How to Play Crazy Train


In this lesson, I am going to show you how to play the main riff in Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne featuring Randy Rhoads on guitar. I’m talking about the main riff in the song, the one after the bass dominant intro and before the verse riff.

This riff is a great riff for beginner guitarists because:

  • It features all single notes (except for the final “turnaround” chords)
  • The rhythm is static throughout the riff (except for the final “turnaround” chords)
  • There are no position changes (except for the final “turnaround” chords)
  • It is a very catchy riff making it memorable to play

The first thing to do is to watch the video above which shows the original Ozzy Osbourne solo band playing Crazy Train live. Take a look at how Randy Rhoads plays the main riff and try to picture yourself playing it the same way. The same way he’s fretting the notes and the same way he’s picking the notes.

Here’s the guitar tab and sheet music for the riff:

how to play crazy train

Start by placing your hand in a relaxed manner on the fretboard with your thumb on the back of the neck and your first finger resting over the second fret.

Start your metronome. Start it at a slower tempo. You can turn up the tempo as you go along until you get to the tempo of the original recording. Concentrate on the clicks of your metronome which are 1/4 notes. This riff has steady 8th notes, so you will be playing the count of “1 – and – 2 – and – 3 – and – 4 – and”. Keep repeating this count in your head while you play the riff and trying to tap your foot on every quarter note.

At the end of the riff, you’ll hit a standard D power chord in the 5th position followed by an E power chord 2 frets up. You may have to practice moving from the main riff to the turnaround. If you have problems with these power chords, try substituting them for the D and E power chords in the open position instead.

At this point, you will probably have the mechanics of the riff down. You may be a bit sloppy, maybe a bit slow ;) You’re also probably just playing every notes with a static dynamic so again listen to the original recording and this time especially listen for the accents he uses on the original and watch his right hand to see when he picks notes harder or softer than others. Try to play the riff again and see if you can play it exactly the same as Randy Rhoads putting emphasis on the same notes that he does. It’s ok if you’re still a bit slow and sloppy at this point … that’s exactly what practice is for. You will get better in a week or two if you play this riff every day, trying to go faster every day.

You should be able to play the Crazy Train riff without difficulties after a few minutes of practice every day. If you can master it, try moving onto the verse riff which is considerably harder. At some point, you should be able to master the solo of this song which hopefully I will concentrate on in a future advanced guitar lesson on this site.

Master Tip:
A cool thing to do after you master this riff, or any riff for that matter, is to try and invent new variations on the riff. Try seeing what it sounds like by changing the key (or the position on the fretboard), or changing the notes that are played on the A string. Or change the rhythm of the song. Try changing it into a different style of music altogether – metal to funk or rock to reggae. Doing this kind of thing will make you a better guitar player overall, a better creative force on the guitar, and will help you achieve the musical freedom that you will eventual crave as a guitarist.

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