It can be pretty challenging when you are first starting out on guitar. Practicing guitar exercises are of course necessary, but they can feel tedious and they don't sound all that great either.
For many of us, the reason why we started learning guitar, was because we heard a really cool song that we wanted to learn.
That's where learning different guitar riffs becomes a huge benefit for beginners. They are not meant to replace your guitar exercises, but they are a great addition to pump up your guitar playing skills and become the best guitar player you can be.
And what better way than by studying from the greats!
I was very selective when choosing these 5 riffs. They work for guitarists in the early learning stage. They're fairly easy to play, recognizable to most, and are a lot of fun!
Easy Guitar Riff #1 - 'Can't Get No Satisfaction' By The Rolling Stones
This song features a famous guitar riff by Keith Richards that opens up and propels the song forward. It’s considered one of the greatest song hooks of all time! This song was first released as a single in the US in 1965 and quickly became a #1 hit!
Keith Richards wrote Satisfaction in his sleep and created a rough version riff on his cassette player. He jokingly stated you could hear on the recording about 2 minutes of him playing acoustic guitar followed by 40 minutes of him snoring!
What gives this song its signature sound is how slurs are used when playing this riff. Check out this timestamp at 00:53 to see exactly what I mean!
Don’t worry if you can’t play the slurs right away. To begin with, play the notes straight through. Then once you feel ready, try adding the slurs in to achieve that signature Rolling Stone sound.
To start learning this riff, click here.
Easy Guitar Riff #2 - 'La Bamba' By Richie Valens
La Bamba, you may or may not know, is originally an old Mexican Folk tune. The song references a dance which is believed to have come from the Spanish verb Bambolear, meaning “to sway, shake, or wobble”. The oldest version was recorded around 1938 or 1939 in Veracruz, Mexico.
This song has had a long history. It was rerecorded by several artists, added to movies, played at NYC nightclubs, and even used as a political campaign song for a Mexico presidential candidate. Then in 1945 it was remade into a rock and roll song by Richie Valens and became a huge #1 hit!
The best way to learn this riff is to cut it into manageable bite-size chunks. I have done just that for all of you in my video. You don’t have to learn this riff that way, but I think it will help you out a lot.
To go directly to this riff, click here!
Easy Guitar Riff #3 - 'Day Tripper' By The Beatles
‘Day Tripper’ was written primarily by the song writing legend himself, John Lennon, with some help from Paul McCartney. This song was heavily influenced by rhythm and blues guitarist Bobby Parker’s song, ‘Watch Your Step’.
‘Day Tripper’ is based completely around an electric guitar riff. The double and not-so-subtle meaning behind the song’s title eludes to the creative duos jab towards part-time, “weekend only hippies” or, to be more specific, part-time psychedelic users. They referred to themselves, of course, as being full-time partakers.
Despite its obvious drug connotations, the song featured on a double A-sided album became the 7th highest selling single in the 1960s in the UK!
This is an amazing riff to add to your guitar practices. To help you learn this classic rock and roll riff, I broke it down once more into smaller, more manageable pieces for you to learn more easily.
To jump to this Beatles riff, click here!
Easy Guitar Riff #4 - 'Sunshine of Your Love' By Cream (Eric Clapton)
This song is one of Cream’s most iconic songs, dating all the way back to 1967. It is infused with pop, hard rock and psychedelia. Bassist and vocalist, Jack Bruce, developed the bass riff after attending a Jimi Hendrix concert.
Ironically enough, later on, Jimi Hendrix played faster instrumental versions of this song, which he dedicated frequently to Cream!
To harness that same sound, I used my Les Paul guitar when playing this chart topping riff. Have fun playing this uber cool sounding guitar riff!
Check it out here!
Easy Guitar Riff #5 - 'Oye Como Va' By Santana
Santana got the melody for this amazing Latin Rock song, from a 1962 cha-cha-chá by Tito Puentes. Santana’s electric guitar part takes over the former flute melody written and played by Puentes.
Tito Puentes had no hard feelings at all towards Santana’s use of his melody as Santana gave him full credit and put his song on the map! This song was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame here. It was listed as one of Rolling Stone’s “500 greatest songs of all time”.
To help you learn this amazing riff, I’ve split it up into two sections to make it a lot easier to learn. There are very “Santana-like” subtleties to playing this, so it sounds like the original, as you will see when you listen to the riff in my video.
To listen to this legendary riff now, click here!
Last Thoughts Before We Part Ways
To implement these riffs into your practice routine, pick one or two and work on them a little at a time.
Here is a great way for you to warm-up before starting on these riffs! Check out this important scale linked below!