Learn How to Play Guitar here at

Acoustic Songs || Classic Rock Songs || Folk Songs || Rock Songs

Don't forget to Thank GuitarTrick's 30 Day Free Trial. Very good tutorial videos there!

how to play born to be wildHello Riffers! On this post I’ll try to show you how I learn the classic riff on this great rock song – “Born To Be Wild” as made popular by Steppenwolf!

This amazing, high energy rock song is chalk-full of great riffs and is a perfect example of the guitar driven rock sound that Steppenwolf is well known for.

I wont be teaching the riff to you. Will only show my interpretation of the lesson that Tom Finch of Guitar Tricks had taught me.

If you want to him or his fabulous lessons, check Guitar Tricks’ 14 Day trial! No payment required! Try it out!

I wont be able to show you how to get the right rock and roll tone for Born to be Wild. You can go ahead and check it out at Guitar Tricks as well.

For this post, let’s concentrate on how to nail that amazing intro riff and also, if time permits the chorus riffs and rhythm patters.

How to Play Intro Riff

We start the intro riff with en E chord, root in the 7th and barring the D, G and B strings. That’s an E-chord, minus the high E.

What is important is the beginning is the rhythm and strumming of this E major chord. We’re doing a lot with the E-chord.

We’ll be lifting slightly the left hand to make that dead, scratchy sound. No chord should sound out.

Here’s how you play it:

  • Start out with an E,
  • Followed by a scratch
  • Followed 2 strums of the E chord
  • Scratch
  • Another 3 hits of E, Then,

While holding the E power chord, stretch to the 11 with the pinky d string, then pulloff to 9. DO the same on the 12fret on the D string.

That’s the E5 power chord.  You will going to bar the 9th fret of 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings. The intro is doing the classic rock and roll shuffle.

Down, Down, Up, Down, Down Up, Up

The shuffle would be on the 4rth string and to the 11th fret. Then release back to the 9th fret. And then in the 12th fret and back again to the 9th fret.

We repeat this riff up to 3 times. On the forth time, we don’t release the 12th fret.

How To Play “Born To Be Wild” Summary

There’s the verse that happens during the intro and during the ‘pre-verse’, and then there’s the riff that‘s played to accompany the vocal during the verse.
You’ll notice they’re very similar, and that they both have the same ‘tail’ or end part. It’s the first half of the riff that differs; in the ‘pre verse’ riff an E power chord is punched out on certain beats which we’ve indicated.
In the ‘verse’ riff the first half of the riff, which we’ve marked in green, are palm muted eighth notes (two strums to each beat of the measure).
‘Palm muting’ is a strumming technique in which you apply pressure to the strings with the palm of your strumming hand and play down-strokes.
This is how guitar players get that thick, distinctive ‘chug-chug-chug’ sound that is so popular in hard rock and heavy metal.
Speaking of ‘Heavy Metal’, the lyric ‘I like smoke and lightning/ Heavy metal thunder’ which occurs in the first verse of this song, is heralded as one of the first uses of the term ‘Heavy Metal’ in popular culture.
The song was inspired by motorcycle riding, and this song was included in the 1969 classic motorcycle film ‘Easy Rider’ starring Peter Fonda Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson.
About Riff (165 Articles)
Riff Richard is an IT person, a husband, a dad, a couch potato and a passionate guitar player

Leave a comment