Dec 10, 2010

15 Greatest Guitar Riffs Of All Time

.. in no particular order.

[Disclaimer: You may not agree with me here, and you are most welcome to add to the list, but there is no way you may diss any of these riffs in any way. Doing so will result in me losing all respect for you.]

Smoke on the water - Deep Purple (1973)
One of the most famous riffs in hard rock history, played on a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, immediately joined by hi-hat and drums and electric bass parts before the start of Ian Gillan’s vocal.

Pour some sugar on me - Def Leppard (1987)
Although the band was nearing the end of recording sessions for Hysteria in 1986, producer Mutt Lange felt that the album was still lacking a song that would have an appeal beyond the hard rock fans who had bought Pyromania; that song came to him during a 5 minute coffee break. Now often regarded as the band's signature song.

Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses (1987)
This song is credited as being written by Guns N’ Roses as a band - more specifically it contains Slash’s riff, Izzy’s chords, Axl’s lyrics, and McKagan’s bass line. The subject of the song is generally thought to be lead singer Axl Rose’s then-girlfriend and eventual wife, Erin Everly. Supposedly Slash played the riff in a jam session as a joke. Drummer Steven Adler and Slash were warming up and Slash began to play a “circus” melody while making faces at Steven. Adler asked him to play the riff again, and Izzy Stradlin came in with the chords. Axl became intrigued and started singing the poem he had written.

Alive - Pearl Jam (1991)
Guitarist Stone Gossard wrote the music titled "Dollar Short", in 1990 when he was still a member of Mother Love Bone. After Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose, Gossard and his bandmate Jeff Ament started playing with guitarist Mike McCready. "Dollar Short" was one of five tracks compiled onto a tape that was  circulated in the hopes of finding a singer and drummer for the group. It made its way into the hands of vocalist Eddie Vedder, who was working as a gas station attendant in San Diego, California at the time. Upon hearing the tape that Vedder mailed back, the band invited Vedder to come to Seattle and he was asked to join the band. The band, then called Mookie Blaylock, recorded "Alive" during a demo session at London Bridge studio in January 1991.

- personal favorite out of this list :)

Black Dog - Led Zeppelin (1973)
Led Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones, who is credited with writing the main riff, got the idea for “Black Dog” after hearing Muddy Waters’ experimental psychedelic-blues album, Electric Mud. He wanted to try “electric blues with a rolling bass part.” Jones also wanted to write a song that people couldn’t “groove” or dance to.

Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - Jimi Hendrix (1968)
"Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" is the last track on the third and final album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland. The song is known for its wah-wah-heavy guitar work. The song was recorded in 1968, and was re-released as a single after Hendrix's death in 1970.  It was cataloged as "Voodoo Chile" (Track 2095 001), and that is the title which appears on the single and is the title referred to officially. This obviously confuses it with the 15-minute song "Voodoo Chile" also on Electric Ladyland.

Johnny B Goode - Chuck Berry (1958)
Written by Chuck Berry in 1955 as a partly autobiographical song, this was initially inspired by Berry's piano player, Johnnie Johnson, though developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. The opening guitar riff is essentially a note-for-note copy of the opening single-note solo on Louis Jordan's "Ain't That Just Like a Woman" (1946), played by guitarist Carl Hogan. "Johnny B. Goode" remains as one of the most widely covered rock and roll songs in history.

Paranoid - Black Sabbath (1970)
“Paranoid” is a song by Black Sabbath that appears on the band’s breakthrough album Paranoid. Supposedly, the members of Black Sabbath put together this song in 15 minutes based on a solo by Tony Iommi. This song was only meant to be a “filler”, but became one of Black Sabbath’s most well known songs.

Surfing with the alien - Joe Satriani (1988)
"Surfing with the Alien" refers to the comic book character Silver Surfer. It is one of Joe Satriani's faster shred guitar style tracks. He made the melody one morning he went to record. He plugged a wah-wah pedal and a Tubedriver into his 100-watt Marshall and he decided to use a Eventide 949s. Then they recorded the song and the solo in about half hour. But the Eventide broke down and they couldn't recreate the original effect. They decided to leave the original version and make another one.

Enter Sandman - Metallica (1991)
After releasing a musically complex album in …And Justice for All, Metallica wanted to write simpler songs for their self-titled album, therefore “Enter Sandman” is a departure from their previous works. It is, as Lars Ulrich has stated, a “one-riff song”: all sections derive from main riff that Kirk Hammett wrote. The main riff utilizes variations of the E/B tritone, often referred to as the “devil’s interval” in medieval church music.

Hallowed Be Thy Name - Iron Maiden (1982)
Written by Steve Harris for the 1982 Iron Maiden album The Number of The Beast. It is considered one of the best heavy metal songs of all time.

