Easy Guitar Riffs

By Mark
Updated on

Here on the site we’ve discussed how to get started playing the guitar, how to tune up. But now let’s talk about some easy guitar riffs or easy guitar chord songs you can learn how to play.  

In my 10 years of teaching guitar I’ve been asked by many students of all levels how to play a number of songs.  

There are many songs that you can learn but listed here are my personal favourites.   

Come as You Are

Crazy Train

Seven Nation Army

Smoke on the Water

Beat It

Day Tripper

Sweet Home Alabama

Enter Sandman

Killing in the Name

La Bamba

Circles

Slow Hands

Watermelon Sugar

Riptide

Rolling in the Deep

Love Yourself

When You Say Nothing at All

I’m Yours

Kids

Pumped Up Kicks

Wild Thing

House of the Rising Sun

Carry on My Wayward Son

Bad Moon Rising

Linger

Stitches

Sunshine of Your Love

Best of You

Eye of the Tiger

Rock You Like a Hurricane

TNT

Iron Man

Misirlou

Barracuda

Eleanor Rigby

Three Little Birds

High and Dry

Cryin’

Hey Ya!

Stand by Me

 

With every song listed I’ve included the artist, year and album in case you’re interested in checking out more stuff from them.  I’ve also included a link to a guitar tab as well as a guitar tutorial video from youtube.

Come as You Are

Artist: Nirvana

Year: 1992

Album: Nevermind

Tabs

An easy riff to play on the lowest strings of the guitar and also repeated throughout the entire song.

 

 

Crazy Train

Artist: Ozzy Osbourne

Year: 1981

Album: Blizzard of Ozz

Tabs

The intro starts with an eighth note riff in F# minor then into an A major pedal riff.  It’s the song that launched Ozzy’s solo career into the stratosphere and put the great Randy Rhoads on the map.

Seven Nation Army

Artist: The White Stripes

Year: 2003

Album: Elephant

Tabs

One of the most recognizable riffs not only from the 2000s, but arguably one of the most recognizable guitar riffs of all time.  Very simple riff only on the bottom string repeated throughout the entire song.

Smoke on the Water

Artist: Deep Purple

Year: 1972

Album: The Essential

Tabs

One of the many riffs that you’ll be asked if you know how to play.  A very simple riff played on the A string with power chords.  You’ll learn how to move laterally across the neck with this song. 

Beat It 

Artist: Micheal Jackson feat. Eddy Van Halen

Year: 1982

Album: Thriller

Tabs

One of many incredible songs off the legendary album Thriller, this song had it all from a great riff to an incredible solo from the late great Eddy Van Halen.  

Day Tripper

Artist: The Beatles

Year: 1966

Album: 

Tabs

From one of the most popular bands in music history comes a great riff.  Similar to ‘Beat It’ in how the riff is written.  

 

 

Sweet Home Alabama

Artist: Lynard Skynard

Year: 1974

Album: Second Helping

Tabs

A great country style riff.  Using the open D, A, G chords, this song teaches a bit about arpeggiating the chord to create the riff. 

Enter Sandman

Artist: Metallica

Year: 1991

Album: Metallica

Tabs

An easier metal riff from a legendary metal band: Metallica.  Enter Sandman teaches you to use the 5th and 7th frets of the guitar while using the open low E string.  

Killing in the Name 

Artist: Rage Against the Machine 

Year: 1992

Album: Rage Against the Machine

Tabs

An incredibly groovy riff, this song teaches you how to play in dropped-D tuning.  

La Bamba

Artist: Ritchie Valens

Year: 1958

Album: Ritchie Valens

Tabs

Upbeat and catchy? What else could you be looking for in a riff.  This is not the easiest intro to play, but the rest of the song consists of playing chords.  

Circles

Artist: Post Malone

Year: 2019

Album: Hollywood’s Bleeding

Tabs

A simple chord progression coupled with a simple bass line, catchy lyrics and melody make this song a great song to start with if you’re looking for something from the modern era of music.  

Slow Hands

Artist: Niall Horan

Year: 2017

Album: Flicker

Tabs

A great song with a simple intro that uses bending technique.  The song uses 4 chords throughout the entire song. 

Watermelon Sugar

Artist: Harry Styles

Year: 2019

Album: Fine Line

Tabs

A simple song with 4 chords and strumming pattern throughout the entire song.

