Today we’re going to learn how to play Californication by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on guitar.

This song is one of the many timeless pieces that this legendary band from Los Angeles has penned. 

Californication has been around for over 20 years and is still a fan favorite and a great song to learn.

While we’re at it, have you checked out Roadie Coach? This fantastic tool easily attaches to your instrument and works together with its app. With Coach you get personalized feedback on your playing, and the app features hundreds of songs and insights for you to get better as a player. Without further ado, here’s how to play Californication by RHCP.


Let’s start by learning the chords involved in this song. Californication features an Am, F, Cm7, Gm, Dm, Csus, F#m, Dmaj7, Em Bm, D, and E. Don’t be alarmed by the 7th (Cm7) and the suspended chord (Csus). Although these are often thought of as advanced, they are relatively simple to finger, especially once you learn how to play bar chords.

Also, don’t be put off by the seemingly large amount of chords. They are all connected and not that difficult.

Play these chords first and make sure you have their fingerings correct before moving on. 

Right-hand arpeggio

Californication starts off with an intro that involves a simple arpeggio on Am and then on F. This is repeated in certain parts of the song. The result is a unique line that gives Californication a good part of its identity.

To play it, finger the Am chord and do a simple arpeggio string by string, starting on the bass (5th string). You will only play four notes individually with downstrokes, before moving on to the F chord. There is an open G that happens on both chords, so make sure you get that on the arpeggio.

Repeat the same process for the F, also starting at the bass (sixth string). You then do the same arpeggio pattern on the chord progression before jumping on the strummed part. This chord progression is Cm7, Gm, F, and Dm. 


The strum pattern for Californication is an up-and-down consistent pattern where you accent some 16th notes more over others. In more technical terms, you get a consistent UD pattern on the first beat, which then goes to UUUDUDUD on the second beat.

This pattern must be practiced slowly first in order to learn it well. 

This guide on how to play Californication is a good start, and now it’s up to you to put in the time. This is not a difficult song but is also not the simplest either. If you have a basic grasp on chords, strumming, etc, you will be able to learn this song in less than an hour. 

If you are a beginner, Californication can be a nice challenge you may want to take on. Regardless, it’s a fun song to play. Remember to take your time and enjoy yourself!