Top 20 Rock Riffs Of All Time

A new list compiling the Greatest Rock Guitar Riff Ever has just been revealed and include Led Zeps, Guns N' Roses, Metallica, Nirvana ad more.

Ultimate Guitar

A new list compiling the Greatest Rock Guitar Riff Ever has just been revealed, and includes songs by Metallica, Muse, Rage Against The Machine and Queens Of The Stone Age. But who tops the poll? The new poll appears in Total Guitar magazine, and intends to recognise the most impressive piece of rock plank spankery ever committed to record.

While there are creditable entries for modern acts including Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name" (#20), Queens Of The Stone Age's "No One Knows" (#18) and "Plug In Baby" by Muse (#13) the chart really belongs to the classics.

Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" tops the list with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" just behind. Another GN'R song "Paradise City" is on the 19th place. Elsewhere the old guard of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix dominate the top ten. Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and "Master Of Puppets" masterpieces entered the top list at 5th and 7th place accordingly.

The full list is:

01. Guns N' Roses - "Sweet Child O' Mine" 02. Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit" 03. Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love" 04. Deep Purple - "Smoke On The Water" 05. Metallica - "Enter Sandman" 06. Derek & The Dominoes/Eric Clapton - "Layla" 07. Metallica - "Master Of Puppets" 08. AC/DC - "Back In Black" 09. Jimi Hendrix - "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" 10. Black Sabbath - "Paranoid" 11. Ozzy Osbourne - "Crazy Train" 12. Free - "All Right Now" 13. Muse - "Plug In Baby" 14. Led Zeppelin - "Black Dog" 15. Van Halen - "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" 16. Aerosmith w Run DMC - "Walk This Way" 17. Cream - "Sunshine Of Your Love" 18. Queens Of The Stone Age - "No One Knows" 19. Guns N' Roses - "Paradise City" 20. Rage Against The Machine - "Killing In The Name"

