Back in Black is one of the biggest hits by famous hard rock band AC/DC. The opening riff is regularly included among the lists of famous guitar riffs. If you’re a guitar beginner, you may be wondering is the song hard to play. Or is it easy? How hard is it really to learn it on your guitar?
Back in black is not so hard to learn. It is somewhere between beginner to intermediate level. With regular practice, you should be able to play it properly in a few days. However, guitar solo requires you to be at least on intermediate level of guitar playing.
In this article, we’re gonna lay out every guitar technique you need to master in order to execute this song easily. We will divide parts of the song and analyze it thoroughly. Let’s go!
As it’s been said, the opening riff is one of the most known riffs in rock ‘n’ roll music. Guitar techniques you must know to play it are the following.
The opening riff consists of three power chords. E, D and A. Power chord is a chord that has only two different tones in itself. The root note, and the fifth. So, for example, E power chord consists of notes E and B. If you’re a guitar beginner, you probably know already about power chords.
Power chords are pillar of rock music. Make sure you know how to play regular power chords.
Transitions from one chord to another require you to mute strings. When you struck an E power chord, you have to know how to mute it just a moment before you transition to D power chord. Same goes for transition from D to A power chord.
If you don’t mute strings, they will ring out. This riff, in particular, has a very strong and pronounced string muting. You have to be able to mute strings with the palm of your hand.
A little practice is required, so you mute it properly.
Flick Off’s (or Pull Off’s)
After the first three power chords, there’s this ‘tricky’ part of the riff. It consists of flick off’s. What is a flick off? In this case, you have to pluck the 3rd fret of a high E string with your middle finger and then flick it off to an open high E tone.
Flick off’s are usually exercised in pair with hammer on’s. To perform both hammer on’s and flick off’s properly, you have to develop a certain amount of strength in your fingers.
Developing a finger strength is crucial when learning guitar. It takes time to make your fingers strong. Guitar beginners usually struggle at the beginning with this. Weak fingers often get sore. Make sure you train your fingers’ strength every day for no more than 5-10 minutes.
Here’s the best (and perhaps only) exercise you need to strengthen up your fingers. It’s called finger gym. You can exercise it on every guitar (acoustic or electric). Take a look.
At the end of this second part of the riff, you have to perform a bend on a 2nd fret of your 3rd string (G string). After the bend, you have to flick off the string. So it’s basically combination of two techniques. String bending + flick off (or pull of).
String bending also demands a certain strength in your fingers. It takes a time to master string bending. It is not so easy to nail a string bend right away.
Take a look at this article about how to make strings bend easier.
The last part of the opening riff requires some amount of finger dexterity. Finger dexterity is one of the most important aspects of a good guitar playing.
Make sure you develop a finger dexterity, as it will serve you throughout your overall guitar playing. Without finger dexterity, your playing will remain sloppy.
After the opening riff that goes through the verse, the bridge comes in. This part of the song requires you to have, again, a finger dexterity.
You have to be able to quickly transition from one power chord to another. At first, you’ll be sloppy. But after some practice, you’ll naturally have it easier to perform.
This is the harder part of the song. Especially because we talk about Angus Young. He is one of the best guitar players when it comes to hard rock genre.
His solos are usually not so hard to nail, in terms of guitar techniques. Angus Young doesn’t incorporate some fancy guitar techniques, like arpeggios, nor is he a particularly fast guitar player.
However, sometimes a solo that’s not so hard at first, is indeed hard when you try to play it. That’s because Angus Young is a distinctive guitar player. His vibratos and string bends demand a lot of practice.
Vibratos are a must know technique when it comes to soloing. Almost every guitar solo have vibrato in itself. Playing guitar without vibrating on a string sounds boring and dull.
Vibratos give your playing a feeling. Make sure you know how to do vibrato. Again, learning vibrato will serve you throughout your overall guitar playing. Not just for this song in particular.
Take a look at this video to learn about vibrato technique.
Almost every classic or hard rock solo uses a famous pentatonic scale. Back in Black is not the exception. Pentatonic scale consists of only five different notes. However, it is a pillar of rock soloing.
It is advisable for you to get acquainted with pentatonic scale shapes. Of course, you can look at the Back in Black solo tab, and then just memorize it. But it is much better, in a long run, to know a basic pentatonic shapes on your guitar.
When you get familiar with it, learning solos will get much quicker and easier. Back in Black solo uses pentatonic scale notes. Entirely.
Again, string bending is a must know technique for this song. It is not only used in an opening riff. The solo of this song is abundant with string bending.
Don’t even attempt to learn a solo without basic knowledge of bending.
For this solo, you have to know alternate picking technique. But it is also one of the basic guitar techniques. This solo consists of classical running and transitioning across higher strings. Make sure you include alternate picking exercises in your daily routine.
There are a few slides incorporated in this solo. Guitar sliding is not so hard to perform. But, as it is with everything else, you have to practice it a few times. Just to get that feeling.
Second bridge of this song is a nice, bluesy tune. It requires no more than a basic finger dexterity and alternate picking.
OK, so now you’re up to learning this song. Here are some helpful tips. If you comply to these tips, you’ll nail the song quickly and painlessly.
1. Use a Metronome
Back in Black uses a classical 4/4 measure. Metronome is a crucial device when it comes to learning something new on your guitar. Here’s how to use it properly.
Slow down a tempo. Slow it down to the speed you’re comfortable with. It is crucial to play it slow enough so you don’t get sloppy and tired.
Back in Black is in 94 bpm tempo. Maybe this tempo is too fast for you to catch on in the beginning. So, for example, you slow it down to 70 bpm. Then play it. Then, after some time, you’ll get comfortable playing it on that tempo. Now it’s time to speed it up a bit. Maybe to 75 bpm.
You know how it goes from now. Just be patient and you’ll quickly get to the regular tempo.
2. Take a Rest
This is often an overlooked advice. However, it is one of the most important tip. Our finger muscles can take only a certain amount of information at once.
You can’t expect yourself to learn the song in only one session. If you overplay it, or overexercise it, you’ll quickly become tired. Your fingers just won’t listen to you.
If that happens, and that happens often, the smartest move to take is to just take a rest. Sometimes a simple 5 minute rest is enough.
But sometimes you have to sleep through the night and start again tomorrow. It is just the way it is. When you’re resting, you let your muscle memory to settle. It is the necessary process of learning, not just guitar piece, but everything else, in general.
I hope this article have you a good bit of information you were looking for. If that’s the case, I’m more than happy about it. It is always a pleasure to provide a useful information to my fellow guitar brother.
If you’re interested, check out other articles from this site. For example:
Or, in a more general sense:
Cheers, and rock on!