Riff Breakdown: Snow (Hey Oh) – Red Hot Chili Peppers (Tab & Chord Diagrams)

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In this lesson, we’re going to break down the main riff from Snow (Hey Oh) by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. While it’s known for its level of difficulty (it’s quite difficult to play), what I like so much about it, and why I chose to include it on a guitar site aimed at beginner/intermediate guitarists, is the cool use of triads to create an uptempo, groovy riff…a trademark of John Frusciante’s playing style.

Snow (Hey Oh) Riff

Before starting with the riff, it’s a good idea to take a listen to what you’ll be learning so it’s fresh in your mind.

You can listen to it here: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Snow (Hey Oh)

Snow (Hey Oh) Chords

The Snow riff is built off of a simple chord progression in the key of G#m, and consists of the following chords:

G#m – E – B – F#

Key of G# Minor

Now let’s take a look at the details of the Snow riff.

Chord 1 – G#m Triad

Snow G#m chord and triad
G#m Chord and Triad

The first part of the riff is played using a G#m triad built from the CAGED minor E shape chord. In the chord diagram you see the full G#m chord and the triad used for the riff.

As far as fingering, Frusciante uses his index finger on the ♭3, middle finger on the 5th, and ring finger on the root. I tend to find it more comfortable using the ring finger on the 5th and pinky on the root. But if you’re not comfortable using your pinky for the hammer-on/pull-off, Frusciante’s fingering may work better for you.

Guitar tab for Snow riff using G#m chord and triad

Chord 2 – E Triad

Snow riff E major chord and triad diagram
E Major Chord & Triad

The second part switches to an E major triad built from the C shape CAGED chord. The picking pattern of the riff stays the same. The fingering for this triad is:

  • Pinky on the Root
  • Ring finger on the 3rd
  • Index finger on the 5th
Snow (Hey Oh) riff E major triad guitar tab

Chord 3 – B Triad

B major chord triad diagram
B Major Chord & Triad

The riff then switches to a B major triad, built from the G shape CAGED chord. The triad shape looks the same as E triad, but the chord shape from which it is derived is different. The shape of the fingering is the same, just moved over a string:

  • Pinky on the Root
  • Ring finger on the 3rd
  • Index finger on the 5th
Snow riff, B triad tab

Chord 4 – F# Triad

F# major chord and triad diagram
F# Major Chord & Triad

The last triad this time through the riff is the F# triad, which again comes from the C form CAGED shape. The fingering is exactly the same as for the E triad played earlier. After this chord, the riff starts over at the beginning.

F# triad riff tab

Chord 5 – F# Triad Inversion

F# major triad chord inversion diagram
F# Major Triad & Chord Inversion

The second time through the riff, the last chord changes. It’s still an F#, but it’s an inversion that comes from the E form CAGED shape chord. The riff alternates the last chord each time through.

The fingering for this triad is:

  • Ring finger on the 3rd
  • Index finger barres the 5th and root
  • Ring finger plays the hammer-on/pull-off
Snow riff, F# chord inversion tab

Picking Technique

The most important aspect of playing Snow riff is the picking technique. Because of the speed of execution, timing and technique need to be up to snuff in order to play it cleanly.

Alternate Picking…with a Nuance

Frusciante uses an alternate picking technique, but there’s a very important nuance that greatly simplifies the picking pattern and keeps it uniform throughout. The nuance occurs on the note picked after the hammer-on/pull-off, highlighted in the tab below.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Snow (Hey Oh) guitar tab with picking pattern

The picking patterns starts with a down pick on the 1st note, up pick on the 2nd, down on the 3rd, and up on the 4th. The next note is picked with a down pick, then the hammer-on/pull-off. The note directly after that is also down picked, then the last note before the chord change is picked with an up pick.

The two consecutive down picks make all the difference because it results in the same picking pattern throughout the riff. You always start each chord change with a down pick on the 1st note, and end with an up pick on the last note.

If not for the down pick after the hammer-on/pull-off, you would be alternating between a down pick and up pick on the 1st note on each change.

While this doesn’t sound like much, it makes a huge difference in the playability of the riff. It’s a difficult riff to get up to speed and limiting it to a single picking pattern throughout greatly simplifies this process.

Snow (Hey Oh) Riff – Full Tab

The full tab and picking pattern diagram is below.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Snow riff guitar tablature

Wrap Up

John Frusciante is a master of chord use and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Snow riff is a great example of that. While it’s difficult to master, the effective use of triads to create a groovy uptempo riff makes it a must learn.

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