My Favorite Riffs to Teach

Favorite Guitar Riffs - Read My Riffs

When I first started teaching guitar I quickly learned that guitar students wanted to learn something fun. (Big surprise, right?!) Just as quickly, I surmised that playing riffs was like eating candy to a budding guitar player. So I set out to find the best riffs I could, ones that almost everyone recognized and that were relatively easy to play.

I sometimes use riffs to reward young guitar students for "eating their vegetables" - practicing the method books. (My favorite series for children is the "FJH Young Beginner Guitar Method". I usually use the Lesson, Exploring Chords, and Theory Activity books.) With adults, riffs are often the second thing that I teach (after simple two-note open position power chords - E5, A5, and D5).

With both children and adults, riffs are a great way to explain how tablature works.

By the way, I teach riffs to my piano students too, though the list is a little bit different. It includes licks like the theme from Pink Panther, the opening of Bach's Prelude and Fugue in D Minor, and the first motive from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. (Did you know that the terms riff and lick mean basically the same thing - a short but easily recognizable phrase of music?

The list below is my "go to" collection of riffs for guitar.

  • Back in Black
  • Beat It
  • Brown Eyed Girl
  • Cat Scratch Fever
  • Crazy Train
  • Day Tripper
  • Enter Sandman
  • Everyone Bites the Dust
  • Free Fallin'
  • Funk #41
  • James Bond
  • Johnny B Goode
  • Kashmir
  • Kryptonite
  • Layla
  • Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
  • Momma I'm Coming Home
  • My Girl
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • Oh, Pretty Woman
  • One
  • Over the Hills and Far Away
  • Paranoid
  • Peter Gun
  • Purple Haze
  • Satisfaction
  • Secret Agent Man
  • Seven Nation Army
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • Smoke on the Water
  • Star Spangled Banner
  • Sunshine of Your Love
  • Sweet Chil' o' Mine
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • Time of Your Life
  • Walk This Way
  • When I Come Around
  • Whole Lotta Love
  • Wipeout
  • You Really Got Me

Happy Guitar and Piano Playing!

Jeff Anvinson, owner/ operator of JLA Music

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