50 Hardest Guitar Riffs To Take You From Being A Complete Newbie To A Killer Guitar Hero

Learning how to play the guitar is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. It’s cathartic, passionate, pleasing, tiring and simply… awesome! 

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The fact of the matter is though, learning any instrument takes dedication, time and effort. It’s not easy to just “learn guitar”. You’ve got to have a plan of how to learn to play the instrument and treat it with respect.

Are you starting off in the guitar world and want some killer riffs? Here's our pick of the best 50 hardest guitar riffs!

It is easy for many first-time learners to assume starting small will help in learning the hardest guitar riffs.

That assumption leads to countless theoretical lessons about learning how to read musical notes and chords. While this works in the long run, it might not be the best strategy if you are looking to be a pro in the shortest time possible.

What many budding guitar players have learned over the years in our experience, is that it is much easier and gets more people passionate about learning, when hardest guitar riffs are learned instead of simply reading and playing. 

What we mean by this is, while some guitar tutors might try to get you to read a music book and strum away, we’re recommending learning epic riffs and playing those instead!

This moves away from the dusty boredom of the basic learning experience and provides the learner with a platform to excel their talent, play a song they love and bring about some determination to learn the song. 

This method can help a student learn chords, notes and overall learn how their guitar operates and settle in to their own style. 

To help you choose something to start with, we’ve compiled a list of 50 of the most epic legendary riffs for beginners and top it off with some other handy info. Let’s get to it!

The Hardest Guitar Riffs To Play

1. Deep Purple: Smoke On The Water 

Perhaps one of the most well known songs in the world, classic riff and pretty simple to master.

2. The White Stripes: Seven Nation Army 

You’ll probably hear this at most music stores and on commercials. It’s overused these days, but still a great song for beginners to get to grips with.

For beginners you can also play it this way – really easy and gets you using the E Pentatonic Minor Scale down low on the Fretboard. Click this link to watch the short video on how to play it.

3. Metallica: Enter Sandman 

If you can master this, you’ll liven up any party. Tell us another song that is better than this to wake up a sleeping shindig… you can’t!

4. Survivor: Eye Of The Tiger 

Evoking memories of Rocky, this inspirational riff will get you moving and ready for action!

5. Pearl Jam: Even Flow 

This is a great song to wake up to because it instantly hits you. As a riff, it’s good to learn because it moves you right into the riff.

6. AC/DC: Back In Black 

Another iconic riff for beginners. Recognized almost anywhere!

7. Chuck Berry: Johnny B Goode 

Old but gold. We love this track and the riff is awesome. 

8. Rainbow: Since You’ve Been Gone 

This is actually easier to learn than it sounds. Beginners can be surprised when they start off with this one.

9. Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit 

Well, this has got to be one of the most famous tunes in the world. The riff is instantly identified – and you could be playing it for yourself!

10. Black Sabbath: Iron Man 

This is as overplayed for beginners as it is awesome. Great riff, basic and to the point.

11. Blur: Song 2

Possibly the only Blur song you could learn in the early days!

12. Derek And The Dominos: Layla 

If you get to grips with this riff, you’ll make everybody rock out! 

13. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Snow 

Calming riff, can be played on most guitars and still sound right.

14. Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out 

Not the easiest, but some beginners can get the hang of this one.

15. Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child 

Nobody can play like Jimi, but we dare you to give it a try! 

16. Michael Jackson: Beat It 

One of the songs on this list outside the usual genre, the riff is iconic to the song and quite simple to master.

Heres a short video on how to play this classic on acoustic – but it still sounds great! Click here to watch the video lesson.

17. Hole: Celebrity Skin 

Let us warn you – this will get stuck in your head!

18. Queens Of The Stone Age: No One Knows 

Speaking of a riff that gets stuck in your head – this one refuses to leave!

19. Ozzy Osbourne: Crazy Train 

There are few Ozzy songs that you could say are okay for beginners, but you can get away with this one.

20. The Kinks: You Really Got Me 

Not our favorite song as such but the riff is ideal for beginners to move to legendary status!

21. David Bowie: China Girl 

Speaking of legends, we give you David Bowie! 

22. Eric Clapton: Wonderful Tonight 

We’re not crying. You are! Brilliant to learn, can be played at weddings for a few bucks!

23. Rick Springfield: Jesse’s Girl 

Possibly one of the most “singalong” tunes on this list. Learn it and sing it!

