10 Classic Riffs Every Guitarist Should Know

Simple tips to fast-track your guitar playing to sound like the masters...


There is a long-standing joke in guitar shops - the 'banned' list - the songs you aren't supposed to play when trying out that new axe. In truth, however, that list includes some of the greatest riffs ever committed to vinyl. It also comprises a list of 'must know' phrases that are often actually surprisingly easy to play. The genius is in the conception, not the execution.

Most of the riffs on the list come from the hands of notable riff-meisters, who could easily substitute any number of alternates from their catalogue. Arguments may well arise, but here are the essential ten killer riffs that any guitarist worth their salt can whip out at a moment's notice.

There are hundreds of sites that tab out the bare bones of how to play these classics - with the tips on this list you can get a lot closer to the sound of the original. Rock on!


10. 20th Century Boy - T Rex

Marc Bolan was criminally underrated as a guitarist. The opening salvo is one of the most exciting moments in rock'n'roll. When the band kicks in and that Bolan groove gets underway it is immediately obvious why so many metal bands have covered this particular T Rex track with its proto-metal blues grind.

Based on the E chord that everyone learns when they first pick up a guitar, Bolan simply rocks on and off the 3rd fret of the low E string to generate an intense dose of Bolan boogie.

As long as you keep holding that E chord down, whatever you play will sound right, even if you miss the odd note,


Lifelong music obsessive, regular contributor to US guitar magazines, sometime radio presenter, singer/guitarist in Star Studded Sham, true believer in the power of rock'n'roll and an amp turned up to 11.