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (1991)
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a song by the American rock band Nirvana, and the opening track and lead single from the band’s 1991 breakthrough album Nevermind. Written by Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl and produced by Butch Vig, the song uses a verse-chorus form where the main four-chord riff is used during the intro and chorus to create an alternating loud and quiet dynamic.

Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)
At a band practice shortly after bassist Ed King had switched to guitar, King heard fellow guitarist Gary Rossington playing a guitar riff that inspired him (in fact, this riff is still heard in the final version of the song and is played during the verses as a counterpoint to the main chord progression). Ed King said that, during the night following the practice session, the chords and two main guitar solos came to him in a dream, note for note. "Sweet Home Alabama" was a major chart hit for the band. Interesting it is to note that, none of the three writers of the song were originally from Alabama. Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington were both born in Jacksonville, Florida & Ed King was from Glendale, California.

Ones that ALMOST made it:
Satisfaction - Rolling Stones
Foxey Lady - Jimi Hendrix Experience
Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix Experience (yes, I am a Hendrix fan.. :D)
Sunshine of your love - Cream
Layla - Derek and The Dominoes

Its really sad that I grow up in a generation that consider the likes of Justin whoever-the-fuck-he-is as "Music". And even sadder that a majority wont even recognize half of the above listed names. Sigh. They just don't make em' like this anymore.

P.S: Information Source - Google.
Now Playing: Alive | Pearl Jam


Harini said...

I like rock too but can never handle Iron Maiden for some reason. Pour some sugar on me and sweet o child of mine are all my time favorite guitar riffs. I even the like godfather theme a lot too. I like justin too :P.

UjjwalRaaj said...

Marry me.

vipul said...

why just 15 :)

UjjwalRaaj said...

I'm particularly curios about why "hallowed be thy name" . Most would say "Fear of the Dark". Curious.

Also CLAPTON- LAYLA. I'll be adding more as I play them randomly, when I'm noodling with the guitar lol.

IcE MaiDeN said...

Eesshhhh!!!! Justin! I will ban you!!!!! :( I'm disappointed in you child! :P

And I guess I have been a Maiden fan ever since I heard Dance of Death for the very first time... Brilliance! :)

:) :) If I sat to make a unlimited list, then well.. it will never end :P

Mind moving to Mumbai for me? :P

I agree, Fear of the Dark is one of the most recognizable riffs, but its the same as putting Sweet Child O' Mine over Paradise City on this list. Cult statuses these songs have - Sweet Child.. & Hallowed ... :)

I've put Layla on the ones who almost made it - the Derek & The Dominoes version. .. And I did debate on putting Clapton Cocaine on this one, but for some reason I find Clapton.. Good. Not, you know.. Brilliant. :)


CRD said...

hallowed be thy name? why not "the trooper" or "aces high"?

here are some others i like:

AC DC - Highway to Hell
Judas Priest - Hell Bent for Leather
Pantera - Cowboys from Hell
Motley Crue - Primal Scream
Danzig - Mother

CRD said...


Raj said...

will confessing that one has heard none of the above,result in u losing all respect for him?

the one might add that he has heard britney spears and mozart though :P

what then? :P

Da Rodent said...

Did not know you were a maiden fan :)

+1 Interstellar overdrive, Pink Floyd

Da Rodent said...

However, in your list.. never heard Def leppard, Satriani and Chuck berry.

buckingfastard said...

well u certainly favour electronic i wont mind if u gave claptons...eagles and dylan a miss...understandable...

"hallowed be thy name" is not the best riff but its always the first song we listen at maiden playlist...i agree wid u!!!


and how come sweet home alabama riff comes before freebird riff for lynard skynard....not at all agree!!! ;(

wud hav preferred 'november rain' riff over 'sweet chil o mine' but i guess latter is more popular and identifiable :D

Anonymous said...

Lady, you got taste.

Abhishek Sen said...

Adding to the list:
* Moonlight Drive-The Doors : Robby Krieger's bottleneck guitarwork lends a spooky feel to the song...

* Wonderful Tonight-Eric Clapton

* Wish you were here-Pink Floyd This is one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs of all times...

*Norwegian Wood-The Beatles

* Leaving Home-Indian Ocean: My favorite Indian band...this soft numberis a guitar masterpiece,played by the band's lead guitarist,Susmit give it a try...

PS:Coincidentally the first Maiden song I heard was also 'Dance of Death' and I immediately fell in love with the band... :)

Alkhani's World said...

I agree with the fact that this generation's music sucks, but that generalization you made at the end doesn't apply to me. I'm 14, and I recognized every single band and song on that list (Except for surfing with alien). Also, I would've added the riff from Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns in there. You seemed to only mention once mainstream songs.

rajesh said...

Anonymous said...
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