24. Guns ‘N’ Roses: Sweet Child Of Mine 

Really not easy, but if you keep at it – you can advance your guitar playing much quicker.

25. Alice Cooper: Poison 

A song that has been included in “Best Of” albums everywhere and for good reason!

26. Blink 182: All The Small Things 

Learn your riffs in college and smash this one out! Get the parties rocking.

27. Van Morrison: Brown Eyed Girl 

Then chill the parties out a bit with this classic from Van Morrison.

28. Judas Priest: Breaking The Law 

This very much is a “love it or hate it” song. Tell us what you think of it!

29. Bob Marley: Redemption Song 

Legendary song, legendary artist. Bob lives on with his music.

You can easily get that classic intro riff down by watching this short video – click here to watch

30. The Byrds: Mr Tambourine Man 

This has got to be up there with one of the greatest riffs in history. We will argue this to the end!

31. Lynyrd Skynyrd: Freebird 

Make sure you have a coffee when playing this one, it will go on… and on…

32. Lenny Kravitz: Are You Gonna Go My Way?

Fast-paced tune from Lenny here. Try to keep up!

33. Kings Of Leon: Sex On Fire 

A very popular track and quite simple to master.

34. Kiss: Crazy, Crazy Nights 

More advanced players can move up to legendary rockers if they get this right!

35. The Beatles: Help 

Arguably, one of the greatest songs in music history. Epic riff, and you can play it every day and never get bored.

36. Foo Fighters: The Pretender

Dave’s appeared on this list twice, but with different bands! Slow to fast pace, great to train with!

37. Queen: We Will Rock You 

Are you starting off in the guitar world and want some killer riffs? Here's our pick of the best 50!

This is an odd one in that it’s a very basic beginning, and then you have a complex riff. Some learners will be able to handle this with ease.

38. Green Day: American Idiot 

Highly recognizable riff. Great as a party tune.

39. Bowling For Soup: Girl All The Bad Guys Want 

Another one of those tracks to play at college. Upbeat and well known, play it and open a cold one!

40. U2: Sunday, Bloody Sunday 

Bono’s amazing vocals work with the guitar on this iconic track in such a smooth way. 

41. Tenacious D: Kielbasa 

You’ll struggle to find any Tenacious D song for a beginner. Kyle is just too good of a player! But this one is fine to learn. You won’t be throwing out Master Exploder any time soon though.

42. Aerosmith: Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing 

Changes tempo throughout for the guitar, and this can make it a bit more challenging, but not too difficult.

43. Radiohead: Creep 

Ideal for beginners and a great song to listen to anyway!

44. Eminem: Lose Yourself 

Eminem on a guitar list? You’re darn right! This song provides an easy-to-follow riff for most instruments.

45. Slipknot: Killpop 

This might take a week or so to really master, but this is possibly the easiest riff to learn from Slipknot. Maybe a close second is Psychosocial.

46. Rage Against The Machine: Killing In The Name Of 

This would be number 1 of most overused songs, but it’s still a perfect song for early guitar players.

47. Trivium: Silence In The Snow 

There are many Trivium songs that could teach beginners some amazing riffs. This is probably the easiest and our favorite of the bunch.

48. Jeremy Soule: Skyrim Theme (Elder Scrolls V)

Yes, a video game is on this list. This is so simple to master and is highly recognizable – play this at parties or in a guitar store. You’ll have fans!

49. Primal Scream: Jail Bird 

You can’t have a list without Primal Scream. We’d say this is for “moderate” beginners, on the verge of upgrading to guitar heroes!

50. Led Zeppelin: Stairway To Heaven (THE FORBIDDEN RIFF!) 

Yes, yes – we understand that this shouldn’t be advertised, but come on! It’s one of the simplest riffs to learn (at least for the most part) and as much as it is definitely overplayed, it’s still almost universally loved. 

What Makes a Guitar Riff Difficult?

The difficult levels of guitar riffs between from one song to the other. Some are more complex than others.

So, how can you tell? The complexity of any rhythm can be a result of several factors, including layered rhythms,  odd time signatures, syncopations, and difficult parse levels.

Learning The Guitar 

This list is in no particular order as such. Don’t think of it as being in a difficulty level from 1 to 50 because that’s simply not the case. It’s just our picks of some epic beginner riffs! 

