30 Guitar Riffs That Are Fun To Play & Sound Awesome

Guitar Riffs #16 – ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd

‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is one of the guitar riffs that is instantly recognisable from the first few notes.

There’s a huge country influence here so you’ll want a bright, sparkly tone for this one with a dash of reverb and a slapback delay.

This riff can be fiddly as it uses the following chords: Dsus2, Cadd9 and G.

Technique Tip

If you’re struggling with this guitar riff, learn the chords first and then try to pick the individual notes. Here’s the tab:


Want more easy song for beginners? Check out this cool roundup we put together, just for beginners: 10 Easy Songs on Guitar

Guitar Riffs #17 – ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana

This song, in many ways is the sound of the grunge era. There’s nothing more grunge than hearing Kurt Cobain rock out on the opening guitar riffs from this song! Here’s the tab:


Make sure you kick on your distortion channel for this song. Cobain famously used a ‘Boss DS1’ so you can easily get his tone with that pedal.

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Guitar Riffs #18 – ‘Walk This Way’ by Aerosmith

‘Walk This Way’ is one of Aerosmith’s best guitar riffs. It’s the song which catapulted them into stardom and gave them the recognition that they deserved.

A decade after its original appearance, Aerosmith famously collaborated with rap group ‘RUN DMC’ giving this song a makeover and an even stronger groove.

Here’s the tab:


The key to getting this riff right is to use hammer-ons and pull-offs. If you’re not sure how to do hammer-ons and pull-offs check out this lesson:

How To Play Lead Guitar 

Guitar Riffs #19 – ‘Rebel Rebel’ by David Bowie

‘Rebel Rebel’ by David Bowie has been described as Bowie’s farewell to the glam rock movement which Bowie helped pioneer.

The riff itself features the chords ‘D’ and ‘E’ and uses open strings between them. When you practice this riff it’s so important that you let the strings ring out as they are crucial to the guitar riff’s sound. Here’s the tab:


Learn some cool ways to play D and E in these popular guides of ours:

Guitar Riffs #20 – ‘Purple Haze’ by Jimi Hendrix

‘Purple Haze’ is one of Hendrix’s best guitar riffs. It uses interesting melodic notes borrowed from eastern and blues music as well as heavy fuzz tones.

Make sure that you crank the gain on your amp with a strat style guitar. Here’s the tab for this epic riff:


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Technique Tip

You may notice that when you play the guitar riff along to the record it sounds weird. This is because Jimi Hendrix used to tune a half step down.

So his strings were tuned as follows:

  • Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb.

So to play along with song in its natural key, tune your strings down.

Hendrix uses techniques such as bending, hammer-ons and pull-offs. These are crucial to use if you want to perfect this guitar riff.

As Hendrix was a pioneer of interesting electric guitar sounds, you may find this guide of ours useful: How To EQ An Amp In 3 Easy Steps


Guitar Riffs #21 – ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns ‘N’ Roses

‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ is Guns ‘N’ Roses biggest hit.

Lead guitarist Slash claims that this guitar riff was written purely as an exercise to practice string skipping technique, however when Slash got together with the other members of the band it quickly turned into one of the greatest rock songs of all time!

Here’s the tab:


To listen to this song, check out the video below:

Technique Tip

When playing this song, the hardest part of it is skipping from one string to the next.

The best way to approach this is to use alternate-picking technique.

All this means is that on each note you’re going to use a downstroke and then an upstroke.

To learn more about alternate picking, go here:Alternate Picking: The Ultimate Guide

Guitar Riffs #22 – ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton is one of the greatest guitarists of all time and the guitar riffs from his hit song Layla prove exactly why.

With epic bending and melodic note choice, this is a guitar riff not to be forgotten. Here’s the tab:


You can listen to the song here:

Technique Tip

The foundations of this song are built on bending and the use of the pentatonic scale.

These are crucial aspects of the guitar world that you need to learn if you want to become Master of Guitar Riffs!

Learn more about these epic guitar methods here: How To Play Lead Guitar

Guitar Riffs #23 – ‘Johnny B. Goode’ – Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry was one of the pioneers of rock and roll guitar in the 50s and 60s.

  • This song is considered to have one of the most recognisable guitar riffs in popular music history.
  • With a combination of bluesy licks, pentatonic runs and double stops, it’s one of the most fun riffs that you can play on your guitar.

Here’s the tab:


This song was famously used in the film ‘Back To The Future’, you can watch Marty McFly shred on this classic tune here:

Technique Tip

As the guitar riffs in this song frequently use a lot of different techniques it can be tricky to learn.

  • The easiest way to learn this song is to learn it one phrase at a time.
  • We call this method ‘segmenting’ and it allows you to perfect one phrase, then move onto the next one, and in this way we assemble the whole thing like lego bricks; piece by piece.

With segmenting, you’ll be rockin’ along with Chuck in no time.

Guitar Riffs #24 – ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ – Jimi Hendrix

Voodoo Child is one of Jimi Hendrix’s most famous songs.

  • Coined from a jam with Steve Winwood and Jack Cassady, the Jimi Hendrix Experience adapted the song and completely made it their own.
  • With the use of the wah-wah pedal and the pentatonic scale, Hendrix had the perfect recipe to create one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time, even Rolling Stone Magazine agrees!

You can read that article here: 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time – Rolling Stone


Here’s the tab:


Here’s the song:

The first crucial part to learning this song correctly is to learn the E Minor Pentatonic scale.

