How-To

Learn How to Play the Strokes' 'Last Nite' on Guitar

This upbeat, danceable song helped bring indie rock to the masses in 2001. Learn it with Fender Play.

If you grew up in the late '90s and early '00s, the driving rhythm of the opening riff of The Strokes' "Last Nite" is probably something you recognize immediately.

It starts with just one note repeated by guitarist Nick Valensi in straight 4/4 time, which is eventually followed by a riff of two power chords played by both guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. and bassist Nikolai Fraiture. As simple as it all may have been, when paired with frontman Julian Casablancas' growled vocals and a healthy dose of distortion, it turned out to be incredibly infectious, helping to turn the song into a near-instant hit.

Of course, if you thought it sounded a little familiar, you weren't alone. That memorable opening riff wasn't entirely new, nor was it entirely theirs. Casablancas owned up to "ripping off" Tom Petty and the opening to his legendary song "American Girl." Luckily for the band, though, Petty got a kick out of it, telling Rolling Stone in 2006, "…they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. It doesn't bother me."


Embedded content: https://youtu.be/u-XOkMZBteA


Controversy aside, "Last Nite" eventually found its way to the No. 5 slot on the Billboard charts and catapulted The Strokes (and guitar-driven "garage rock") into the mainstream at a time when nu-metal ruled the airwaves. The song and the critically and commercially acclaimed album it came on - Is This It - also paved the way for a new wave of similarly minded bands like the White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand and the Killers.

To this day, "Last Nite," continues to carry heavy cultural cache. It has been covered by Adele, sampled by Ke$ha and honored with a parody by "Weird Al" Yankovic. It also landed on Rolling Stone's "50 Best Songs of the Decade," NME's "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years" and, perhaps a little ironically, Q's "100 Greatest Guitar Tracks" lists.

And for those who also consider themselves a fan, here's some good news: Fender Play makes emulating the memorable guitar sounds of Valensi and Hammond Jr. (the latter of whom is almost always seen with a 1985 reissue '72 Olympic White Stratocaster at his side) totally doable.

In this lesson, instructor Barrett Willson gives a quick primer using a few relatively simple chords, including F5/C, C5, C, Dm and Em. These are paired up with staccato, 8th- and 16th-note funky strumming, and some finger muting, all of which will hone your technique and sound like a pro.

Check out the video to learn to play "Last Nite," and sign up for a free trial of Fender Play for even more guitar skills and songs.