Jon MacLennan


Are You Gonna Go My Way Guitar Lesson (Lenny Kravitz)

Today I want to share with you how I play “Are You Gonna Go My Way” as recorded by Lenny Kravitz. 

I’ve noticed a few things about this song in particular. Things that will help players elevate both their blues and rock playing simultaneously

This song is a great example of how blues guitar led straight into rock. For example, the main riff to “Are You Gonna Go My Way” is a straight-up blues riff. 

In fact, so much so, that it sounds like it could have been played in Muddy Waters’s version of “Catfish Blues.”  

In this post, I’ll walk you through this iconic riff, the chords you’ll need, and even some scales to further explore your own style with it.

So make sure you’re tuned up and let’s get started!

Who wrote Are You Gonna Go My Way:

"Are You Gonna Go My Way" is a song written by Lenny Kravitz and Craig Ross. Kravitz, an American singer-songwriter and musician, composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the song. He co-wrote it with guitarist Craig Ross, who has collaborated with Kravitz on numerous songs throughout his career. 

"Are You Gonna Go My Way" was released as the title track and lead single from Kravitz's third studio album, which was also titled Are You Gonna Go My Way. The song became one of Kravitz's biggest hits, known for its infectious guitar riff, powerful vocals, and energetic rock sound.

Are You Gonna Go My Way Riff

Let’s cut straight to the chase. The riff to “Are You Gonna Go My Way” is the driving force of the song. This lick comes straight out of the E minor blues scale. Here’s a breakdown of the notes in the E minor blues scale:

E - G - A - Bb - B - D - E

This scale can be played in an open position like this:

These same strings and frets can be played as:

  • 6th string = 0, 3
  • 5th string = 0, 1, 2
  • 4th string = 0, 2
  • 3rd string = 0, 2, 3
  • 2nd string = 0, 3
  • 1st string = 0, 3

Once you become familiar with this pattern you will see it over and over in countless blues and rock songs. In fact, in the key of E, this scale is incredibly useful for guitarists because of all the open strings. You can play every single string open, and all of the open notes are within the scale.

Many blues musicians have created all kinds of vamps and riff-based grooves playing around in the open E blues position. For example, Muddy Waters's version of “Catfish Blues”

This style of playing is closely paired with what I call a “one-chord blues”. 

In this type of song, the music relies heavily on rhythmic and melodic variations all based around a single chord. 

And this is exactly what the riff to “Are You Gonna Go My Way” does in the song.  

Here are a few other examples of famous one-chord blues songs:

  1. "Boogie Chillen" by John Lee Hooker: This iconic blues song features a driving rhythm all centered around a single chord. John Lee Hooker's rhythmic guitar playing and distinctive vocal style contribute to its raw and captivating sound.
  2. "Smokestack Lightning" by Howlin' Wolf: This one all revolves around an E7#9 chord, sometimes called the “Jimi Hendrix chord”. The repetitive riff creates a hypnotic and primal atmosphere, complemented by Howlin' Wolf's powerful vocals.
  3. “Bright Lights” by Gary Clark Jr. centers around the A minor chord, with slight variations and extensions like Asus4 adding flavor but still fundamentally rooted in Am.

To play in this style start off by bending the 2nd fret on the 3rd string. Then release it down and pull-off to open. Then play the 2nd fret on the 4th string, open 6th string, and then back to open, and then the 2nd fret on the 4th string like this:

Then repeat that same thing again, but this time we are going to make 2 slight variations. First, we’ll start by playing the open 6th string as a pickup. And then at the end of the riff, we will play a double-stop on the 1st and 2nd strings at the 3rd fret. I fret the last double-stop with my pinky finger. This part of the riff has a very similar sound to Smokestack Lightnin by Howlin’ Wolf.

This riff is all based around what I consider to be the bluesiest chord of all time. It is sometimes called the Jimi Hendrix chord, but here is a way to play it that you won’t find very common.

Kravitz plays this main riff in the open position. But then there is a double-tracked guitar playing the same riff one octave higher. This creates a powerful sound. The same blues scale one octave higher would go like this:

What key is Are You Gonna Go My Way in? 

“Are You Gonna Go My Way” is in the key of E major. But the primary scale that Kravitz uses to create the riff is the E minor blues scale. This is a common characteristic of the blues where a minor scale is played against a major chord. 

Again think of the E7#9 chord above. The notes (from low to high) in that chord shape are E, B, E, G#, D, and G. So it has both the G# from an E major chord and also a G (natural) from an Em chord. This is the sound of the blues. The blues has this constant play between major and minor.


As mentioned, the riff is the driving force behind the verse of this song. It starts out playing it in the key of E 8 times. Then it moves the riff up 3 frets and plays it based on a G chord like this:

E riff (8x)

G riff (4x)

After the riff on G, there is a muted picking style guitar riff that walks back down to playing the riff on E 4 more times.

So all together the verse goes:

E riff (8x)

G riff (4x)

Muted riff

E riff (4x)

Are You Gonna Go My Way Guitar Chords

After the Verse riff, there is a short chorus chord progression. Here we’ll use 5 chords G6, F#m7, E, D, and G.

Here is how I would play each of these chords.

From there the only other shapes you will need will be 3 triad chord shapes that come in at the Bridge of the song. These 3 chord shapes are E, D, and A played like this:


The chorus chord progression is 6 bars long and begins with a bar of G6 and a bar of F#m7.

G6 (1 bar)

F#m7 (1 bar)

Then the guitar player plays a call & response type part to the vocal line.

When Kravitz sings… 

“Are you gonna go my way…”

The guitar plays: 

E, D, E (1 bar)

E, G, E (1 bar)

This is using higher triads on the top 3 strings.

Then the chorus concludes with another bar of G6 and a bar of F#m7.  

G6 (1 bar)

F#m7 (1 bar)

Altogether it goes: 

G6 (1 bar)

F#m7 (1 bar)

E, D, E (1 bar)

E, G, E (1 bar

G6 (1 bar)

F#m7 (1 bar)


"Are You Gonna Go My Way" is an epic blues rock song written by Lenny Kravitz and Craig Ross. With its signature guitar riff and energetic sound, it has become one of Kravitz's most loved hits.  

The song is a great example of how blues guitar leads straight into rock music. Remember to take it slow and practice each part, one step at a time. When you’re ready try playing it along with the recording. And for more fun blues guitar lessons check out this post on 101 best blues songs to learn on guitar next!

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