345 comments sorted by best / new / date

    SHITe that is a crap list NIRVANA!!! ur jokin, wheres Rainow, Gary Moore, BLACK SABBATH PARANOID no 10!!!! this is worse than their ATTEMPT to name the top guitarists!!! and KISS mmmm dont see Rock n Roll all night there, no Iron Maiden, the Top 100 SOLO list was shite too My god this world has gone to hell *Ronnie MadFaDa*
    I'm surprised that there are only one jimi hendrix songs in there. What about the Darkness also. Not sayin that they are better than jimi though. Who agrees? Plus who thinks should be the number 1 ever riff?
    Teen Spirit Riff Sucks and is sooooo boring. And well i could go on about the rest but i really don't see the need
    Has everyone forgot about "96 Quite Bitter Beings" by CKY? That is one of the catchiest guitar riffs ever played.
    totally agree its got an amazing riff
    what about I DON'T KNOW by Ozzy Osbourne thats a kick ass riff.RANDY RHOADS RULES.
    Even thought everyone is saying the same thing that I am going to say, I will join them in saying that this list is the biggest piece of shit I have ever seen!!! In fact, I think I am going to print it off just so I can wipe my ass with it!!!!!
    This entire list is bullshit. If it's of all time then where the hell is the Rolling Stones?
    do you think this article was made to please everyone get over it. there are great songs in there.
    Has everyone forgot about "96 Quite Bitter Beings" by CKY? That is one of the catchiest guitar riffs ever played.
    RIFFS can only be good if they're well constructed, it's not a case whether you like the song or not, it's the complexity of a song. A few examples: Plug in baby, Layla, Sweet child 'o mine. And I don't care if anyone likes Muse or not, Matt Bellamy is a genius in how he constructs the melodies and his vocals.
    1 Motorbreath 2 Smoke on the water 3 Master of puppets 4 Sad but true 5 orion 6 sweet child o mine 7 cocaine 8 u got to fight for your right to party 9 TNT 10 Back in black
    Has everyone forgot about "96 Quite Bitter Beings" by CKY? That is one of the catchiest guitar riffs ever played.
    u lot man leave nirvana alone u know u love em really..... well for every list like this theres always gonna b people going "WHAT?!?!??! omg u lot are complete and utter bullshite this is the crappest list ive eva seen in my life....." bla bla bla bla BLA. give everyone a break dudes and dudettes Oh, and Chalko
    Also, Fuck all Metallica fans, realize there are MORE bands than that one...also, Metallica is responsible for shitty metal bands, just as Nirvana is reponsible for many a shitty rock bands.To say that only Metallica and G n' R *ahem* should be on that list ignorant and closed mined.
    Arnt you being JUST SLIGHTLY ignorant and closed minded by saying that Nirvana and Metallica (both good bands) by saying theyre responsible for all the 'shitty bands' out there ?!?!?! I Think So. THANK YOU, AND GOODNIGHT.
    I would just like to say Moby Dick should be on there. I think the only reason the riff didn't make much of a difference is that no one has the patience to listen to Bonham (sweeeet) for 5 minutes. Oh, and Bring it on Home. That's amazing. I think the awesome riff was underrated cause it was in the middle of 4 minutes of slow blues.
    nefarious bob
    rainbow? never heard of rainbow? not only famous for just richie blackmore but DIO. i mean c'mon. dio's awesome. but metallica, iron maiden, black sabbath, iced earth, led zeppelin, ac/dc, randy rhoads and ozzy, and all that shit should've kicked that lists ass. *** all that shit with nirvana and ***ing muse and free... *** em all
    i think 96 quite bitter beings is a good riff. personally i prefer shock and terror and disengage the simulator's riffs. and it doesnt say most recognisable, it says best so get off my back for saying "unknown bands". Lacuna Coil, Epica, and Paradise lost are some of the coolest and most talented bands I have ever heard. And while nirvana is pretty good yes it is terribly overrated and i dont see what the hype is and so are a lot of other bands people on this forum are claiming should rule the list.
    It's not a bad list, though the order could be better. Also, for me, Baker Street has to be top ten at least.
    luka krolo
    there should be more gnr and metallica songs on this list and you know why. couse slash and kirk are too good. i think there should be nightrain or seek and distroy but smells like teen spirit no way. it was popular song but its not great riff
    I'm never gonna be satisfied on such lists, man. Ever! 1 bad artist in it, and the whole thing is queer.(in this case, Nirvana)
    yea walk by pantera shoulda been on there, and led zeppelin has way more catchy riffs than whole lotta love, bring it on home, immigrant song, the ocean
    i dont even listen to metal and i know there should have been some iron maiden
    the list is gay. i mean what the *** is queens of the stoned age?!?! they suck. that is a list of popular songs thats all. mostly metal too.
    No Iron Maiden this is pointless! Come on what about fear of the dark and revelations
    i dont diss nirvana they were a good band, but that song was nothing but cheap power chords and some very simple things to do nothing really that requires lots of skill.. #1 Dream Theater - Glass Prision
    i do think that some Korn should have made the list like GoodGod, Thoughtless, and even Right Now from the so called "Shitty" take a look in the mirror album. Im glad there is no slipknot up there too. Slipknot is easily the most overrated band in history.
    smells like teen spirit is the easiest riff to play ever! but it sounds good!! i prefer the breed riff myself, but like evryone says, its an opinion thing. Enter Sandman rules and so does hendrix!!!
    also, it might not deserve #2, but sltp should be on the top 20. iron man should be #1 but is it? no. GN'R is #1. musicians might not like nirvana because of the whole technicallity issue, but fans love them voted for them. thats why they are #2.
    Aetius: you might not like Nirvana and smells like teen spirit is definately not the hardest riff to play, i can play it and im a bass player, but it's catchy, and most people agree on it. you get a survey going and send it to a couple hundred thousand emails, and i guarantee you sltp will be in the top 10. they dont look at difficulty when they make these lists, but at most popular and hate to say it, but sltp is probably the most popular.
    you can't possibly make a list of best riffs ever, it's always going to be biased. it will always be influenced by opinions. Let's keep our own lists for ourselves because everyone has his own idea.
    well... theres alot missing, but Baby I'm gonna leave you with Led Zeppelin should be there, along with like a thousand more Sabbath songs
    Every 1 should stop saying what sould be at number 1, if u wanted ur song @ number 1 then you should have voted. yeh i agree theres alot of good stuff missin but the PUBLIC (thats me and u) voted on this this is the general opinion