How to play Welcome to the Jungle on guitar

Duff McKagan, Axl Rose and Slash of the rock group 'Guns n' Roses' perform at the LA Street Scene on September 28, 1985 in Los Angeles, California. Slash uses a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar for the first time onstage with the band.
(Image credit: Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The riff to the opener of one of the all-time great rock albums, perhaps the greatest, has to make itself count, starting with the famous delayed part, leading into the crescendo before the riff finally hits – and when it does, Slash delivers big time. It’s precisely why learning how to play Welcome to the Jungle on guitar remains such a milestone for all aspiring rock players.

For our lesson, we’re looking at the riff that leads into and forms the verse. Most of the rhythm work is based around an A5 powerchord (played with a first finger barre) and a run down the sixth string where you’ll need to draft in your second finger.

You’ll probably find yourself naturally injecting an occasional fret hand mute (a chunky sound produced by muting the strings with your fret hand). Although not essential, these muted strikes give an aggressive, funk-rock feel that’s delivered with a 16th note picking pattern.

We’re also looking at Slash’s blues scale lick that leads into the first verse. It’s a tricky line, but only due to its speed. Practice slowly and you shouldn’t find it too hard. Slash and co were tuned to Eb, but we’ve stayed in standard tuning for convenience.

  • Appears at: 0:34-0:42
  • Tempo: 122bpm
  • Key/scale: A Mixolydian (verse)
  • Main techniques: Powerchords, fret-hand mutes

Get the tone

Slash’s Appetite For Destruction-era tone came courtesy of a Les Paul copy, probably (though it’s a matter of much debate) by US luthier Kris Derrig and a rented Marshall guitar amp rumoured to be a modified 1959 Tremolo model. For more info, check out our comprehensive guide to Slash’s guitar gear.

Still, the quintessential Slash setup is the Les Paul/Marshall combination, so opt for a bridge position humbucker pickup and a distorted tone with plenty of biting treble.

The original riff is double-tracked by Slash and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, so, if you’re playing without a second guitarist, try dialing in a low-in-the-mix delay effect set to about 245ms.

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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.