4 Min ReadBy Ben Nemeroff
Learn the Chords & Riffs to New Tom Morello Songs on Guitar
Learn chords and riffs to Tom Morello songs like “Driving to Texas,” “Can’t Stop the Bleeding,” and more.
One of the most innovative and passionate guitarists of our time, Tom Morello cemented his spot in the hallowed pantheon of guitar legends with his distinctive style that weaves together heavy riffs alongside pedal effects and practical effects. Whether he’s scraping an Allen wrench across his strings or using a wah-pedal, the second you hear a Tom Morello solo, you know exactly who the guitarist behind the fretboard is.
New and seasoned guitarists alike can take notes from Tom Morello himself. The Tom Morello Collection is a Fender first. Exclusive to Fender Play, you’ll hear from Tom himself introducing tutorial videos that show you how to play some of his most groundbreaking solos. In his video introductions, Tom offers up tips to help you improve your playing before you get a chance to dive into trying some of his hand-picked solos for yourself, guided along the way by Fender Play’s team of instructors.
Tom Morello’s Guitar Style & Musical Impact
Music lovers may have first found themselves introduced to Tom Morello in the mid-’90s and early aughts with his work with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Morello made an impact on the sound of modern guitar with his eclectic, experimental style – getting creative with pedals, effects, feedback, and finding innovative ways to make new sounds.
Morello has lent his originality to countless collaborations and spanned multiple genres with his own solo projects, working with both established and emerging artists. As The Nightwatchman, Morello got to flex some of his folk music muscles as a solo project, tapping into a genre near and dear to his heart. He’s also played with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, as well as created memorable collaborations with Knife Party, The Pretty Reckless, Phantogram, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA, and even more musicians that reads like a who’s who list.
One of the most recognizable features of Tom Morello’s playing is his use of effects. While too many effects can often overpower a song, Morello makes great use of them – creating soundscapes that work with the song instead of against it, all without sacrificing genuine feelling.
Morello’s signature Fender Stratocaster features a locking tremolo system and built-in kill switch, giving guitarists the opportunity to tinker with some of the techniques Tom is most known for. The kill switch allows you to cut the guitar tone or switch it on and off, producing an effect that really packs a punch.
Morello also favors a variety of pedals and effects strung together and run through an effects loop. Guitarists inclined to replicate his tone or experiment with their own sound can eventually take a page out of Tom’s book, chaining together a custom configuration of pedals or experimenting with Fender Tone Presets that work with select amps.
How to Learn Tom Morello Songs on Guitar: Chords You’ll Need to Know
In this article, we’ll show you how to play several Tom Morello songs on guitar from various points in his solo career, including:
• “Can’t Stop the Bleeding” • “Battle Sirens” • “Lightning Over Mexico” • “Driving to Texas” • “The Road I Must Travel”
In this series of Fender Play lessons, Tom Morello explains a bit about his process and getting started playing guitar. Before you dive in, you may want to get familiar with some of the chords featured in this collection. Understanding chord positionings and voicings can help you more smoothly transition between them – and deconstruct them to get creative with riffs and other expressions. Here are some of the techniques you may want to practice:
• Alternate Picking • 16th Note Strumming • Palm Muting
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Can’t Stop the Bleeding Chords and Riffs
“Can’t Stop the Bleeding,” a collaboration between Tom Morello, Gary Clark, Jr. and Gramatik, merges a sound that tosses metal, blues, funk, and hip hop into a blender and serves up riff after riff. Morello’s playing is unmistakable, although there’s a touch of Hendrix-style groove. His rhythm guitar style is equally as important to the sound of “Can’t Stop the Bleeding” as are Morello’s well-placed string bends that lend a dynamic feel that cuts through the glitch hop scratches on this head-bobber of a track.
Difficulty: Intermediate • E7 • G5 • A5
Learn to play “Can’t Stop the Bleeding” on guitar.
Battle Sirens Guitar Chords and Riffs
On “Battle Sirens,” Tom Morello lays down riffs in his signature style alongside electronic duo, Knife Party. The intro riff that repeats has an almost bass-like quality, setting the tone, tempo, and groove for “Battle Sirens.” The intro riff has a dark, murky feel before erupting into rhythmic clanging and shifting back down into a percussive, staccato riff. A study in tempo, Morello’s playing serves as an anchor on “Battle Sirens” as he and Knife Party use the song as a playground to duel with sound. Try playing this one using the Tom Morello Fender amp preset to tinker with your tone and incorporate effects once you get the main riff down.
Difficulty: Intermediate • G5 • F#5 • E5 • D5
Learn how to Knife Party & Tom Morello’s “Battle Sirens” with a free trial of Fender Play.
Lightning Over Mexico Chords and Riffs
Played in Drop D tuning, “Lightning Over Mexico” sees Tom Morello & the Bloody Beetroots kicks off with riffs layered over a progression that includes both minor and flat chords for a moody sound. One of the key elements to this song is switching between quieter, steady pulses of chords to louder, heavier blasts. “Lightning Over Mexico” is a great song to practice alternate picking and timing, as well as dynamics. It’s all in the wrist, taking a cue from Tom Morello as to when – and how – to add punch to a song by striking the strings a little harder to produce a punchier sound that increases the intensity.
Learn to play “Lightning Over Mexico” by Tom Morello & the Bloody Beetroots on guitar.
Driving to Texas Guitar Chords and Riffs
While this can be a challenging song for beginners to learn, “Driving to Texas” is a great opportunity to practice chord changes and as a master class in hearing how a solo can lend real emotional resonance to a song, especially if you slot it in at a less-traditional point in a composition, such as at the very end.
Tom Morello’s collaboration with Phantogram, “Driving to Texas,” has a slow, beautiful dirge-like quality. While Morello’s playing is typically associated with high octane riffs and unexpected effects, he keeps things relatively simple and subdued, playing gorgeous, steady chord progressions throughout the bulk of the song. However, as the “Driving to Texas” winds to its close, he unleashes a virtuoso guitar solo that displays precision of technique – including tapping and string bends.
Difficulty: Easy • F#5 • E5 • D5 • C#5
Learn to play “Driving to Texas” by Tom Morello and Phantogram on guitar.
The Road I Must Travel Chords and Riffs
“The Road I Must Travel” has the sound of a traditional folk ballad dating back hundreds of years, but this Tom Morello original was penned in 2007, appearing on the album, One Man Revolution. Recording as The Nightwatchman, Morello’s folk alter ego gives him more of an opportunity to unplug and play acoustic folk in the vein of artists like Woody Guthrie, tackling many important issues of the day with stripped-down storytelling just as critical a component as his dynamic guitarwork.
Lyrically, the song touches on the universal theme of the endless pursuit for justice and freedom, and the alternating feelings of anger, frustration, and hope that accompany it. On “The Road I Must Travel,” Morello keeps it simple, focusing on a pocketful of chords and makes things interesting by using a variety of strumming and picking techniques to tell a timeless story.
Difficulty: Advanced • E5 • B5 • C#5 • A5
Learn how to play “The Road I Must Travel” by Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman on guitar. Want to learn even more of Tom Morello’s songs at your own pace? Sign up for a free trial of Fender Play.
Check out the Tom Morello Collection and Even More Songs with Fender Play
As one of the most influential guitarists of the past 30+ years, guitarists of all levels can learn a lot from Tom Morello. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, a free trial of Fender Play unlocks tons of song tutorials that you can learn at your own pace. Start playing more of the music you love and then get down to creating some of your own!