How to play guitar like AC/DC

Master Angus and Malcolm Young's riffs and tricks

How to play guitar like AC DC
(Image: © Anil Sharma / Retna Ltd./Corbis)

Angus and Malcolm Young are straight-ahead, no frills rock 'n' roll guitarists, and their style is the product of listening to classic blues guitarists such as Freddie King, Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry in their formative years.

The first piece of tab is a classic blues-based rock 'n' roll riff, akin to such songs as The Jack, while the trademark open-chord riffing in example 4 is inspired by songs such as Back In Black and Highway To Hell. The secret to sounding like AD/DC is to play with aggression and fully committed strumming.

Examples 2 and 3 are more subdued, in the vein of the intro to You Shook Me All Night Long, while the final two examples highlight Angus's love for the blues and pentatonic scales in his lead style.

Practise each example slowly until the notes start to fall under your fingers naturally, before playing up to speed and turning up the volume on your amp.

1. Rock 'n' roll riffing

Use downstrokes throughout this riff, except where there are legato slurs.

Rock 'n' roll riffing tab (fullscreen)

2. Open string pedal riff

Keep the fourth string ringing as you alternate between G and D diads in bar 1.

Open string pedal riff tab (fullscreen)

3. Staccato fingerstyle riff

Use your pick to play the low notes and your fingers for the high notes.

Staccato fingerstyle riff tab (fullscreen)

4. Open chord riff

Use confident strumming to infuse these four open chord shapes with energy.

Open chord riff tab (fullscreen)

5. E blues scale lick

This E blues scale lick is played in the open position. Let the first string ring out during the final three notes.

E blues scale lick tab (fullscreen)

6. Major to minor lick

This lick switches from the A major pentatonic scale in bar 1 to the A minor pentatonic scale in bar 2 before finishing with a return to A major.

Major to minor lick tab (fullscreen)


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