Guitar Riffs for Last Dance With Mary Jane

A little while ago I did a lesson for the beginner’s on the chords for Last Dance With Mary Jane, by Tom Petty.

I got some good feedback from the lesson, with most of you asking for the riffs as well.

So, today I bring you the riffs for Last Dance with Mary Jane. Or is it Mary Jane’s Last Dance? I never could remember.

Anyways, you’re basically using A minor diatonic and pentatonic, with a little bit of the C major diatonic scale in there as well on the top few strings.

Watch Last Dance With Mary Jane on Youtube

For More Riffs Like This One, Click Here

If you liked the style and difficulty level of this guitar riff, you might like to check out my short course that contains a bunch more guitar riffs in G major.

Leave a Reply 24 comments

Bill - April 20, 2010 Reply

Rekindled my interest for the first time in months.Somewhere around intermediate depending on whose doing the measuring. Received my first weekly email, wasn’t even going to open it since I usually sign up for these things in a fit of misguided optimism. Spent 90 minutes going over your stuff & thoroughly enjoyed it. Especially appreciated the webcast where you related riffs to their chords and the importance of ending on root.

My only-but large- request. Later viewed some of the riffs in a Tom Petty song & CCR song. In the CCR (Favorite Son?)bit; would have appreciatedsome explanation on why the 2 note riffs, 1st riff on D&B strings, 2nd on G&D strings-I would have liked an explanation as to what key you were in, the rhythm was Gm, Fm, B (flat)m so I’m assuming the key was Gm or-as I also learned tonight-EM (I hope). Anyway the notes that were played on 2 strings were probably parts of chords that fit w/ those keys. I haven’t memorized fretboard yet so not sure but some explanation would have been handy. Always interested in hearing what riffs/leads relate to what chords.


Bill S.
Marin County, CA

Jonathan Boettcher - April 23, 2010 Reply

Hi Bill,

Glad you’re enjoying the lessons! Hearing that is the kind of stuff that keeps me going 😉

Regarding Fortunate Son & the riffs, yes, I’m planning on explaining those inverted thirds in more detail in a future lesson, however for now, you’re correct in assuming they come out of the chords.

Regarding the key though – you can’t be in Gm as well as Em – though G major is the relative major key for Em. Stay tuned with the weekly lessons, I’ll be touching on this in more detail. Cheers.

larry r. - April 29, 2010 Reply

thats a cool song learing the chords was easy to follow thats a real cool way of teaching guitar

Charlotte - April 30, 2010 Reply

That was cool and something I will enjoy practicing thanks!

sid - May 11, 2010 Reply

Hi Jonathan I received your videos and the last dance with Mary Jane and the one with the riff, the trouble is it takes over an hour to watch it. I don,t get a good coverage here in Australia Thanks Sid

Jonathan Boettcher - May 11, 2010 Reply

Hi Sid – if you click on the Youtube logo in the bottom right of the videos, you can watch them directly on Youtube. I’m not sure if that makes a difference, but I’m pretty sure youtube works the same everywhere???

Rick - May 17, 2010 Reply

Thanks Jonathan for the great riffs.
This is more my level and you got my interest going now.
Keep up the good work.

beebopdave - May 24, 2010 Reply

johnathan as always great lesson its cool that you were able to throw us the riffs after giveing the lesson on the chords now it will be cool to record the chord changes and practice the riffs over them great advice thanks alot you rock cheers david

margaret butters - May 31, 2010 Reply

hi just learning – not very good picking things up – would love to play even a simple thing – but enjoyed your 4 note play – have no idea what 4 note play is but enjoyed listening to you play.

someone told me if you can play the piano you will be able to learn the guitar better – I can play the piano and read music – but cannot seem to be able to learn the guitar – too many people with different ideas on how to teach – very confusing for a beginner.
kind regards

John - September 22, 2010 Reply

Hey Jonathon,

Would be nice if you could put together a DVD with several songs on it with the rhythm, lead and jam track and sell it at an affordable price. It helps me tremendously by learning songs.


Frank. - October 4, 2010 Reply

Great lesson,good to have both videos that give you whole song.
Thanks again Frank.

Nick108 - December 8, 2010 Reply

Always love the aspect of Tom Petty and Keith Richards, keep it simple, perfection in simplicity, nothing better on guitar, sure fast sweeping lead licks three seconds into a track are impressive but I’m an old school sort, who loves to feel what they put in, and this one I think is the essence of that. Great Stuff and hope Santa brings you some sweet Mary whatcha me call it. I don’t bother with any of that anymore meself.

Ray - January 1, 2011 Reply

Jonathan, forgive me old person, newbie type guitar student. the views on the neck are excellent, but still having hard time with picking of the notes. I know 12 scales from the E-Lydian thru the Dorian scale…all 12 note patterns…after all that, teacher patted me on the back and now go play….I am lost….love your site. Ray

    Jonathan Boettcher - January 6, 2011 Reply

    Hi Ray,

    If you know some scales, then all you need to do is start applying those – try this video for starters:

    Also, you can look up in the sidebar of this site other videos on improvising, and you’ll likely find something that will help. The scale is the basis for all that I do, so once you see how it can be applied I think it will really help.

      Ray - January 7, 2011 Reply

      Hi again Jonathan, I was taught all scales when I had formal lessons, $ per half hour…yes indeed..your site has taught more in two lessons than all the time it took to learn all the scales…starting with A minor scale, petatonic, blues, C maj scale, dorian scale, E lydian, F lydian, monolixidian, one more scale adding a note to the C major scale…I practice them every day…what I don’t understand, is how to incorporate the minor or major scale into rifs…I see you playing a C chord and notes are added. same with G and most other chords… geez this oughta start some bashing to me from readers…go easy I started to learn late in life….thanks ray

        Jonathan Boettcher - January 7, 2011 Reply

        Hi Ray – that’s a very common story I hear – knowing the scales, but not really knowing how to use them.

        I’d suggest taking something like the key of G (G, C, D, Em, Am, Bm) and then using the E minor scale (pentatonic or diatonic) to start creating some riffs over top of those open chords. Any note in that scale is going to fit just fine with those chords, so you’re free to try any combination you can think of. I used this as an example in this video here:

Ray - January 7, 2011 Reply

Thank you, and all of eminor scale can be used to create any riff add to chords in that scale, correct…again forgive, old guy here, just learning…ray

    Jonathan Boettcher - January 7, 2011 Reply

    Yeah – you can use that scale to create all kinds of riffs in that key. Best thing is to just experiment with it – your ear will tell you what works pretty quick!

renlap42 - February 8, 2011 Reply

It might be of some help if the action of the right hand could also be shown at the same time as the fingering of the left hand.
i.e. – Split Screen view

Justin - February 19, 2011 Reply

You actually sent a video awhile back showing how to play that first riff. I mastered it and actually came up with a similar rhythm that you used in this video. Pretty cool.(or should i say “petty cool”)

split screen view does sound helpful, but you are doing very will with the camera close-ups.

LEN - May 31, 2012 Reply

Good Riffs !!!  Something else for me to practice.   Thanks

Len,  Winter Park, FL

tom - September 20, 2012 Reply

Camera angle was ok. When you tell the fret #s I think it would be helpful if you named the notes. Thanks Tom

samyast - November 8, 2012 Reply


jstin - February 7, 2015 Reply

I enjoy the song the only thing that was confusing was when you do your lead
licks your fingers and the lead is not in time. I can see your fingers but the sound isn’t timed I like the song it’s a good song I wanted to bring it to you I’m surprised no
one else notice it.

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