I just want to play something!
That’s how I felt when I first started learning guitar.
I was learning chords, and nothing else.
But I really just wanted to play something that sounded cool and impressive.
I needed some easy guitar riffs for beginners.
The riffs below were the first ones I learned.
Keep reading for some great guitar riffs that are easy to play but sound more difficult. And yes, I left Smoke on the Water off the list, because it’s on every list.
Table of Contents
- 1 Easy Guitar Riffs For Beginners
- 1.1 First Riff Of Heaven And Hell by Black Sabbath
- 1.2 Main Riff Of Killing In The Name by Rage Against The Machine
- 1.3 First Riff of Stargazer by Rainbow
- 1.4 First Riff Of Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top
- 1.5 Chorus Of Trust by Megadeth
- 1.6 First Riff Of What I’ve Done by Linkin Park
- 1.7 First Riff Of A Looking In View by Alice in a Chains
- 1.8 First Riff Of For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica
- 2 Easy Guitar Riffs To Impress: Final Thoughts
Easy Guitar Riffs For Beginners
The following guitar riffs are all easy to learn and to play. The helped me a lot when I was first learning, because they gave me the motivation to continue. For me at least, being able to play even just a small part from an actual song made me feel like I was making progress.
First Riff Of Heaven And Hell by Black Sabbath
Slow, heavy, and simple are the words I’d use to describe the opening riff of one of Black Sabbath’s best songs, the title track off the Heaven and Hell album. Comprising merely a handful of power chords, beginners aren’t required to know any special techniques to play this riff and sound good.
I’d also like to point out that this song is simple in its entirety, including the solo and the slightly faster third riff that jumps out near the end. Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with Iommi’s playing and composing styles (and Black Sabbath as a band), you could learn this riff in a matter of minutes.
Main Riff Of Killing In The Name by Rage Against The Machine
RATM changed the course of rock and roll by blending quirky guitar noises, more aggressive rhythms, and politically-oriented lyrics with more traditional rock elements. Their songs and riffs are rarely too complex but their tone is relatively difficult to attain.
I’d exclude Killing in the Name from the aforementioned “rule” since it is both Rage’s simplest and most popular track ever. Even 20 years after its release, it’s still in heavy rotation on radio stations worldwide. I can almost guarantee you’ve heard it at least once.
The main riff of this song is quite a breeze. Just follow the rhythm with a power E chord and strum the single tones in the second part of the bar. They’re a single semitone apart, so the level of finger dexterity needed to play this riff is minimal.
First Riff of Stargazer by Rainbow
Ritchie Blackmore is anything but a simple guitarist and that’s well documented in all of the songs he ever wrote. Stargazer, or at least the riff that comes right after the drum intro, is amazingly groovy, while being basic enough for even new guitarists to handle right off the bat.
Just like the majority of iconic rock songs of that time, it begins with an open E and is followed by a couple of single notes. Stargazer is just a bit faster than average, and the song’s structure is fairly convoluted, so you will definitely need a lot of extra practice, if you decide to cover the entire tune. But the first riff is easy.
First Riff Of Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top
We have ZZ Top to thank for some of the most danceable tunes in the history of R&R. Sharp Dressed Man is easily one of the catchiest songs and a staple in their catalog. As far as familiarity is concerned, you probably already know what the main chords are.
The first riff in this song requires minimal technical proficiency but may challenge your sense of rhythm. Fortunately, it overlaps with the singing part (and all other instruments), so getting into the groove should be a breeze, even for the least experienced guitar players.
Chorus Of Trust by Megadeth
Famous for lightning-fast, over-the-top songs with complex riffs and licks, Megadeth has released a couple of tunes that are as close to ballads as they can be, in the world of thrash metal.
Trust is probably the most popular one, right next to Angry Again and Tout le Monde, but unlike the latter, its chorus riff is extremely easy to play.
This riff is melodic and catchy, and if you’re already familiar with the other riffs in this song, it could be described as the extension of the main riff. Learn the combination of those single notes and power chords at the end of the bar, and you’ll be set to go.
First Riff Of What I’ve Done by Linkin Park
Most LP fans, myself included, still mourn the loss of the late great Chester. As an homage to all the great music he created with Mike, I wanted to remind emerging guitarists of a song that is as powerful as it is simple.
What I’ve Done boasts powerful lyrics and some great licks, but it’s the explosiveness of the first riff that will catch you off guard when you first hear this song.
Playing this riff is a walk in the park for guitarists who either have long fingers or at least somewhat developed finger dexterity. As opposed to fretting power chords, you’ll need to hold the base notes and their octaves to get that authentic sound. This riff is relatively slow-paced and doesn’t require you to know any other guitar techniques.
First Riff Of A Looking In View by Alice in a Chains
Alice in Chains was always ultra-heavy, but they dove even deeper with A Looking in View, which is my favorite song from Black Gives Way to Blue, the first album they released after Layne tragically passed away.
The opening riff in this tune is as slow and heavy as it is simple. When learning it, use the overlapping lick as a guide, if you are struggling to remain on the beat. In essence, it’s a combination of two power chords and a single note to finish off the sequence.
First Riff Of For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica
No matter what music genres you’re into, you’ve heard For Whom the Bell Tolls somewhere, whether it be at a party, a local band covering it in a pub, or on the radio.
It is easily Metallica’s most straightforward song. To learn its first riff, you only need to follow the drums and rip those power chords in time.
Even the second riff of For Whom the Bell Tolls is a breeze, if your palm-muting technique is at least somewhat decent. Since the rest of the song is also quite easy, I definitely recommend that you learn the entire tune, especially if you’re in a rock cover band.
Easy Guitar Riffs To Impress: Final Thoughts
Even if you’re just starting out and still struggling to play simple chords (I’ve been there), you can play actual riffs from actual songs. Even ones that sound cool and impressive!
And I urge you to do it. For me, playing the easy guitar riffs for beginners above helped keep me motivated while I was struggling to play the F chord (seriously, that one took me forever). Hopefully these riffs can help you, too.
And if the riffs above are a bit easy for you, these metal riffs are still easy, but slightly more challenging. We also have a list of the best riffs to learn here. Some of those riffs are also still fairly easy, while others are a bit more challenging.