This blog post is the first in a series on easy guitar songs for beginners. In this installment, we’re going to start with learning easy riffs from songs because riffs often involve playing and plucking single notes, which is a lot easier than playing songs based on chord changes, finger picking, or more advanced picking techniques, such as arpeggiating chords.
Easy Riff Songs For Beginners in 1st Position
The first riffs we’re going to look at can all be played in first position on the guitar. A ‘position” on the guitar is an area of four consecutive frets, using one finger per fret to eliminate the need to shift up or down the neck. Playing in 1st position places the left hand fingers on the first four frets, 1st finger = 1st fret, 2nd finger = 2nd fret, etc. Make sure you stay in this position and avoid shifting your hand.
1) Mission Impossible (Lalo Schifrin)
This is one of my favorites to start beginning guitar students with. Everybody (and their dog) has heard it! Listen to the recording to get the rhythm right, it’s slightly tricky because it it in 5/4 time. If you want to really master the sound of it, you can use a staccato articulation (as indicated with the dots underneath the notes) on the first two notes of each measure.
2) Electric Funeral (Black Sabbath)
Bestowed upon us from the god of guitar riffage himself, Tony Iommi. Another great song to start with because it isn’t too fast. Use alternate (down up down up) picking on the four consecutive open 6th string notes on the 2nd measure of the verse section. When first learning, ignore the sguiggly vibrato signs and hammer on/pull offs.
3) Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin)
A similar riff to the verse part of Electric Funeral. Also use alternate (down up down up) picking on the four consecutive open 5th string notes on the 2nd measure of the riff. You can add a slight downward bend on the 6th string on the last note of each measure (as indicated by the arrows).
4) Come As You Are (Nirvana)
Kurt Cobain plundered Killing Joke’s song “Eighties” for this swirly riff. Kick on your chorus pedal to capture Cobain’s tone, the one you hear on the recording was most likely his EHX Small Clone. Although the tuning is down a whole step you can play it in standard tuning.
5) Breaking the Law (Judas Priest)
This is a really fun song to play and once you have power chords down you can learn the whole song. Make sure, again, you stay in 1st position. A lot of guitarist’s tendencies are to use the 1st and 2nd fingers primarily, which in the first couple measures would cover the 2nd and 3rd frets, but then you run out of fingers to play the 1st fret in the third measure.
Keep your eyeballs peeled for the next blog which will focus on easy guitar riff songs for beginners in 2nd position. If you are in the Orange County, Riverside, or Los Angeles areas and looking for guitar lessons or bass lessons, definitely check out Mark Hamrock at Hamrock Music Instruction , chosen by CBS Los Angeles as one of their “Best Places for Guitar Lessons in Orange County ”.