With a genre-defying style that merges alternative rock with funk, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have left an indelible imprint on music. Throughout the course of their nearly 40-year career, the band has racked up six Grammy wins, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 25 songs that have climbed the top of the Billboard charts INCLUDING THEIR LATEST #1 WITH “UNLIMITED LOVE”, and countless multi-platinum albums.
Affectionately abbreviated as RHCP, the Red Chili Peppers’ material spans the gamut from upbeat funk-rock tunes inflected with rap / hip-hop, to more introspective and serious songs that place a variety of social issues at their core. Nearly four decades after they burst onto the Los Angeles music scene, the band is still going strong, inspiring new fans to pick up the guitar or bass and hammer out groove-laden riffs.
Want to learn to play some of the Red Hot Chili Peppers biggest hits and some of their newest tracks? In this article, the Fender Play team will walk you through some of the chords you’ll need to know and guitar techniques to apply to play some of their best-known riffs.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante Guitar Style
John Frusciante’s iconic guitar style has helped to cement the signature sound of the Red Hot Chili Peppers alongside the intense bass thumping of his cohort, Flea.
John Fruciante’s playing combines elements of funk and blues alongside heavy, Hendrix-style rock. In recent years, he’s incorporated some of his own modern embellishments. One of the most striking elements of Frusciante’s sound is his approach to filling the space with a crisp-yet-full sound that hops between lead and rhythm. He accomplishes this with a mix of a clean, compressed tone, but also layering in some distortion and wah pedals to create more expression with his playing.
While you can experiment with trying to replicate John Frusciante’s sound with your own pedals and effects, you can also plug into his signature style by tinkering with Fender Tone Presets that work with select amps. Part of the fun of learning to play guitar is experimenting with different effects and applying your own touch when playing some of your favorite artists’ songs. In the case of Red Hot Chili Peppers and John Frusciante, their extensive body of work leaves plenty of room to learn and grow as a guitarist, as Frusciante employs some advanced techniques and switches things up to suit the mood of a given song.
How to Learn Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs on Guitar: Chords You’ll Need to Know
In this article, we’ll show you how to play some of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ best-loved songs. You’ll learn how to play both the chords and the riffs to:
• “Under The Bridge” • “Suck My Kiss” • “Can’t Stop” • “Californication” • “Breaking the Girl” • “Scar Tissue” • “Black Summer"
Before you start learning some of the Peppers’ songs, it might be helpful to get familiar with some of the chords used. John Frusciante has a massive chord vocabulary, often using different voicings of major and minor chords, 7th chord and suspended chord variations, as well as hybrid chords. Mastering these chords first can make it easier to transition between them when playing some of the RHCP songs we’ll walk you through. Here are some of the chords you may want to practice:
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Under the Bridge Chords and Riffs
One of the songs that launched the Red Hot Chili Peppers into music lovers’ ears was their 1991 ballad, “Under the Bridge.” Off the album Blood Sugar Sex Magic, the song deals with the struggles of sobriety and was a sharp contrast to some of the most popular power ballads of the day, putting them on the map.
On “Under the Bridge,” John Frusciante expertly transitions through a variety of major and minor chords, giving the song a somber-yet-epic feel. Cleanly transitioning between chords on this song can be a challenge for guitarists of all levels, making this a great song to learn. Frusciante also throws in a few more rhythm guitar techniques to make this song interesting, including chord anticipation, as well as percussive strumming. On his sharp leads, Frusciante deconstructs some of the chords and uses arpeggio picking alongside dramatic hammer-ons.
Learn to play “Under the Bridge” on guitar.
Suck My Kiss Guitar Chords and Riffs
Another track from 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magic, “Suck My Kiss,” Frusciante’s groove-heavy riffs complement Flea’s funky bass playing. Laden with lyrical innuendo and hammer-ons and pull-offs, Frusciante’s rhythmic playing once again dips into his percussive strumming bag of tricks. While the song only uses a few chords, it’s the high-energy tempo of “Suck My Kiss” that makes learning to play the song so much fun and challenging. Break it down into shorter sections, mastering each one to get the full impact of what happens when you tap into putting a variety of techniques together!
Can’t Stop Chords and Riffs
Instantly recognizable in its opening notes, the intro riff to “Can’t Stop” lays down the beat that pulses throughout this fiery-tempoed groove. John Frusciante’s clean tone is present, with crisp, alternate picking and expert string skipping pounding out the riff that repeats throughout. Fret hand muting and strum hand muting techniques give “Can’t Stop” that unmistakable stop-start feel. While Frusciante’s status as a top-notch riff-smith is evident on this song, don’t sleep on his rhythm playing. Although he only trots out four chords from his substantial arsenal, it’s his music and chord anticipation techniques that help give this song such vivid color.
Guitarists of all levels can hone their technique by playing RHCP’s “Can’t Stop.” With only four chords to commit to memory – including G and D major staples ideal for even beginners – it offers room to develop different strumming and picking techniques. Start slow and then build up your speed with alternate picking on the tune’s main riff!
Learn to play “Can’t Stop” by Red Hot Chili Peppers on guitar.
Californication Guitar Chords and Riffs
From the 1999 album of the same name, “Californication” incorporates a host of pop culture references in its lyrics alongside an acknowledgement of the darkness beneath the veneer of Hollywood and the Golden State itself. Musically, “Californication” includes a variety of chords that work together. Throughout the song, Frusciante switches keys and then shifts back again, making this one a bit of a challenge in picking out those changes. Arpeggio picking and strumming techniques like chord anticipation and syncopated strumming make “Californication” a study in just how important rhythm guitar is to a song.
Learn to play “Californication” by RHCP on guitar.
Breaking the Girl Chords and Riffs
Another song from RHCP’s breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magic, “Breaking the Girl” has a melodic funk-meets-alternative feel. The song features a complex tapestry of chords – looking to the A major and A minor chords as the song’s backbone.
The song’s unusual timing (6/8) makes it a bit more complex to play. Alternate strumming and syncopated strumming drive the beat and melody of “Breaking the Girl.” On this song, Frusciante’s style gives a nod to one of his main influences, the blues-rock style of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.
Learn to play “Breaking the Girl” by Red Hot Chili Peppers on guitar.
Scar Tissue Chords and Riffs
From their 1999 album Californication, RHCP’s “Scar Tissue” stands as an exercise in the power of simplicity to craft a song that keys in on raw emotion. It earned the 2000 Grammy in the Best Rock Song Category, making it not only a commercially successful ballad, but critically acclaimed as well.
On “Scar Tissue,” John Frusciante uses only a handful of chords to set the moody tone. However, it’s his slow, soulful slides and string bends on the solo and outro that make the track so poignant and memorable.
Learn to play RHCP’s “Scar Tissue” on guitar.
Black Summer Chords and Riffs
The lead single from Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2022 album, Unlimited Love, “Black Summer” makes use of some intricate chord progressions to set the vibe. Frusciante dips into his vast warehouse of chords – using a mix of major and minor chords alongside innovative chord combinations. While the chords drive the melody of the song, the guitarist switches things up with a fuzzed-out solo – building off of the melody in the verse, but taking them to another level with well-placed effects.
Check out the Red Hot Chili Peppers Collection & More Songs with Fender Play
Learning to play songs by your favorite artists can be rewarding for beginners or seasoned guitar players alike. Understanding the guitar techniques and hallmarks of a band’s sound can deepen your appreciation for their music and help you to expand your own repertoire as a guitarist yourself. A free trial of Fender Play puts a library of song tutorials, chords, and techniques at your fingertips, giving you the opportunity to learn and grow at your own pace – anytime, anywhere!