5 Easy Rock Riffs to Learn On Guitar

You might’ve picked a guitar up a few years ago, played a couple strings and not touched it since. Or you might be a beginner and want to know some classic rock tunes which, while powerful, aren’t too complicated to learn. 

Today, I’ll be using my playing experience to decide on a few songs which I think every beginner guitar player should tackle. Each one helps develop a new technique, whilst giving you a familiar tune you can play for your family and friends.

I’ll also be proving a ‘TAB’ for each rock riff, so you can check out how to play them correctly!
So, let’s take a look at some of these rock riffs…


Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door // Bob Dylan

This classic Bob Dylan track is not only an extremely emotional song, with slow ethereal chords throughout, but it’s also a really simple melody. This acoustic tune only uses four main chords, played throughout the song.

The song was originally written by Dylan for the 1973 movie Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid. It’s narrative links to the Sheriff in the film dying from his gunshot wounds, alluded to with lyrics such as “Mama, take this badge off of me”.

The main arrangement goes G-D-C, G-D-Am accompanied by smooth, sweeping motions with the picking hand. It’s a simple yet effective track, by one of the greatest players to ever grace our earphones.

The TAB for the track can be viewed here!

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction // The Rolling Stones

Now for something a bit harder, with the classic rock intro and distorted sound of The Rolling Stones. This song shows that some of the best rock tunes ever made were played on a single string.

This tune from Jagger and co. is one of the most identifiable melodies in Rock’n’Roll history, and only uses 3 notes.

Keith Richards actually claims to have written the song in his sleep, waking up long enough to hum and strum the tune into a tape recorder. The following morning, he found he’d recorded the track alongside 40 minutes of himself snoring!

A beginner might decide to pluck each note individually, although those looking for a new challenge might want to develop their hammer ons and pull offs, to effectively pull off the Stones’ hit.

The TAB for the track can be viewed here!

My Generation // The Who

For those of you who thought 3 notes was too much, this one only uses 2! This simplistic work of art from The Who really needs no introduction.

It was originally written by Pete Townshend, in ode to British youths (or ‘mods’), who often struggled to find their place in society.

Some may want to play them as chords, but complete beginners can easily get away with a simple single note arrangement. It’s a great way to practice your timing, and is an impressive addition to your player discography.

The TAB for the tune can be viewed here!

Smoke On The Water // Deep Purple

Something of guitar shop folklore, this song is the ‘go-to’ for anyone who says they can play guitar. After my five or so years of playing, it’s still one of those tunes I use to warm-up.

The inspiration for the song came from a fire witnessed by the band at a Frank Zappa concert. Someone in the audience had fired two flares into the ceiling, which resulted in the casino setting on fire. Whilst the band watched from a nearby restaurant, they recalled smoke emerging over the nearby Lake Geneva.

There’s a reason why so many people use it as the benchmark for new players – it’s simple, fun and powerful. Deep Purple’s biggest hit is perfect for new players wanting to test their strumming skills, and it’s an adrenaline builder!

The TAB For the tune can be viewed here!

Seven Nation Army // The White Stripes

Ever the go-to of political activists wanting to praise their love of Jeremy Corbyn, this track has also been immortalized by football fans across the globe. The innovative, simplistic and hard hitting solo guitar is a must know for beginner players.

Whilst it might be a bit more complicated than some of the others, it’s still 100% worth learning.

Jack White’s signature distorted sound is actually limited to a single string. This’ll help new players with their finger positioning whilst sliding up and down the fretboard.

The TAB for the tune can be viewed here!

Words by Tom Moorcroft

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