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How to play Smoke On The Water

Updated on September 21, 2014

How do you play Smoke on the Water

How do you play Smoke on the Water? This is possibly Rock's most classic song and you can start playing Smoke On The Water today! Deep Purple was without doubt Prog Rock's greatest supergroup and almost certainly Smoke On The Water is Rock music's most covered song! Got your electric guitar for Christmas? Do you have the TAB for Smoke On The Water?

Here I hope to introduce you to playing the main riff of Smoke on the Water, show you some resources for learning the song in its entirity and write a little about about guitar playing styles. So, without further ado, if you have never heard this masterpiece for beginner electric guitar.... Smoke on the Water!

Note - public safety warning - please do not play this riff in music stores unless you can play the solo too ;)

Image credits - intro picture and all graphics used here created by Photahsiamirabel. Please do not copy.

Flaming Guitar

Flaming Guitar by skphotos seems to have the spirit of Smoke on the Water to me.
Flaming Guitar by skphotos seems to have the spirit of Smoke on the Water to me. | Source
The Rockfield Mixes Plus
The Rockfield Mixes Plus

My friend Ray is interviewed on this album as well as playing.


Preview Smoke on the Water on iTunes

Listen to Smoke on the Water - Deep Purple and Gillan

If you have not heard Smoke on the Water here are two links to it on iTunes where you can preview the song. The first link is to the original by Deep Purple, the second is to the version by Gillan. Ian Gillan carried on Deep Purple's work after guitarist Richie blackmore split to form Rainbow. I am proud to know and be a friend and colleague of Gillan's guitar player, Ray Fenwick.

iTune link Deep Purple

Richie Blackmore's playing style for Smoke on the Water

Smoke on the Water was originally played fingerstyle!

Yes, Richie Blackmore used thumb and two fingers to play the original riff of Smoke on the Water and palmed his plectrum for the actual solo. Not many guitar players do that because it requires a measure of dexterity in the right hand. Playing the first riff fingerstyle allows the notes to be played absolutely simultaneously and the tone is softer too. Using a pick slightly arpeggiates the notes so although the attack is brighter, the version is not so tight. Personally I emulate Blackmore and use my fingers, this is easy because I started with classical guitar. If you find fingerstyle guitar difficult, then just do as most other players do and use the pick.

Basic Shapes for Smoke On The Water

Power chords for Smoke on the Water

Here are some graphics I made which will help you understand and play this song.

Before you can play Smoke on the Water, you should learn Power Chords. These are movable shapes and the riff uses two of them. For G5, use the "F" shape with first finger on fret 3 of string 6. For Bb5, C5 and Db5 you need the Bb shape. Bb has the first finger on fret 1 of string 5, C has the first finger on fret 3 and Db has the first finger on fret 4.

The G minor pentatonic scale will help you to improvise your own solo should you find Richie Blackmore's is too difficult to learn. Stick to the notes in that shape and emphasize "G" and you will be fine!

I will not be giving the riff in notation for copyright reasons, but the chord progression of Smoke on the Water goes something like this:

G Bb C G Bb Db C G Bb C Bb G

If you practise the chords and listen to the song the rhythm should not be too difficult to pick up.

Smoke On The Water from Amazon UK - Check prices on Amazon UK


Smoke on the Water - Marching Band Version

Blowing with Smoke on the Water!

I thought this was great! Marching bands these days play just about evrtything, and I was happy to find the score of Smoke on the Water for brass instruments. Now wind players can enjoy it too!

Smoke on the Water - marching band score

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Green Dragon Mouse Mat

A smoking gift
A smoking gift | Source

Is Richie Blackmore one of your favourite guitarists? - Can you play Smoke on the Water yet?

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    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 5 years ago

      Yes Richie is great!

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 5 years ago

      this is the riff of all riffs!

    • profile image

      Edutopia 6 years ago

      Great song for beginners to push their limits on and a great song for advance players to break out for a good crowd show. Either way, everyone should know it.

    • profile image

      dustintrentin 6 years ago

      One of the best song from my favourite band ( Blackmore has got a fantastic and unique hands. :)

    • LNAngel profile image

      Lauren 6 years ago from Florida

      My all-time favorite song! :)

    • NorDac LM profile image

      NorDac LM 6 years ago

      If you're into smoke on the water, you need to check out this version done by a Japanese orchestra

      After you stop laughing, watch it again, it's really very good!

    • cwkerns lm profile image

      cwkerns lm 6 years ago

      Nice lens and you are right on both counts; Smoke on the water is a classic and yes, if you are going to play it in a music store you need to know how to play the solo. Thumbs up!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You've got some great lenses that will go so nicely on Virtual Guitar Games - I am going to feature several, many thanks!-:)

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 7 years ago from Scotland

      you brought bsack memories of me trying to teach the kids this at a school I worked in, how cool did they think I was! I wish I had ound this page, it would have been so much easier

    • JimDuke profile image

      JimDuke 7 years ago

      This is great-I'm sure this song and Stairway to Heaven were the first songs I attempted to play!

    • profile image

      grannysage 7 years ago

      Oh absolutely the best. I learned about him late in life, but became an instant fan. I am glad you explained how he plays Smoke on the Water. There is a you-tube video where he demonstrates it. I see I still have an angel wing this morning, so blessed and thanks for the blessing on Ex-Hippie. This one is lensrolled to my Ritchie Blackmore lens

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      First time I've heard of this song -- love the title 'Smoke on the Water'. My son plays guitar and this is more His type of music. I'll send him this link as he's always looking for the chords of songs he'd like to learn to play on the guitar.

    • profile image

      thewishpearl 7 years ago

      My brother used to play it incessantly! What a great song. I remember when it was number 1. I guess that is really giving my age away. Great lens!

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 7 years ago

      Oh I can't play it but I'd like to!!! I'll never stop to listen to it! Love Deep Purple and Child in Time as much as Smoke on the Water!

      Great lens here!