Guitar Riff

With our music article designed for beginners, learn what a guitar riff is and practice playing the best of them with our music and song examples.

What is a guitar riff ?

If you want a simple and clear definition, remember that a guitar riff is a sequence of notes, which can be repeated, and which forms a melody often short but very identifiable.

To take a famous example, you can think of the song Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. The riff of this music, known much more widely than rock fans, has even become a stadium anthem. Everyone has heard the famous “Po, po lo pooo po poo, poo” in every stadium in the world.

Well, this famous riff, as you hear it when you sing it, is composed of a small series of notes that is repeated indefinitely, as long as you want to sing it or play it with your guitar.

How do you read a guitar riff and how do you play it on the guitar ?

The riff is transcribed either by a score with notes, or by a tab, or both. In the picture below, you can see the notes on the top staff and the tablature below.

riff guitar

So, to play a guitar riff on the guitar, nothing very complicated. You just need to know how to read a tablature, that is to say to follow the numbers (corresponding to the frets) written on the string you have to play.

The famous Seven Nation Army guitar riff

Here is the first guitar riff, the one I mentioned in the introduction, the famous “Po, po lo pooo po poo, poo” by The White Stripes in their song Seven Nation Army.

riff guitar seven nation army

Play it on guitar while listening to the music, it will help you with the rhythm.

Eyes of the Tiger riff on guitar

The second riff or sequence of notes I chose is the melody of Eyes of the Tiger from Survivor, world famous as the soundtrack of the movie Rocky with Stalone.

riff guitar eyes of the tiger

Smoke on the Water and its introduction riff

The third sequence is the famous introduction of Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. Like the previous guitar riffs, it is quite easy to play on the guitar.

riff guitar smoke on the water

You can spin this sequence of notes as much as you want before starting the song.

The riff of Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction

Another great and guitar riff to play is the intro/melody to the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction. Use the following tab with your guitar and don’t hesitate to sing along to get into the rhythm!

riff guitar satisfaction

The guitar riff of Californication

Second to last music from another rock band : the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We had to choose between the many riffs they managed to make famous. I chose the easiest one to play on the guitar : Californication.

riff guitar californication

The introductive riff of the Redemption Song

Finally, a last guitar riff and not the least : the introduction of Redemption Song by Bob Marley.

If it may seem easier to you because the rhythm of this reggae song is a bit slower than the previous rock songs ! If you are a beginner on guitar, you will have to be patient to master this sequence of notes and be able to play the introduction.

riff guitar redemption song

I refer you to our Redemption Song chords if you want to play the whole song.

I hope you will like this last guitar riff and that you will be able to play it easily on guitar. Don’t hesitate to check out our other guitar lessons and our guitar chords to continue learning music.