Top 10 Rock Guitar Riffs

artist: misc date: 05/10/2013 category: ug news
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Top 10 Rock Guitar Riffs
What are the greatest rock guitar riffs of all time? That's what we asked UG readers in our poll this week, which became one of our most hotly-contested votes ever.

It takes a lot for a part to achieve legendary riff status. First, it's got to be on guitar - you can't have an epic rock riff on a flute, obviously. Second, it's got to ooze cool. In fact, it's got to spray cool out of your speakers like a damn super soaker. Third, and most importantly, it's got to be fun to play - because that's what guitar is all about. To help with this, we've added a tab link after each song title so you can spend the weekend brushing up on your guitar hero status. Have some fun with it!

After hundreds of nominations and thousands of votes, the results are in. So what are the best rock guitar riffs of all time? It's time to find out...

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Can't Stop"

(Tab)

The distant opening riff might remind you of vintage rock, but it's the funkadelic verse hook that keeps guitarists coming back to this song.

9. Nirvana "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

(Tab)

Guitar shops around the world famously banned this song after hearing it being played by newbies so often - an honor only bestowed to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" before. That doesn't mean it sucks, though. This riff is the sound of teenage fury, packed into four simple chords.

8. The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army"

(Tab)

You think that's a bass riff? Nope, that's just a super-detuned guitar string. Or you can stick to the old adage "don't bore us, get to the chorus" and play the full-volume chorus guitar attack instead.

7. AC/DC "Back In Black"

(Tab)

Perfection is slapping on a leather jacket, putting this track in your headphones and stomping down the street to the tempo. Oh, and if it wasn't bleedingly obvious, you need a BLACK leather jacket for this one.

6. Eric Clapton (Derek and the Dominos) "Layla"

(Tab)

This unmistakable Clapton riff isn't just technically hard to perform - it's all in the way you play and bend those strings. Make it sing, and Layla will sing with you.

5. Deep Purple "Smoke On The Water"

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If this wasn't one of the first things you ever played on guitar, you missed an important rite of passage, like falling off your bike the first time you ride it - it's just something you have to do one day.

4. Jimi Hendrix (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) "Purple Haze"

(Tab)

The sound of an era. Hendrix's "Purple Haze" performance is a psychedelic sweep through his creative mind, and has been picked up by weed fanatics as a cannabis anthem. Hendrix always insisted it was a love song, strangely.

3. Rage Against The Machine "Killing In The Name"

(Tab)

Rage's defining political song made a stunning comeback in 2009 when it led a Facebook campaign to block a Christmas "X Factor" from the No. 1 chart slot at Christmas in the UK. Radio stations were stuck with a unique decision: "do we play the song in full, or not?" Listen to the NSFW ending if you're in the 0.1% of people who don't know why...

2. Cream "Sunshine Of Your Love"

(Tab)

Eric Clapton's second entry in the top 10 is well-earned. Interestingly, he was inspired by a night of watching Jimi Hendrix playing a show in London and Clapton wrote this riff the moment he got back.

1. Led Zeppelin "Black Dog"

(Tab)

Jimmy Page might have all the glory for playing this epic rock riff, but it was actually bassist John Paul Jones who wrote it. His goal: to write a riff that kept winding round without a clear groove.

"I wanted to try an electric blues with a rolling bass part. But it couldn't be too simple," he later said. "I showed it to the guys, and we fell into it. We struggled with the turn-around, until [John] Bonham figured out that you just four-time as if there's no turn-around. That was the secret.

That's the end of our top 10 rock guitar riffs - but what's your top 10? Do you think UG readers have voted a perfect list, or would you tweak it? Post your amendments in the comments, and share your love for other great rock riffs down below.

Oh, and hit 'Like' if you want your friends to have a rock education. It'll be good for them.
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