12 Easy Guitar Riffs That Get Harder

Improve your guitar technique by learning new riffs

There are tons of easy guitar riffs one can learn, and there is a reason for this.

Unlike a guitar solo, when it’s your time to shine and show your musical and technical skills, the main role of a guitar riff is usually to provide harmony for someone else playing a melody—usually the singer or another guitar player during a solo.

This is not to say that guitar riffs should not be melodic. In fact, the majority of the guitar riffs in this lesson are quite melodic.

Neither does it mean they can’t be complex (in fact, the last few guitar riffs in this lesson are not easy at all).

However, since neither melody nor complexity is the main role of the guitar riff, many guitar players choose to keep their riffs quite simple.

This is why easy guitar riffs can be found in abundance.

However, simply learning easy guitar riffs and stopping there creates two problems that stop you from reaching higher musical goals.

  1. If you frequent guitar shops, you have probably heard a beginner play “Smoke on the Water” on a guitar he’s trying out.

It’s a very easy guitar riff, yet the beginner in the guitar shop by no means makes the riff sound the same as Ritchie Blackmore’s

And the reason is not the guitar or the amp.

The reason is that even though the beginner may be playing the same chords, even if he nails the rhythm right, he’s not using the same articulation, accents, and phrasing techniques Ritchie Blackmore does.

This means that rather than learning as many simple guitar riffs as possible, you should focus on perfecting the ones you already know.

Simply playing the right notes at the right time, is a good first step, but not enough to make your riffs shine.

  1. Though playing the right chords at the right time is easy on “Smoke on the Water” it doesn’t mean every guitar riff Ritchie Blackmore plays is that easy.

Complexity and more advanced techniques are not a necessity to write a good riff, but they surely provide more options.

In these 12 guitar riffs, we’ll start from the very easy and reach more advanced levels in terms of technique and complexity by the end.

Don’t worry if you can’t play all these guitar riffs – yet. If there’s a riff you really can’t nail, find out what techniques are being used and develop them separately, then come back to the riff.

Once you’ve got the technique there, it will be easy. Believe me.

So, let’s start with our first, very easy, guitar riff.

Note: Though most of these riffs can be played on both an electric or an acoustic guitar, they are mostly electric guitar riffs and some will sound more effective on an electric guitar with the distortion on.

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The next guitar riff is also easy. If you’re more of an intermediate guitar player than a beginner, practice this riff anyway but focus more on your accents and correct finger position, as well as playing it with a metronome, to make sure you have everything in place.

In the following easy guitar riff, we’ll introduce the first guitar technique we’ll be using frequently in both guitar licks and riffs: vibrato.

You execute vibrato by slightly bending the string and taking it back to its natural position in a repeated, rapid movement.

Vibrato technique takes time to develop, don’t expect instant results. But start working on it now.

The squiggly line over the notes that should use the technique indicates vibrato.

Vibrato is a very important technique, so let’s work on it a bit more in the next two licks.

Easy Guitar Riffs
Easy Guitar Riffs

To keep things simple, the guitar riffs above use only single notes.

And while you can write a great guitar riff using only single notes, in most cases, riffs make use of chords.

Especially the power chord (though in theory, the power chord is not a real chord but a dyad or double stop, since a chord has to have three different notes in it).

The next guitar riff is simply a succession of power chords something you will encounter frequently in Rock, Punk, and Heavy Metal Music.

Easy Guitar Riffs

The next riff is also made of a succession of power chords, but the rests placed among the chords add variety to the rhythm.

Easy Guitar Riffs

We’ve come to the point where the level of difficulty of these guitar riffs will go up a notch since we’ll be using palm muting technique.

Palm-muting is a bit of a tough nut to crack since you will have to adjust the position of your right hand so that the palm touches the strings near the bridge, but not deaden them completely.

Read this lesson to learn more about the palm muting technique.

Easy Guitar Riffs

To keep things simple, in the above riff, every chord is palm muted.

However, guitar riffs that use palm muting can be made even more interesting when the technique is applied, but not all the time.

In the next riff, only apply palm-muting technique to the notes that have the words P.M under them or the ——- sign that follows it.

To play the chords that aren’t palm-muted, lift the palm of your right hand.

It may take some time and practice until you get this right, but once you do, you will know the drill and can apply it to any other riff that uses this technique.

Easy Guitar Riffs

In the following riff, we’ll combine both single notes and power chords, as well as introduce a new technique: Legato playing, that is hammer-ons and pull offs.

These are indicated by the slur between the note that should be pulled off and a note that comes before it if it’s a pull off, or the slur between the note that should be picked and the note that should be hammered on if it’s a hammer on.

Easy Guitar Riffs
Easy Guitar Riffs

As promised, the last guitar riff in this lesson is not easy at all since it introduces semiquaver notes and long legato runs.

If it’s too hard for you, it’s fine because, as you’ll see in the conclusion of this lesson, you don’t need to be able to play complex riffs to start creating your own.

Easy Guitar Riffs

Conclusion… and some good news

It’s quite likely that you can’t play, at least fluently, the last few riffs.

But did you manage to learn Guitar Riff 4 in this lesson?

If you did, congratulations.

You can now start thinking of creating your own riffs.

This article is a basic guide to writing your first guitar riff, while this one shows you two techniques you can use to create as many riffs as you want.

If you keep learning new guitar riffs, perfecting the ones you know, and improving on the specific techniques being used, all it takes to become a composer of riffs is some creativity.

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