LA School of Guitar

Art of Classic Rock/Blues Rhythm Guitar

Art of Classic Rock/Blues Rhythm Guitar

Here are the tabs for seven classic rock riffs that are based in the language of the blues.  Each riff is an excellent example of how to take a simple bluesy idea and build an entire song from it.  Working through these examples will help your sense of rhythm and groove especially if you can play along to the recording.  There are also some great guitar technique skills to take away from these riffs as well.  I’ve included Youtube links for each song so you can listen and practice along with the original.

Mistreated - This is a very simple riff based around the root of the key (F#).  It’s relatively straightforward to play but a lot can be learned about groove by trying to play exactly along with the recording.

La Grange – As with all of these riffs, for sale it’s best to start this one slowly and perfect the rhythm before you try playing it at full speed.  The first open ‘A’ note is played on the downbeat of the bar and then each of next 5 strums of the A5 chord should be played as upstrokes on the upbeat. Another important technique to making this riff sound right is cutting your strums short by muting the strings with your palm in-between strums. It takes a bit of practice, patient but the general idea is to use the fleshy part of your palm on your right hand to dampen the strings.

Midnight Rambler - For this example you’ll need a capo on the 7th fret. This riff incorporates the classic “honky tonk” shuffle riff that is used in so many songs including “Come Together” by the Beatles.  You’ll recognize it when you hear it. In this song you’ll alternate between the E5 and A5 chords with a “D” used in between as a connecting chord.  The “D” is played on the upbeat so it’s important to play it with an upstroke with your right hand.

Back in Black - I love this one.  It may sound complicated, shop but if you learn it one phrase at a time it’s not too difficult. The key to executing this riff correctly is to make sure that you don’t allow your strums to ring out.  You’ll want to use your palm to dampen the strings after the last strum of each chord. It starts with some basic strumming between the E5, D and A5 chords. The first turn around phrase is a classic E minor pentatonic descending lick. It’ll give you a chance to work on your pull offs and bends. The chords repeat again and then you have the second turn around phrase which is a fun rhythmic walk up played on the lowest two strings.

Oh Well - This riff based on the E minor pentatonic scale is full of hammer on’s and pull off’s.  Work on it slowly one phrase at a time.   Make sure when you are pulling off or hammering on to a note that the note is placed correctly with the beat. Pay close attention to which notes are on the downbeats and which notes are on upbeats.

Black Dog – This one sounds so class!  AND it’s relatively easy to pull off.  It’s based on the E minor blues scale – notice the use of the chromatic b5 blues note.

Voodoo Chile – Here is a riff that has been passed on through generations of guitar players.  I believe Muddy Waters played it before Jimi Hendrix, but Jimi clearly makes it his own. One important note – this is not the opening of the song – it starts a few seconds in after the wah-wah intro. As you can hear, Jimi starts with the basic pattern I’ve written out but then adds endless variations and embellishments. See if you can pick out some.

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