May 2, 2013 in Tips & Lessons

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge

imagesOne of the most iconic songs of the early 90s was Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge.” The words were written by Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Keidis, while the music was crafted by former guitar player John Frusciante. Like any modern rock star, Frusciante has an extensive collection of vintage guitars, however he is widely quotes as saying that his ’62 Stratocaster is by far his favorite. He plays his Fender Jaguar in the music video. This was the only guitar he owned when he joined the band.

One of the best things about learning this song for your Fender is that you can learn easier versions of most of the parts and then build up to the version Frusciante plays.

The Intro:

The intro, which is probably the most famous part of the song, features chord arpeggios with a few bass notes between each of them. Frusciante has said that the song “Andy Warhol” by David Bowie was a major influence on this part of the song. There are two ways to play this intro. Frusciante plays it without a capo, which will necessitate some barring and stretching. If this is tough for you, check out the version that uses a capo on the second fret.

This is the part of the song that everyone identifies with and there is nothing else in the background, you make sure you hit each of the notes correctly. A wrong note here can be extremely unforgiving.

The Verses:

The verse of “Under the Bridge” is a powerful take on the rhythmic guitar style that Jimi Hendrix was famous for. Frusciante specifically mentions how “Little Wing” sounds like three separate guitar parts. That is what he was trying to achieve here. He plays the chords using a Hendrix-style grip where his thumb wraps around the back of the neck to play the bass note of the chord. This frees up his pinky and ring fingers to play the embellishment parts. This part can also be simplified, if necessary by just playing the straight chords.

There are some great videos that show in detail every single note the Frusciante is playing. What I like about this part of the song is that you can be a bit more artistic with it if you like. As long as you are playing notes that are still in the right chord, you can embellish the chord with pretty much any note or melody you like. I learned Frusciante’s recorded version and then added some tweaks of my own personality.

Once you have that much of the song down, the rest is rather simple. I have found that finger picking the intro works best for me, but I prefer to use a pick on the verses. I believe this is how Frusciante himself plays it, but do what works best for you.

“Under the Bridge” is a great song to learn because of its versatility. It can be a sing-a-long song played at parties as well as a detailed technical rhythm and style piece played with a full band.

Here is a fantastic video of John Frusciante himself demonstrating each of the riffs:


Fender American Vintage Hot Rod '62 Stratocaster Electric Guitar
Play a Fender American Vintage Hot Rod ’62 Stratocaster Electric Guitar similar to John Frusciante’s.

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