Having said that though, it’s critical to remember that there are some riffs on here that will be much more difficult to master than others.

It really depends on how long you’ve been playing the guitar, how much you practice and whether you know the song or not. 

Oftentimes, it’s easier to learn to play a song that you already know because you already know the tempo, the rhythm and almost how it is meant to sound.

Obviously, when you get better and more experienced, you’ll know exactly how these tunes should be played and how they’re meant to sound! 

We’d recommend that you go through this list in your own leisure time and listen to each one. Make a note of how difficult you think it will be to play.

Make that the order to learn – and you may be surprised in both ways! 

Of course, learning guitar is always much easier when you have an experienced guitar tutor assisting you and guiding you through it all. So, we’d suggest that you get in the market for someone! 

What’s The Goal?

Of course, what you’ll want to be doing eventually is learning some epic hardest guitar riffs to show off to your friends and family. There’s nothing quite like picking up a random guitar and smashing out some classic riff. 

Over time, after years of practice, you should be able and ready to rock your audience’s socks off! We can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve been at a party and someone has picked up their ax and shredded some totally awesome riff. 

How Do You Get There?

It’s the old adage that practice makes perfect, because the fact is – it does. Practice as much as possible because the more practice you get, the better you’ll be.

The problem with practicing though is it is not always as simple as just picking up a guitar. 

We have some tips below for you to get to where you want to be. 

Don’t Train Alone 

For many hobbies and sports, it’s advised that you never practice alone in the early times. The reason for this is that your errors can be cemented in.

Without somebody there to tell you or point out that there is something you keep doing, or not doing – you won’t know.

Once you’ve cemented the error in the early days, it can be almost impossible to get out of bad habits and as a more experienced guitarist, you’ll struggle to advance past a certain phase. So, if possible – get someone on hand like a tutor.

If you don’t have a tutor, consider jamming with a friend or at the very least – film yourself with a camera or smartphone when you’re practicing and review the footage later. Make notes on things you notice. 

Remember, the earlier you do this – the better it will be for you. 

Create A Plan 

When you’re learning to do anything or starting a big project, it’s always easier to create a plan for yourself, so you will guarantee you’re learning guitar at least a few times a week. 

Ideally, you’d be playing and practicing every day – but the fact is, life doesn’t always allow for that, and most people totally understand this. 

We’d say that one of the best ways to plan is to have an annual diary with space to write plans on each day. Always write down what you’re planning to do (guitar or not) for each day and stick to it. 

This level of organization keeps your mind focused, and you’re far more likely to follow your own plans and guidance. Of course, it’s not always as easy as this either, as some things are subject to change and some days, you don’t feel like practicing.

This is totally understandable too, but ensure you move things around in your diary to accommodate for this. There’s always a way to make up for lost time!

Watch YouTube 

This may seem a little crazy, but hear us out! There are so many channels on YouTube and one of these, and there are lots of them by the way, are learning to play guitar channels. 

This might be with someone who has never played and is vlogging their progress, or it might even be with an experienced player – and in some cases, a legendary guitarist! 

Watching these videos is a great way to understand what some people do to advance their playing and how quickly progress can be made, depending on practice and methods etc. 

Try to watch a variety of these channels and recognize what they’re all doing and how they are doing it. Consider reaching out to their channel if you’re struggling or if you’ve got a question that might be able to help you. 

Play Our Riff Choices!

Playing some of our choices will help you develop the following skills: 

  • Alternate picking 
  • Right/left-hand coordination 
  • Timing 
  • Legato 
  • Overall feel

Not to mention all the rest of the benefits you’ll get from doing this! 

What Exactly Makes A Riff “Legendary”?

Alright, so we understand that you may have read some of our choices, and you know what they are. You might have thought “aw c’mon, legendary?”. 

We get that not everybody will like every song, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Our criteria for legendary is this:

  • Recognizable 
  • Epic 
  • Makes you move or sing 

The Bottom Line 

When you’re learning the guitar, you’ll obviously want to become a legendary guitar hero eventually – there’s nothing else quite like it. When you’ve learned your desired skills, you can rock out hard and make your friends and family move and sing with your talent. 

As we’ve mentioned – those facets are part of the criteria that makes a good song into a legendary song. That’s also what changes an ordinary guitarist into a legendary guitarist.

By following some of our tips and our riff choices, we hope you’ll become a real guitar hero over time. 

Rock on!