Lesson 1 - Alternative Rock and Metal Guitar Riffs for Beginners

Here I'm going to show you how to play easy alt-rock, punk and heavy metal guitar riffs for beginners using only simple downstroke picking techniques from the previous lesson.

The main goal of this lesson is:

1. To get used to the various rhythmic figures - combinations of picking and pausing that create dynamic interesting sounds, playing on a single power chord.

2. Next to play the rhythmic figures on the power chord progressions. Here is where the riffs will be formed.

3. And finally to practice the new riffs, achieving solid playing without stumbling.


Rhythmic Figure 1

Note that my tabs do not contain information about how long notes and pauses are, it makes a tab look compact, clean and simple, without too much notations on it, just listen to my audio/video examples a few times, get the rhythm in your head, fire up the drum track or metronome and here we go.

If you still don't know how to get a cool sound out of your setup check out the 'Getting the Right Sound' article.

Feel free to accent some of the chords or put small pauses between them, it can broadly vary the "feel" of a figure.

In order to accent a certain chord pick the strings harder than with the rest of the chords. Accenting a first chord in a figure often sounds better.

In this figure I make some pauses between the 2-3 and 4-5 chord by muting the 2 and 4 chord on their ends. This creates the feeling of "action" or "musical intensity". Look at the chart below to get the idea:

In order to silence a sounding chord and make a pause, slightly touch the strings with the side of the palm of your picking hand somewhere near the bridge.

Now listen to absolutely the same pattern I played straightforward without pausing:

Now you see how much this simple trick of pausing can make riffs sound completely different.

When you manage to play the rhythmic figure accurately over a single power chord, let's move on and play it over the chord progressions:


riff 1   

First time play the riff from the 1st to 4th ordered bars.
On the repetition, after playing the 3rd bar, jump to the second version of the 4th bar (4.II in the dashed rectangle).


riff 2   

In this riff I didn't pause between the notes.

It's comfortable to use only the index finger to press the two strings down simultaneously when they are at the same fret. The finger is bent in the way that its phalanx lays down across these strings, as on the pic:

riff 3   

In the middle of this beginners guitar riff you'll transit your hands from strings to strings. Work thoroughly over the transition first in a very slow tempo.

No matter if you play slow or fast, practice to jump over the strings in no time and without stumbling.

It's the same advice for transition from a fret to fret on a same string as well. You should achieve a smooth, rapid transition that will result in the solid, non-abrupt sound when necessary.

If you have any difficulties with a certain part of any riff or song, you can achieve much faster improvements by cutting this part down and focusing your practice just on it for some time, rather than running around the entire piece of music.




Rhythmic Figure 2

In this figure there is a pause between each couple of chords, the duration of the pause is the same as the duration of a one chord.

Between the last four chords there's no pausing though, and you play them straight one after another 4 times.

Here is the way to look at this:

Imagine playing 8 equal chords per bar. Now you need to withdraw from the chords crossed by the red lines.

It feels tricky playing this sequence first, but it will be definitely worth mastering it, listen to the riff 4 right below where I utilised the concept.

riff 4   
not bad huh?



Rhythmic Figure 3

riff 5   



This lesson is the entry to the modern metal riffs and phrasing.

In the next lesson, I'll give you a few extra guitar riffs for beginners that can be easily combined together like pieces of LEGO constructor, and form a song.

Moreover I included a backing track to play along with, with a drum and bass line, so you'll have a similar experience to playing in a band right now. Click here to move on to this lesson.

Also look at the 'Pick Scrape Guitar Trick', you should like it ;)


All Riff Lessons:

 • 1. Alt-Rock and Metal Guitar Riffs for Beginners - (you are here now)

   2. Turning a Few Cool Riffs to a Song

   3. Guitar Riffs Using Palm Mute Technique

   4. 12 Bar Blues

   5. Slide Guitar Technique (Glissando)


Open Tutorial on Guitar Power Chords

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 After this lesson
 you'll be able to play this:
...and other cool riffs
Riff Lessons:

• 1. First Alt-Rock/Metal Riffs

   2. Turning Riffs to a Song

   3. Palm Mute Riffs

   4. 12 Bar Blues

   5. Slide Technique