10 Rock Riffs Every Guitar Player Should Know

Riffs Every Guitar Player Should Know

Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)

Most guitar players play the “Smoke On The Water” riff with a pick.
Interestingly enough: Ritchie Blackmore actually fingerpicked this. The mutes are created by hitting your (finger)picking hand down on the strings.

Whole Lotta Rosie (ACDC)

Most guitar players play this riff entirely with single notes: A C A D A C A
As turns out: Angus plays this riff with a C and a D power chord.

Back In Black (ACDC)

Another AC DC classic.
Many guitar players play the E minor pentatonic scalar line with pull-offs. Angus (alternate) picks all these notes.

Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)

This one too is oftentimes played differently from how it is meant to be played.
Jimmy Page hits D as a unison and bends the fretted D on the A string upwards while the open D string rings.

Burn (Deep Purple)

All the G bass notes are downstrokes, the 4th intervals are upstrokes. (except for the last 2 notes in the riff, which you can pick as down up or down down)

In case you’re wondering how to switch so quickly between the G bass notes and the 4th intervals: Ritchie fingers the G bass with his thumb (the Jimi Hendrix way)

Paranoid (Black Sabbath)

Many guitarists play this on the 7th fret. Tony Iommi actually plays this riff on the 12th fret.

Bring It On Home (Led Zeppelin)

This is the riff that comes after the long blues part.
The below transcription shows the riff played with hammer-ons (bar 1) and pull off (bar 2). You can play it as written: you can also pick all these notes.

When slowing down the recording, it sounds like Jimmy randomly sometimes hammers/pull-offs the notes, and sometimes picks them.

Custard Pie (Led Zeppelin)

First 7 notes: alternate picked
Last 3 (chord bass chord): 3 downstrokes.

Money (Pink Floyd)

The iconic riff in 7/4. All downstrokes except the 3rd note, which is better played as an upstroke.

Can’t Get No Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)

Here’s how you play all these riffs. Have fun! 🙂


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