This particular song is based around the 3rd and 4th position of the minor pentatonic scale.

Once you have those scales down, you’ll be rocking this riff in no time! To learn the pentatonic scale, go here:

Pentatonic Scale: The Ultimate Guide

The second crucial part to this is the wah pedal. Dunlop’s JH1D Crybaby Wah is as close as you’ll get, as it’s modelled after Hendrix himself. Make sure to give it a good rock back and forth as you play this timeless lick.

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Guitar Riffs #25 – Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones were known for creating some of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time and Stairway To Heaven is no exception.

From the fantastic 12 string intro to the ripping solo at the end, it truly is one of rock’s greatest anthems.

Here’s the tab:


The most important part about this song is letting each individual note ring out.

It’s crucial that you treat each part almost as a chord, this way each note will be clear and defined.

To check out the original, go to this video:

Guitar Riffs #26 – Paranoid Android – Radiohead

Although the addition of a Radiohead song in this list may seem strange, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’ Brien and Thom Yorke are known for create weird and wonderful guitar riffs.

Here’s the tab for this Radiohead classic:


This one’s a tricky one to play for sure, but don’t be fooled by the tab.

The best way is to approach each of the main riffs as ‘chords’ and then pick the individual notes.

Here’s the track for reference:


Guitar Riffs #27 – This Charming Man – The Smiths

Johnny Marr from The Smiths is known for creating jangly guitar riffs which stand out from the crowd and ‘This Charming Man’ fits the bill for that.

Although this is an indie anthem it’s particularly tricky to get under the fingers!

Here’s the tab:


You’ll notice that the guitar riffs from this song are totally different to every other song in this list.

  • That’s because when Johnny Marr was writing this he deliberately tried to create a counter melody to Morrisey’s vocal part.
  • The guitar part in this song is very intricate so be patient when learning this song.

Check out the video here:

Guitar Riffs #28 – Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love – Van Halen

If you want to get your 80s rock and roll on, you need to learn this epic Van Halen guitar riff!

Eddie Van Halen was known for pioneering ‘tapping’ technique in the 1980s, however as well as being a phenomenal lead guitarist, Eddie was also fantastic at creating guitar riffs which grooved and moved audiences.

‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ is one of those guitar riffs. Here’s the tab:


The key to getting the sound of this guitar riff right is to use lots of palm muting, with distortion and a phaser effect.

This will give you that ‘swooshy’ sound which is so iconic on the record.

Here’s the track:

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Guitar Riffs #29 – Money For Nothing – Dire Straits

Mark Knopfler is one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

  • His iconic fingerpicking style combined with technical flair and precision makes him one of the most unique sounding guitarists out there.
  • ‘Money For Nothing’ is one of those guitar riffs which is instantly recognisable from the first note.

Here’s the tab:


Here’s the track:

How did he get that tone?

The most iconic element of this track is the opening guitar tone, it’s so unique and different from anything that had been heard before.

Knopfler managed to get this cool tone by using a Gibson Les Paul into the distortion channel of his amp with his Wah-Wah pedal set in the middle.

This is totally unusual as usually Wah-Wah pedals are used to rock back and forth, but in this case Knopfler rests the treadle of the pedal in the middle to get throaty vocal sound.

Guitar Riffs #30 – Hotel California – The Eagles

If you’ve ever played the video game ‘Guitar Hero’, you’ve definitely heard the guitar riffs from this Eagles classic.

From the 12 string intro to the beautifully harmonised guitar solo at the end, ‘Hotel California’ is one of the best guitar tracks of all time.

You can listen to the track here:

Here’s the tab:


Here, we’re only going through the main intro part that kicks off the song.

  • This is played on a 12 string guitar usually, however it’s possible to play this on a regular guitar.
  • In the tab written here, a combination of barre chords and arpeggiated chords are used.
  • However, you can also use a capo on the 7th fret to make this slightly easier.

To learn about barre chords and capos, go here:

How To Practice Guitar Riffs

Looking at tabs is only one part of the story when learning music.

There’s so much more to put into practice when you’re learning guitar riffs.

Here are a few essential practice tips to help you become a guitar master.

Tip#1 – Practice Guitar Riffs Slowly

Practicing guitar riffs slowly is the key to success.

Again: Practicing guitar riffs slowly is the key to success.

Again!! Practicing guitar riffs is the key to success.

If you can play something slowly, you embed the muscle memory more and this makes it more likely you will be able to play it at tempo.

Here are a few things you can do when you first learn guitar riffs:

  • Check the tab to make sure that you have the correct fingering.
  • Play the riff slowly, out of time, to make sure you can connect each note together. This is purely an exercise to get used to the fingerings of the notes and build your muscle memory.

Tip #2 – Play Along To The Track

Not enough people do this essential tip when learning guitar riffs. It is SO important that you can eventually play along to the track. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Playing to the track improves your timing enormously.
  • It gives you an indicator of whether your technique is good enough. If you can’t play to the track yet it means you need to go back and practice some of the parts.
  • It’s loads of fun!


Tip #3 – Play To A Backing Track

Although playing to the track is fun, it can sometimes ‘mask’ what your guitar playing actually sounds like.

If you’re practicing a song, try and get hold of backing track which has removed the guitar so you can play along.

This will improve your technique, timing and allow you to feel like YOU are part of the band.

Tip #4 – Jam With Friends

One of the best things about playing guitar riffs is playing them with other people.

Once you’ve learned some of your favourite guitar riffs, get together with a friend or bandmate and jam them!

It’s what music is all about.


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