Invert the Chords > Lose the Pick > Play Smoke on the Water
Montreux, Switzerland: 1971. Frank Zappa and the Mother’s of Invention play a concert in the theatre of the Montreux Casino on Lake Geneva. Deep Purple is in attendance, preparing to record Machine Head using a mobile studio rented from the Rolling Stones. Unwisely, someone shoots a flare gun into the rattan ceiling.
BAM: “Smoke on the Water” – #426 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (now available on your iPad). The first riff learned by generations of long-haired young rockers. Learned wrong. That is, incorrectly.
Ritchie Blackmore himself discusses the problem here. Most beginners want to play the power chords in root position, as fifths. They are actually inverted, and played as fourths. And most use a pick to strum the notes. They should be plucked and played as a double stop.
By plucking the notes, they can be sounded (and muted) simultaneously, giving the riff a machine-like feel. David Young gives an excellent walk-through on the ilearntoplay channel.