10 Easy Guitar Riffs That You Can Learn in a Day
By Alexx Calise
Got an afternoon to kill? Sounds like you have enough time to learn a new riff!
The following list contains easy-to-learn songs with riffs that every rock guitarist needs to know. Whether you’re just starting out on guitar, or just want to add some iconic cover tunes to your repertoire, take a moment to learn these riffs and you’ll be jamming in no time! We even threw in some tutorial videos for all of you visual learners.
10 Easy Guitar Riffs That You Can Learn in a Day
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
"I Love Rock 'n' Roll"
If you love rock ‘n’ roll, then you’ll love playing this scorcher from the queen of rock ‘n’ roll herself, Joan Jett. To play the main riff, start by playing four E power chords, then grab the third fret of the low E and bend. Next, play an open A power chord, a B power chord, tug on the third fret of the E string again, and end with two E power chords. You could also play the last E chords of the riff from the seventh fret of the A string to give it another voicing.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to play the little E minor pentatonic lick, pluck the fifteenth fret B string and go a whole step back with one pick. Then head on over to twelfth fret B string and play fourteen to twelve on the G string.
You’ll be shouting “woo-hoo!” once you’ve got this infectious ‘90s classic from the Brit rockers in Blur under your fingers. As the tune mostly employs power chords on the fifth string root, this is an especially great, easy guitar riff for beginners.
“Song 2” is comprised of five chords total, so once you’ve got those down, you’ve got the whole thing down! First, you’ll start on the root note of the eighth fret (F), then move down to the sixth fret (E flat), then back up again to the eleventh fret (A flat), then the thirteenth fret (B flat) and then the fifteenth fret (C). Verses are clean, and the choruses are heavy AF, so make sure to kick on the distortion for maximum rockage during those parts.
"Smoke On The Water"
You’ll be glad to know that the hooky-as-hell “Smoke on the Water” is as easy to play as it is memorable. It’s also one of the first songs most new guitarists learn! Here is the super quick one finger version, which is all played on the sixth or low “E” string. Start by playing the third fret (G), then the sixth fret (A#), eighth (C), third (G), sixth (A#), ninth (C#), eighth (C), third (G), sixth (A#), eighth (C), sixth (A#), and third (G).
In tablature, the pattern will read as follows: E|3-6-8-3-6-9-8-3-6-8-6-3|.
"You Really Got Me"
One thing’s for sure; this incredibly easy electric guitar riff from the Kinks (or Van Halen depending on the version you’re listening to) really won’t get you! For the first part of the song, you’ll be playing 1-3-3-1-3 on the sixth (or low E) string with just your finger. As the song progresses, you’ll turn those same notes into power chords.
Next, you’ll move to 3-5-5-3-5, and then 8-10-10-8-10. Finally, you’ll play a full bar chord on the eighth fret. Then, the whole song starts over again. See how easy that was?
Hey, ho! Let’s go! We don’t have all day to learn this one from punk rock legends, The Ramones! Just FYI, this super catchy tune tends to sound best if you play all downstrokes or down-up, down-up.
Start by playing an A (fretted from the fifth fret of the sixth string or low E), then D (fifth fret of the fifth string or A string) and move up a whole step to E (seventh fret of A string). Then play an A (fifth fret of sixth string), D (fifth fret of A string), and A (fifth fret of sixth string). For the second part, you’ll be playing D (fifth fret of A string), A (fifth fret of sixth string), D (fifth fret of A string), A (fifth fret of sixth string), D (fifth fret of A string), B (second fret of fifth string), D (fifth fret of A string) and E (seventh fret of fifth string). Then, you’ll just play it over again.
Who can forget this 3-chord classic from British band, The Troggs? Released in 1966, the deliciously languorous and jangly “Wild Thing” remained on the pop singles chart for an impressive 11 weeks. While The Troggs did have some additional charting singles over the years, nothing quite measured up to “Wild Thing’s” success.
To play this one is simple: it’s two strums on A, two on D, two on E, and two on D. The only real variation happens in the verses, in which you will play the A, lift it off, play the A again, and lift off again. Wild thing? More like ain’t no thing…
Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Bad Moon Rising”
This classic rock staple from the mighty Creedence Clearwater Revival has been cited as one of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” by Rolling Stone, and it has appeared in countless films including Forrest Gump, Army of the Dead, and Kong: Skull Island, to name a few. Originally written by John Fogerty after watching The Devil and Daniel Webster, Fogerty says the song is about “the apocalypse that was going to be visited upon us." Pretty heavy!
What isn’t though, are the chords for this one! Just play D maj, A7, G, and Dmaj again, but for the last chord, just press the fourth fret on the G chord if you want to add the little melodic part. That’s really all there is to it!
Bob Marley & The Wailers
"Three Little Birds"
One of Bob Marley’s most popular songs, this sing-songy tune is thought to be inspired by three little birds that used to visit Marley’s home at Hope Road. Lucky for you, “Three Little Birds” only has three little chords throughout the whole song: Amaj, Dmaj, Emaj. It’s a 1.4.5 progression in the key of A. As the song states, don’t worry about a thing. You’ll have this one down before you know it!
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
We could have chosen any song from AC/DC’s legendary career, however we’re pretty partial to this Bon Scott-era ripper. Like most of their tunes, this one is made up of some easy guitar chords and an insanely memorable riff, but that doesn’t take away from its ferocity. Just remember E, G, A, D and you’re all set!
Blessid Union of Souls
“I Wanna Be There”
Here’s an easy acoustic guitar riff from Cincinnati-based alt rockers, Blessid Union of Souls’ second studio record. A heartfelt song about the power of love, this one was written after frontman Eliot Sloan separated from a college girlfriend. There are only three major chords throughout the whole song (G, C, and D), so if you’re just starting out on guitar, this is a great one to start with.
Final Thoughts: 10 Easy Guitar Riffs That You Can Learn in an Afternoon
Allow us to introduce you to Spark MINI - our battery-powered practice amp with smart app integration and big, beautiful multi-dimensional sound. With multi-dimensional rich and detailed sound, all-new Smart Jam, video creation, and 8-hours of battery life, it's the biggest smallest rig ever.
Spark MINI also doubles as an ultra-high-quality Bluetooth® speaker, allowing you to stream your favorite music from your computer or mobile device. Sit back and listen, or pick up your guitar and jam along. It's an unmatched, go-anywhere audio sweet spot. Find out more here.
Alexx Calise is an accomplished singer, guitarist, and songwriter. In addition to her musical pursuits, she also works in public relations and marketing, writes for a variety of publications, and hosts/creates content for Guitar World. More information about Alexx can be found at alexxcalise.net.