How to Play Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin On Guitar
In this Guitar Control video lesson instructor Jon McLennan, will show you how to play “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin on guitar. What a cool riff! If this riff doesn’t make you feel something, I don’t know what would. Jimmy Page is just a riff master. Such a good writer, player, and plays with so much conviction and attitude. A great guitarist to pick up tips from, learn from, and emulate.
Remember when you discover a guitarist you love the style of, the idea isn’t to copy them but to learn from them, blend together all the different things you like from different players, and create your own ideas and sounds from that inspiration.
Click on the Tabs button to follow chords and tabs.
Step 1: Breaking Down the Main Riff
The first step in learning how to play “Heartbreaker”by Led Zeppelin on guitar is breaking down this main riff. In the recording he starts off on the 3rd fret 6th string bending this note using your ring finger, you are just pulling it slightly and then right after that you play the open A note, which is the open 5th string. Then go up to the 3rd fret also on the 5th string and play this note once using your ring finger to hold it down. Then you are going to go to the 4th string and walk up chromatically.
To play something chromatic means in half steps, so the notes are right next to one another, all in a row. This chromatic line starts with the open 4th string, then he plays the 4th string 1st fret with his pointer finger, and then the 4th string 2nd fret with his middle finger. Now we are going to return to the 6th string 3rd fret with our ring finger, again pulling on it slightly and giving this note a lot of personality and style. So basically every time we are playing the 3rd fret on the 5th or 6th string we are bending the note slightly, just pulling on it a little bit. We bend these because they are kind of bluesy notes. When you play the 5th string 3rd fret you are playing the flat 3rd and when you play the 6th string 3rd fret you are playing the flat 7th. That is referring to the degree in the scale. So it just sounds really fitting and in the style to bend those notes and give them a little extra attitude.
Step 2: Repeating the Main Riff
When you go to repeat this riff, there is a slight change. Instead of playing one open A like we did the first time we bent the 6th string 3rd fret, we now play four open A notes in a row. So play the open 5th string, four times. Right back up to the 3rd fret 5th string with your ring finger. And then right back to the chromatic line on the 4th string, open 4th string, 4th string 1st fret with your pointer finger, and 4th string 2nd fret with your middle finger, right back to the 6th string 3rd fret with your ring finger and bend this note, this is our bluesy flat 7. So the only change we have for the second half of this riff is starting it off with the four open A notes right after the very first bend on the 6th string 3rd fret, which is kinda the last note from the first part.
The very first part kind of starts and ends with that 6th string 3rd fret bend so you can even just look at the start of this second half as the four open A’s, the open 5th string played four times. Go to the 2:20 minute mark to see Jon put these two parts together. After you are done repeating these together end with an A5 power cord. An open A5 using just one finger to hold it down, that’s how Jon says he would play it in a rock setting. He is playing an open A, the open 5th string, and placing his pointer down on the 4th string 2nd fret…you can also hold down the 3rd string 2nd fret if you wish and want to include the octave note, just another A note higher in pitch, or you can just play the root and the 5th, which are the 5th and 4th strings, holding down the 2nd fret on the 4th string.
Totally up to you, just remember that you are only going to want to strum however many strings you are holding down, unless you mute the unwanted strings. John uses his thumb to wrap around and mute that 6th string and his pointer to gently just rest on all the strings below the note he is pushing down with his pointer so he can actually strum all six strings and only the notes he wants to hear will actually ring out. That is the beauty of muting…however don’t be discouraged if it takes a little time to get used to muting.
So basically with his strumming hand all he is doing is really hammering all those notes. In this sense the term hammering would mean just the sound of which he plays them, not the hammer on technique. He is really strumming hard and strumming all downstrokes, he is hammering down on them like the sound of hitting them like a hammer. This just gives you a really good, solid rock sound. If you are enjoying learning this Zeppelin riff also be sure to check out our lesson on how to play the Black Dog solo by Led Zeppelin for another awesome Zeppelin classic to add to your repertoire.
Recap: How to Play Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin On Guitar
I hope you enjoyed learning how to play “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin on guitar! This simple but awesome Jimmy Page riff is sure to get you moving. Remember when you are learning songs from guitar heroes the lesson goes much deeper than just learning a riff. Study their writing style, note choices, and dynamics they add to make their riffs stand out. Bring these elements into your own playing and let them help you mold your own unique style and sound, and of course, as always, have fun!