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When Green Day released “American Idiot” in 2004, it quickly became the highest charting single of their career and propelled the band into another wave of mainstream success.
From a guitarist’s perspective, it is full of extremely aggressive right hand rhythm strumming and fast shifting power chords. It is pop punk at it’s finest and probably Green Day’s greatest moment both musically and socially.
In this American Idiot guitar lesson I will demonstrate how to play all of those riffs as well as the well crafted guitar solo in it’s entirety.
I spend a lit bit of time at the beginning of the video lesson demonstrating how you should try to tackle the strumming of the power chords. It is all about keeping a nice 8th note (down/up) rhythm going constantly in the right hand. Within that strumming pattern some of the chords will be accented, so it is a good idea to get the sound of the rhythm in your ear first before attempting to play along with the original recording. Being able to internalize music like that is the number one method for learning any music on any instrument.
The main riff and verse are very similar and will be the most challenging riffs to perform since the left hand has to shift so quickly between power chords. The chorus is pretty much a walk in the park compared to those two riffs.
I will then take an in-depth look at the guitar solo. This solo contains some very fast octave shapes the move around the fretboard quite a bit. The main thing to focus on with the octaves, besides the aggressive right hand rhythms of course, is the proper muting of the strings around the octave notes. The proper muting of octaves is essential for them to sound correct. I will demonstrate how to do this muting in the video lesson.
This solo also contains a quick little pedal tone lick that requires a decent stretch on the guitar. Try to get the pattern down with this part first and then slowly work it up to speed. Also, proper placement of the thumb behind the neck will help you perform that stretch with more ease. If you are having problems reaching the high notes during this lick, lower your thumb a little bit behind the neck and it will probably get much easier.