12 Easy Guitar Riffs for Beginners

Learn Basic Riffs and Songs on the Guitar

Now that you understand the basics of reading guitar music, and have a few chords under your belt, it’s time to work on riffs and songs. In this article, we will cover what a riff is, why it will help you become a better guitar player, and some popular riffs you can try on your own. We will also cover great songs for beginners to learn on the guitar that will help you gain more confidence throughout your guitar lessons and practices.

What is a Riff?

If you listen to most any music, there is a good chance that you have already heard riffs before. A riff is basically a repeated sequence of notes or chords, played in a catchy rhythm. A riff gives a song its structure (and is part of what makes songs so catchy)! While most commonly found in rock or jazz music, riffs are everywhere. Now that you know what a riff is, it’s time to learn one for yourself.

Learning Riffs

Learning riffs is a great way to practice the skills you have learned thus far. Your finger exercises will now be put to use. If you are learning the guitar with a guitar instructor, it is best to talk to them and determine which riffs would be best for your skill level and interest. If you want to become an amazing rock’n’roller, you’ll probably want to learn a riff from a rock song. On the other hand, if you aspire to be a jazz musician, a jazz riff would be the way to go.

Some common riffs include:

  • “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple
  • “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
  • “Come As You Are” by Nirvana 
  • “Back in Black” by AC/DC

There is a good chance you are already familiar with some of these riffs. Because you may understand the basic rhythm of these songs, it will make playing the riffs all the more easier.

Learning Songs

Once you have mastered a riff (or two), you can try your hand at learning a full song. Learning to play a song on the guitar puts all of your cumulative knowledge to the test. It combines your knowledge of reading music (in the format of your choosing), finger exercises, chords, strumming patterns, and riffs.

Learning a full song from start to finish will take a lot of time and effort. It is important to stick with it, even when it gets frustrating, because the more you practice, the easier it will be. Before diving in, make sure to pick a song that is suitable to your skill level but that is also a song you like and won’t mind listening to over and over again.

Here are some beginner songs we would recommend:

  • “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes
  • “Love Me Do” by The Beatles
  • “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohan 
  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan
  • “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King
  • “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix
  • “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles 
  • “Zombie” by The Cranberries

Once you have selected the song you’d like to learn, get the sheet music for it. TABs are often best for beginners to learn, so that is what we would recommend. It is also a good idea to split the song into more manageable sections so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. Go through the song, learning and mastering each section before putting it all together.

Rock On – 12 Easy Guitar Riffs for Beginners

Now that you understand riffs and have practiced a few riffs and songs on your own, you are on your way to becoming an amazing guitar player. Remember that practice makes perfect. Even when playing the guitar gets frustrating, it is important that you stick with it and keep up with your practicing. It will get easier over time as you develop your skills.

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