Sweet Child O’ Mine is one of the biggest hits by Guns ‘n’ Roses. You can recognize it instantly. The main, opening riff by Slash is one of the most known guitar riffs in rock ‘n’ roll music.
If you still don’t know how to play it, you may ask the following question. Is it hard to play? How hard is it really? On what playing level do I have to be to learn it?
Overall, Sweet Child O’ Mine is not that hard to learn & play. Some parts of the song are harder than other parts. In short, you have to be at least intermediate guitar player to learn it and play it properly. Guitar solo is the hardest part to learn in the song.
We can divide the song in few parts. Different parts demand different level of guitar competence. In this article, we’re going to analyze each part of the song; what do you need to know before, and how to exercise it.
Opening guitar riff, composed and played by Slash, is one of the most known guitar riffs. Basically, it is a D major triad chord picked up one note at the time.
How hard is it to learn it?
It’s really not that hard. If you’re an intermediate guitar player, you’ll learn how to play it almost instantly. However, if you’re a beginner, it may take a little time to nail it properly.
What Do You Need To Know Before?
1. Alternate Picking
Since the riff is played with alternate picking style, you need to know how to pick that way. Alternate picking means picking with downstrokes and upstrokes. The trickiest part of playing with alternate picking is the transition between strings. Especially between non-adjacent strings.
Fortunately, there are tons of exercises that help you with mastering alternate picking. If you’re not familiar with alternate picking, you must exercise in order to play the riff.
Here’s one exercise that helped me a lot.
The exercise may look scary at the first, but trust me, it is one of the best. Especially when it comes to transition from one string to another, non adjacent string. That’s particularly helpful with the opening riff of Sweet Child O’ Mine.
Just take your time and watch the video when you’re ready. It will help you not only with this riff in particular, but your playing will improve, in general.
2. Muting and Ringing Strings
In the opening riff, strings do not ring out. They are not muted either. You need to know how to play it properly. In particular, the tones from the opening riff are muted by the fingers of your playing hand. You mute the string just by relaxing the finger on the fret after the tone is being played.
3. Basic Finger Dexterity
Main, opening riff requires that your fingers quickly change position from one string to another. That requires a basic level of finger dexterity. Without finger dexterity, you won’t be able to press your finger onto the fret properly and at the right moment.
Also, you have to be sure to position your fingers in a way they don’t mute the adjacent string. Spider exercise is the best and quickest way to attain finger dexterity. You can watch the exercise in the video below.
Opening Riff – Recap
That’s it. If you have every requirement listed above checked, you’re ready to learn the riff. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube showing riff in a slowed down manner. This one I like:
Anyway, the general advice when it comes to learning is always the same. Take it slow and use the metronome!
After the opening riff, Axl Rose starts to sing. Beneath his singing there’s the rhythm guitar playing basic chord progression. D major, Cadd9 and G major are the chords. In the chorus the progression goes from A, to G, to D.
It’s played in clean tone. This really shouldn’t be hard to play.
What Do You Need To Know Before?
There’s only one thing you should know before. It’s the basic rhythmic strumming pattern. As it is in the song itself. Nothing else.
I assume you know how to transition the chords in time, so I won’t mention it further.
Bridge Solo and Main Solo
After the chorus, there’s a solo melody that keeps repeating throughout the song.
What Do You Need To Know Before?
Here’s what you need to know before attempting to learning it.
This goes for the main solo, too. Doing vibrato on a string is needed skill, not only for this song. Vibrating a string with a finger on fretboard is essential.
Without it, the sound is lifeless and dull. Vibrato is the main way to express the feeling through the guitar. Make sure you know how to do vibrato on a string in a decent manner.
2. String Bending
Another technique essential for playing the solo of Sweet Child O’ Mine is string bending. In general, most of guitar solos consists of much of string bending.
String bending is, with the vibrato, one of the main way of expressing feeling and liveliness of the tone.
Make sure you know how to bend a string in a proper manner.
Here’s the related article from this site you may want to read.
3. Playing Around With Pentatonic Scales
Slash is the guitar player that uses pentatonic scales in his playing. Almost exclusively. To approach this particular solo, it is the good idea for you to take a look at major pentatonic scale. With knowing how pentatonic works on a guitar, you’ll be able to connect pieces of this solo together much quicker.
4. Hammer On’s and Pull Of’s
Hammer on’s and pull off’s (or flick off’s) are used in most of rock songs. Needless to say, knowing them is one of the main precondition for playing Sweet Child O’ Mine solo. It contains a lot of hammer on’s and pull off’s.
Last, but not the least, is the sliding. Sliding notes are not hard. Just play with it and you’ll quickly nail it down. The solo contains lot of slides from one fret to another.
How To Set Up For The EXACT Sound?
Let’s suppose you know all the techniques mentioned above. You may wonder; OK, but how do I get the EXACT sound on my guitar? We all know Slash has his Les Paul, but what about amp settings?
Well, here’s one practical solution. You can use a multi-effect guitar processor, like Line6HX Stomp with which you can tweak the settings and set up the exactly same tone as it’s recorded. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the video below.
For more details about the Line6 HX Stomp, check it out on Amazon.
If you’re more for the traditional way of setting up the sound, here’s the few tips:
- medium reverb
- bring up the chorus effect for clean parts
- use wah for the solo, of course; Jim Dunlop’s Cry Baby (Amazon link) is pretty good here, IMO
OK, so we analyzed what do you need to know before. In other words, preconditions. Now let’s get through some general tips which will help you to nail the song in shortest time possible.
Use a Metronome
Use a metronome. In other words, slow down the tempo to the speed you feel comfortable on. Soon you’ll be able to tell when is the moment to increase the tempo.
Watch How It’s Played
Take your time and watch some live shows of Slash playing the song. Or any other person playing. That way you’ll visually adopt the information needed in case you don’t know how something is played.
Watch The Mistakes You Make
You’ll be making a lot of mistakes. That’s normal, it happens to everyone who tries learning new stuff. What particular mistake can you make?
It’s the sloppiness. The opening riff does not forgive any sloppiness, no matter how small it is. You’ll probably mute some strings you don’t wanna mute, and let ring other strings you don’t wanna hear ringing. Just an example.
Whenever you make a mistake, focus your attention on that detail. Try it again and again. Slow.
Take a Rest
There’s a limited amount of information your body can take at a time. The same goes for this song. You cannot expect yourself to play it perfectly after only one session of learning and playing.
Take a rest. Sometimes a 10 minute rest is enough. Sometimes a day is needed. That’s OK, just take your time, and soon you’ll notice how your playing becomes improved.
I hope this article gave you an important insight and information about how to play and how hard is to play Sweet Child O’ Mine.
As it’s being said, it’s not the super hard song to play. However, even when you learn it completely, you still may not sound good enough.
That’s because the Slash has it’s own way of playing that’s not easy to match. But don’t worry about that. You can develop your style of playing. It just have to sound good enough.
Anyway, thanks for reading about this. You can check some other interesting posts if you wish.
Cheers, and rock on!