The music of the 90s, particularly the first half, has always struck me the hardest. I’d sing it loud in the car, the shower, at work, wherever I was and these were naturally the first songs I learned on guitar. And just as Paul couldn’t go without posting 80s riffs (Easy Guitar Riffs of the 80s), I must do the 90s.
While many guitarists complain about the lack of solos in 90s alternative rock, they contain many intense and memorable riffs. These songs have become essential to any guitarist’s playing library.
NOTE: Many of these songs are actually played with the guitar tuned a half step down. To sound like the recorded version, you may want to try this.
Nirvana is the band for all beginning guitarists. Kurt Cobain put high doses of emotion into his playing, and kept everything simple and straightforward. The first riff I ever learned to play was the intro bass riff in Come As You Are. Only slightly more difficult is the band’s first smash hit.
Weezer found themselves the spotlight early in 90s with their first self-titled album, now known as the Blue Album. Their songs were sincere and humorous glimpses into their average lives. Their second album, Pinkerton, didn’t do as well on the charts, but gave Weezer an almost cult following. This is probably Weezer’s first hit.
Punk rock’s own illegitimate children, Blink 182, have been shunned by their punk fathers, though their style obviously came from that genre. Blink 182 made punk popular (much to the dismay of punk) without ever playing all six strings at the same time. Their best album, in my opinion, is Dude Ranch. It is filled with quirky lines about girls, getting drunk, and masturbating. Dammit is from that album.
The rapper Everlast stopped jumping around and did some solo work. Formerly in the House of Pain, he picked up a guitar. He played rhythm under rock legend Santana for one excellent song, but not before releasing his own album.
Originally known for hard and fast metal with plenty of social outrage, Incubus started to, as David Hodge puts it, “genre dance” (Do You Genre Dance?) While the band switched from their metal style on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. to their much softer and slightly hip hop style on Make Yourself they threw in this little number. It’s chock full of fun bends. You’ll need to listen closely to the original to get it right.
What guitarist can get away without knowing a little bit of Dave Matthews? My roommate in college learned to play Crash flawlessly in about 2 hours… without ever picking up a guitar before in his life. It took me a little bit longer. (Another fun thing about this song: If you only play the bass notes it’s the same melody as a clock chimes before each hour.)
This Smashing Pumpkins riff is quick, easy and beautiful. I also have spotted many errors in guitars I would have bought with this song. That’s always appreciated.
Throughout the 90s, Live has stayed fairly low and yet always has been a presence. With mild success in the album Mental Jewelry, they hit the mainstream with Throwing Copper and the hit song Lightning Crashes.
Lastly, the Chili Peppers. At the peak of their long (and at this moment, on going) career in the music industry, the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought us Under the Bridge. This song is right on the coattails of Stairway to Heaven to become the intro most often played by novices in music stores. And what a great intro it is!
Put a capo on the second fret to play it, and once you have enough practice you can try it without the capo. Enjoy!
On February 11, 2010 we received a letter from lawyers representing the NMPA and the MPA instructing us to remove guitar tab and lyrics from this page. You can read more about their complaint here. Alternatively, you can still find this complete article with tab and lyrics archived here.