15 Easy Rock Riffs for Ukulele Beginners
What is a Riff Anyway?
A riff is a short series of notes that create a recognisable melody throughout a song. It can be considered as the same level of importance as the chorus depending on the genre of music. Often these types of songs are called “riff driven”. Think Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple or You Really Got Me by The Kinks.
The term riff originated as a slang term for a musical idea back in the 1920s.
Lets Learn Some Ukulele Riffs
To learn to play all these riffs, we will be using tabulature.
Not sure how to read ukulele tabulature? My easy to follow guide takes 10 minutes to read and will have playing ukulele tabs in no time!
Let’s get ready to rock and roll and start learning to play these 15 rock riffs for ukulele beginners.
15 Riffs For Ukulele Beginners
This is a fantastic riff to play on the ukulele. It sounds super full when the open note on the C string rings out. You can see a video of me playing this song and grab some more AC/DC tabs here.
To make this riff easier to play, we are going to play a two note chord. Place your first finger on the 8th fret of the E string. Then your ring finger on the 10th fret of the A string.
After you have played the first three notes. Use your first finger to cover the 8th fret on both the E and A string. That is going to set us up to move that finger down to the 6th fret for the next set of notes. Then we would move back up to the 8th fret again.
Do I Wanna Know
Indie heroes Arctic Monkeys combined with the ukulele has been a big hit with fans of this website. I have arranged everyone of their albums for the uke. You can see my medley of AM here.
For anybody reading this from the UK. Chances are, you first heard this song on the formula one soundtrack. Regardless of where you first heard it, its sounds great on the ukulele.
This is straightforward riff to play and probably one of the easiest on this list. The opening A minor chord makes the transition from chords to riff an easy one.
For guidance in playing this riff, you can watch my medley of the rumours album below. The Chain starts at around 1:58. You can also grab some more Fleetwood Mac tabs here.
The first riff on this list that based all around chords. check out my full arrangement of the American Idiot album and some more Green Day ukulele tabs too.
What makes this an easy riff to play is that we remain in the same chord shape throughout. Its a barre chord and we are using 3 fingers on our fretting hand.
Place your first finger across all the strings on the 3rd fret. Then use your ring finger for the 5th fret oF the G and your middle finger on the 4th fret of the E.
When Billie Joe plays this on his guitar. He uses all down strums. Thats fine if you want to do that too. However, if you want to skank it up abit. Try using the strumming pattern above the chords.
Sweet Child O' Mine
Guns N Roses
Would this riff list be complete if it didn’t feature one of Slash’s masterpieces? I created a full medley of the Appetite For Destruction album too!
We are using lots of notes and also every string. It’s one of those riffs that once you get the hang of it. It’s going to play really nicely.
Breaking The Habit
One of the most iconic riffs of the late 2000s! Featured on the Oracular Spectacular album, you can learn some more MGMT songs here.
This is another one of those easy riffs for ukulele beginners. If you are familiar with this song you should be able to pick it up quite quickly. You can either use your thumb to pluck the notes or your fingernail to amplify the sound.
Its fair to say that Matt Bellamy is a riff god! He has consistently churned out amazing guitar work on the Muse albums. One of them is Plug In Baby, I put together a video tutorial and tabs of how to play that here.
The song opens up with a chord so let’s get prepared. Use your first finger on the 6th fret of the C. Middle finger on the 6th fret of the A and your ring finger on the 7th of E. Then its a case of following the notes, and picking out the rest of the melody.
Come As You Are
Hayley Williams and co have gone from strength to strength will their music. Hard Times from their album After Laughter is one of the stand out tracks.
This could be tricky if you are using a soprano ukulele. Often they run out of frets after the 12th. Other than that, it’s another very simple lick to play.
Rage Against The Machine
Im calling it now, this is the easiest riff to play on this list. Check out my Siamese Dream arrangement here.
This is guitar riff sounds like it was played on a keyboard. Its actually just some studio wizard from producer Gordon Raphael. This tab is taken from my arrangement of the Room On Fire album.
This is a straight forward riff to play. Just follow along to the song to get the timing.
Twenty One Pilots
You made it to the end of the list and we are returning to finger picking for this one. Tyler Joseph is a huge fan of the uke. Arguably he has been one of the key people in its rise in popularity over the past few years.
Although this may look confusing, its very simple to play and we are only using one finger.
Place your first finger on the 2nd fret of the C string. After the first note, move your finger up to the 5th fret. Then instead of just fretting the C string, place your finger across the bottom 3 strings.
Repeat this process for the 7th, 9th and 12th frets.
For the plucking hand, we need to assign a finer per string. Use your thumb for the C string, finger for the E and middle finger for the A string.
There you have it, 15 easy to play rock riffs for ukulele beginners. Some of them may have tested you more than you may have liked. Its important to know that pushing ourself the one of the key aspects of practising a musical intrument.