Riptide

Artist: Vance Joy

Year: 2013

Album: God Loves You When You’re Dancing

Tabs

Another uplifting, happy song played with only 3 chords.  

Rolling in the Deep

Artist: Adele

Year: 2011

Album: 21

Tabs

Played in power chords, with a simple eighth-note feel throughout the song

Love Yourself

Artist: Justin Bieber

Year: 2015

Album: Love Yourself

Tabs

An easy song played in octaves on the neck with a simple rhythm.  

When You Say Nothing at All

Artist: Ronin Keating

Year: 1999

Album: Noting Hill

Tabs

A pop love song using simple open chords: G, D, C.  You can learn how to arpeggiate chords from learning this song.  

I’m Yours

Artist: Jason Mraz

Year: 2008

Album: We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.

Tabs

A great pop song with a reggae style rhythm.  Learn this song for its strumming pattern.

Kids

Artist: MGMT

Year: 2008

Album: Oracular Spectacular

Tabs

A very catchy line in the intro that can be easily played on the guitar.

Pumped Up Kicks

Artist: Foster The People

Year: 2010

Album: Torches

Tabs

Another song with a 4 chord progression and a simple bassline that can be played on the guitar.

Wild Thing

Artist: The Troggs

Year: 1966

Album: From Nowhere

Tabs

Great simple riff.

House of the Rising Sun

Artist: The Animals

Year 1964

Album: Power Company

Tabs

A great song in a minor key.  Learn how to arpeggiate chords with song.

Carry on My Wayward Son

Artist: Kansas

Year: 1976

Album: Leftoverture

Tabs

The opening riff is incredible.  This one is a bit more challenging than others.

Bad Moon Rising

Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival

Year: 1969

Album: Green River

Tabs

A great song with only 4 chords

Linger

Artist: The Cranberries

Year: 1993

Album: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?

Tabs

Another simple 3 chord progression for you sink your teeth into.

Stitches

Artist: Shawn Mendes

Year: 2016

Album: Handwritten

Tabs

This song has 4 chords within a very unique rhythm and turns into a strumming pattern midway into the song.

Sunshine of Your Love

Artist: Cream

Year: 1967

Album: Disraeli Gears

Tabs

A pentatonic style riff from the great Eric Clapton.  

Best of You

Artist: Foo Fighters

Year: 2005

Album: In Your Honor

Tabs

An easy alternative rock song with a simple progression throughout the song.

Eye of the Tiger

Artist: Survivor

Year: 1982

Album: Eye of the Tiger

Tabs

Rock You Like a Hurricane

Artist: Scorpions

Year: 1984

Album: Love at First Sting

Tabs

Easy power chord progression.

TNT

Artist: ACDC

Year: 1976

Album: T.N.T.

Tabs

Here’s one from ACDC’s catalogue of great riffs.  You’ll be using power chords on the bottom E string to play this one.

Iron Man

Artist: Black Sabbath

Year: 1970

Album: Paranoid

Tabs

One of many iconic riffs from Tony Iommi.  You’ll learn how to slide power chords across the neck.  

Misirlou

Artist: Dick Dale & The Del Tones

Year: 1963

Album: 

Tabs

A very popular and well known riff heard in many movies and samples in pop culture today.  You’ll learn how to perform a tremolo style riff on the low E with this song.

Barracuda

Artist: Heart 

Year: 1977

Album: Little Queen

Tabs

This great riff is a great example of a galloping rhythm. 

Eleanor Rigby

Artist: The Beatles

Year: 1966

Album: 

Tabs

This great song has only two chords: C major and E minor

Three Little Birds

Artist: Bob Marley

Year: 1977

Album: Exodus

Tabs

A great reggae tune that only has three chords.

High and Dry

Artist: Radiohead

Year: 1995

Album: The Bends

Tabs

Cryin’

Artist: Aerosmith

Year: 1993

Album: Get a Grip

Tabs

Hey Ya!

Artist: Outcast

Year: 2004

Album: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Tabs

An easy song that uses 4 simple chords

Stand by Me

Artist: Ben E King

Year: 1961

Album: Don’t Play That Song

Tabs

A Classic song with a simple bassline and another 4 chord progression.

 

And that’s my list of easy guitar songs.  If you’re unsure of how to read tabs be sure to check out that article!

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