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How the Stones’ “Under My Thumb” Riff Combines Arpeggios with Chords

How the Stones’ “Under My Thumb” Riff Combines Arpeggios with Chords

There aren’t many rock songs whose hook is performed on a marimba. The Rolling Stones’ classic “Under My Thumb” is one of them.

Recorded and released in 1966 on the group’s album Aftermath, it features the band’s multi-instrumentalist, the late Brian Jones, performing the song’s arpeggiated main riff on marimba while guitarist Keith Richard plays rhythmic stabs beneath it to drive the song along.

“Under My Thumb” has remained a popular tune, even while its characterization of a sexual power struggle has become outdated and, to some, offensive. Sometimes you just can’t resist a good riff.

 

In this Riff Deconstruction video, Sean Daniel explores “Under My Thumb,” which he explains is a good example of how to combine arpeggios with chords. For this video, he combines Jones’ marimba lines with chords to perform it as one fluid part on the guitar

Sean starts off performing and demonstrating how to play the riff. In doing so he reveals that the song is in the key of A major, making the riff a 6-5-4 progression. (Watch Sean’s helpful video “How to Find Out What Key You’re In” if you haven’t already.) As he points out, Jones’ arpeggiated marimba riff doesn’t simply outline the triads—it includes the perfect 4th interval, which makes the riff sound more musical and less like an exercise. 

Sean has also deconstructed the riffs to AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” as well as some Led Zeppelin riffs. You can view each of those by clicking on the links in the song titles.

Check out Sean’s YouTube channel for more of his videos.

 

BONUS SECTION: For the hell of it, check out the Who's version of "Under My Thumb." Yes, this happened. It's pretty good, too.

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