are sure to impress:
“Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple
The iconic riff from “Smoke on the Water” is probably the most common first song that budding rockstars learn to play on guitar. There are several ways to play this legendary lick, but really any version it’s played is super simple to learn, making it ideal for beginners.
“Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes
Proof that simplicity breeds greatness, next on the list is the world-renowned riff delivered by Jack White of The White Stripes in “Seven Nation Army”. Released in 2003, this track made to the Billboard’s Hot 100 and can be heard in sports stadiums across the globe. This aggressive, anthemic guitar lick is a killer guitar for budding guitarists!
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana
Get your flannels and fanny packs ready for the grunge riff that can be heard on every ‘90s playlist and at every ‘90s-themed party: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. This truly iconic riff that helped shape the sound of ‘90s grunge and rock was delivered by the late Kurt Cobain, and can be easily played by guitarists who are just starting out. The verses consist of two single notes (for the most part), the consists of just four chords and a unique post-chorus riff, and a solo that takes on the vocal melody of the verse.
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“Sunshine of Your Love” – Cream
A riff almost as iconic as Slowhand himself, Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” is a timeless classic from the late ‘60s that’s sure to get stuck in your head. Eric Clapton is one of the greatest guitar players of all time, so it might shock you to find out that the legendary lick from “Sunshine of Your Love” is actually quite easy to play, and would be an excellent riff for beginners to learn.
You can get that signature Slowhand sound with the Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster.
“Enter Sandman” – Metallica
Beloved by many, metalhead or not, that main riff that we all know and love in “Enter Sandman” was written by Metallica’s lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett, and was actually inspired by a Soundgarden album. The riff may be simple, but its heavy, crushing delivery has made it a staple in the world of heavy metal. This riff is a must-learn for budding shredders!
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“Breaking The Law” – Judas Priest
Another classic metal riff, “Breaking The Law” by Judas Priest, is one of those riffs that sounds more complicated than it is. From the instantly recognizable leads to the heavy crunch of the rhythms, any beginners looking to get into metal need to take the time to learn this riff.
“Day Tripper” – The Beatles
The Beatles have countless renowned riffs and tracks, but “Day Tripper” is probably one of the easier ones for beginners to learn. With a classic 12-bar blues format in the first eight measures, the riff is pretty simple for beginners, yet will make you sound like you’re a seasoned pro!
Want to learn some other easy classic Beatles riffs and solos? Check out this easy beginner Beatles guitar book.
“You Really Got Me” – The Kinks
“You Really Got Me” by the Kinks is both catchy and simple at the same time. Covered by the likes of legendary bands such as Van Halen, you know that this is an amazing song. The riff maintains the same chord positions and just moves up the neck when the song changes keys. It’s a great starter riff for any beginner!
“What I Like About You” – The Romantics
“What I Like About You” by The Romantics is one of those songs that just puts a smile on your face the moment you hear the intro. With only 5 chords in the entire song, this is a truly simple tune that even new guitarists can excel at!
Looking for more resources for beginner guitar players? Check out our extensive guitar chord chart and hone your skill.