How to play Back in Black on guitar

Brian Johnson (left) and Angus Young from AC/DC perform live on stage at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on February 16, 1982.
(Image credit: Clayton Call/Redferns)

The guitar nucleus of AC/DC lies in the two brothers who formed the band in 1973. With lead duties going to ‘school boy’ Angus Young and rhythm guitar to the late Malcolm, they always had a boogie blues-based approach to making music.

It’s the title track from frontman Brian Johnson’s first outing with the band that we’re looking at here – 1980’s Back in Black, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest riffs of all time. It’s a simple riff, jammed around easy open E, D and A chords, interspersed with two single-note licks.

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Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.