By far one of the funnest and most useful way to improve our guitar playing skills (or any instrument) is simply to learn songs by our favourite artists. Nothing excited me more as a 15 year old boy to be able to play along to the songs that got me into music with a decent degree of skill.
This is not a list of the "10 greatest guitar riffs", this is simply a list from the top of my head 10 songs that are very worth while learning and I teach them to students all the time. Some of them are trickier than others and might not necessarily be for beginners but I wouldn't consider them advanced either. They are all definately in the grasp of someone who has been playing for some time.
1) I Believe In A Thing Called Love - The Darkness
One of the few hugely iconic guitar driven songs of it's era. In the Mid 2000's, rock music of this type was pretty much dead. You had Nu-metal, pop-punk and indie taking the centre stage whilst classic style rock was mainly popular amongst dads. The Darkness came along and shook that up, giving guitar players a simple, highly regonisable riff to learn. The basic standard tune riff with high falsetto vocals was remenicent of 70s and 80s rock and at the time was a very welcome return. I have also played this in a pub cover band a few times and it went down an absolute storm everytime.
2) Iron Man - Black Sabbath
A guitar shop favourite. Black Sabbath are widely known as the true inventors of heavy metal and this song is one of their most iconic. Very easy to play and can be taught from beginer level. What makes it so great is how sing-along-able it is. Even the vocal line pretty much follows the riff one for one. My favourite part of the track is a 1:14 where the band break into a slow doomy chromatic riff. To this day it has to be one of the heaviest riffs of all time.
3) Bulls on Parade - Rage Against the Machine
So simple but so effective. The main riff is made up of one note playing octaves in a catchy rhythm. You can use your left hand to mute the other strings and literally go for it for with your picking arm, swinging up and down, giving it that attack. The next riff is even more fun. A powerchord (on the same note as before) played between muted percussive rhythms. To make it even better Tom Morrello being the creative genius he is goes back and forth on the Wah pedal at the same time. When the drums and bass kick in behind it, it becomes unbelievably powerful.
4) Can't Stop - The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Another very iconic song by one of the biggest bands of the last 30 years. This song strangely was meant as a mid album track on their 8th release By The Way, and the band never actually imagined this becoming as popular as it is. John Frusciante is absolutely fantastic at the right hand funk rhythm style, if not one of the best. With his left hand he mutes the strings he is not using whilst fingers the chords and notes he is. You combine that unique sound with this absolute genius guitar melody and you have what I think is one of the greatest riffs of all time. Very fun to play once you get the hang of it, although it is quite difficult and probably not for beginners.
5) Du Hast - Rammstein
Although not their best song, it is probably the most recognisable. Between verses this riff chuggs along in a galloping rhythm using power chords and that beefy open E string. The whole thing reeks of power, strength and assertiveness that Rammstein absolutely excell at. I cannot stress enough how much excitement playing this song brings!
So there you have it, there are your first 5. I will come back to you at the end of the week with the second half of my list!
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