If you're a fan of rock music, at some point, you are going to come across this tune. Whether it’s the original version by The Kinks or the version later done by Van Halen, this rock riff should be a part of every aspiring rock guitarist's repertoire.
In this “You Really Got Me” guitar lesson, I’ll be covering the original Kinks version and walking you through the main guitar parts you need to know to get playing in this style today!
The Kinks' original version of this song was first performed in more of a bluesy style, inspired by artists like Big Bill Broonzy and Lead Belly. Two takes were recorded, and the second one was used for the single, which was first released in the UK in the fall of 1964.
“You Really Got Me” was written by Ray Davies, and it was rumored that Jimmy Page played the guitar solo, however, this was a myth that has since been proven incorrect.
The song is in the key of G and kicks off with an iconic riff all based around two power chord shapes F5 and G5.
F5 can be played like this on the 1st fret.
And G5 can be played like this:
Later in the song, you’ll also use an A5, C5, and D5 which can be played like this:
At the core of this song is really just a single power chord shape that can be moved around the entire guitar neck. The main riff starts on the “and” of 4 and moves back and forth from the F5 to the G5 power chords like this:
This riff repeats for the intro 4x, and then the vocals come in with the verse and it repeats 8x.
“Girl, you really got me now…”
As the song progresses you’ll want to shift that first guitar figure up to different areas of the neck. For example, shifting up to basing the riff off an A5 chord would look like this:
And even later in the song the energy kicks up even more, and the chords progress up to being based around a D5 chord like this:
This riff creates that driving sound you hear on the track, while also giving Ray Davies a fun groove to sing the melody over.
The solo section of "You Really Got Me" is a highlight of the song and a great opportunity to jam out over the riff. The solo is played over the verse chords, so make sure you have those down before moving on. The solo itself has a sort of “freak-out” or manic quality to it.
The main scale that is used in the solo is the G minor blues scale and can be played at the 3rd fret like this:
This next example shows how to take pieces of the G minor blues scale and turn them into a melody to play over these changes. Notice the build-in starting on the “and” of 1 and the vibrato. These two things help add to the energy of the solo. Then notice in the 2nd measure the use of double-stops on the 3rd fret.
Example 2 has some nice skips from the 1st string to the 3rd string in a bluesy style.
Example 3 takes the double-stop idea to another level combining double-stops on the 3rd fret and also the 5th fret. This type of playing is ubiquitous in rock guitar.
"You Really Got Me" is a classic rock tune that’s stood the test of time and continues to entertain audiences to this day. Learning how to play this song on guitar can not only be a great way to hone your rock guitar chops but also connect with the rich musical history that it represents.
In order to master the riff and solo of this iconic song, it's important to start slow and gradually build up speed. I recommend playing along with the recording to practice. This will not only help you to learn the song more quickly but also to develop good playing habits and muscle memory. As you become more comfortable with the song, you can experiment with your playing style to make it your own.
One of the great things about learning how to play "You Really Got Me" is that it's a versatile song that can be played in a variety of settings, from jamming with friends to performing in front of a crowd. By mastering this song, you'll have a valuable addition to your rock guitar repertoire that you can play for years to come.
But beyond its musical value, "You Really Got Me" is also a testament to the power of rock and roll to connect people across generations and cultures. The Kinks' music has inspired countless musicians over the years/
So, whether you're a beginner or an experienced guitarist, learning how to play "You Really Got Me" is worth the time. So grab your guitar, start practicing, and for another great rock song check out this “I Know It’s Only Rock n Roll (But I Like It)" guitar lesson next!