The Best First Songs to Learn on Electric Guitar

Young man playing guitar in bedroom with eyes closed


Zen Sekizawa / Getty Images

The following songs represent the some of the simplest, yet most iconic electric guitar riffs ever. Although playing the entire songs below might be tricky in some cases, they have been chosen because their signature riffs are easy to play. You'll want to learn your power chords before trying these songs.

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eric clapton slowhand album cover


There are a lot of different guitar parts featured in this Eric Clapton tune -- some of which are probably too tricky for the absolute beginner. But the central riff is just two power chords, and to play the rest of the song, you'll just need a couple more.

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Smells Like Teen Spirit

nirvana nevermind album cover


Once you've learned the opening four power-chord riff and the two-note pattern during the verse, you're close to knowing all of this Nirvana song. Even the guitar solo is within the beginner's reach on this one.

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Day Tripper

The Beatles yesterday and today album cover

 Capitol Records

The fingering is a bit complicated in the thematic riff in this Beatles tune, but with a little practice, it'll feel easy. The real challenge here is the speed of the song -- you'll want to start by playing this slow and steady; speeding up over time as you master the riff at a slower speed.

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Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)

ac/dc dirty deeds album cover


This AC/DC song from the 1976 album of the same name uses power chords exclusively -- if you are comfortable switching from chord to chord fairly quickly, you won't have any trouble here.

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Walk This Way

aerosmith toys in the attic album art


Learn the opening single-note riff of this Aerosmith classic rock song, and leave the rest of the song until you're a more seasoned guitarist.

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the rolling stones out of our heads album cover

London records 

You know the riff within the first five notes, but as iconic as it is, the classic guitar riff in The Rolling Stones' Satisfaction is also extremely simple to play. The nice mix of chords and single notes make this a fun guitar part.

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Wild Thing

the troggs wild thing cover

 The Troggs

It couldn't get any easier than this -- four power chords is all you'll need to play along with this 1960's anthem by The Troggs. Guitarists of all levels should have no problem with this one.

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Sunshine of Your Love

cream disraeli gears album cover


The main riff in this Cream song is a simple variation on a blues scale, so once you've learned the pattern, you'll just need to learn the few extra power chords. Intermediate players might even be able to tackle Clapton's solo, which famously quotes "Blue Moon".

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Smoke on the Water

deep purple machine head album cover

Deep Purple


The opening four power chord riff of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is one of the first songs many electric guitarists learn. Funny, then, that you rarely come across guitarists who can play the whole song. Stick it out, and learn this entire song -- you shouldn't find anything too difficult to play.

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