Wednesday Question: Best Rock Guitar Riff?

What is the best rock guitar riff of all time? Place your votes here and see if your nomination makes it into our epic top 10 list this Friday.

Ultimate Guitar

Guitarists, get to the starting line. This week we're challenging you to pick out the greatest rock riffs in history, so you'll have to be smart if you want your nomination to appear in this week's top 10 playlist.

Rock 'n' roll might have started out as a relatively tame genre in the 1950s, but it's come a long way. Through the sleazy '70s the the aggressive '90s and everywhere between, rock has been the backbone of guitar music since ... well, since the beginning of time, as far as we're concerned. And there's a lot of great riffs to choose from.

This week's Wednesday question is:

What is the best rock guitar riff of all time?

Don't stray into metal, punk or other related genres today - we want straight up rock, from Chuck Berry to Aerosmith to Foo Fighters and everything between. Rock can be a pretty varied genre, so feel free to post anything if you're not sure.

To help guide the debate, here's a definition of the word 'riff' that we found online, though feel free to post a better definition if you think of one:

Riff: a short repeated phrase, frequently played over changing chords or used as a background to a solo improvisation.

As usual, post one nomination per comment and vote up others that you agree with. We'll post the results on Friday. Good luck!

824 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Money for nothing - dire straits
    Sultans Of Swing is better
    Pablo Mortis
    There's too many riffs in Sultans of Swing to pick one particularly good one though - Money for Nothing is just brilliant when you listen to the intro properly first.
    +1 for Alan Partridge avatar. I mean, I like Dire Straits but I love Alan Partridge.
    Purple haze by Hendrix
    You really got me - The Kinks
    How was this not mentioned earlier? It's like a fundamental progression for the way rock was preformed as well a simply killer riff
    Black Dog - Led Zeppelin
    Most Jimmy Page riffs could feature tbh...
    We made it into a sweet double-time Jodie during Basic Training for the military. T'was AWESOME
    Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin
    The Ocean is also one of their bests, and so is Kashmir, and Black Dog, and just about every other riff that Jimmy Page does.
    One of the catchiest riffs in my opinion [Tom Morello is a great guitarist)] Rage Against The Machine - "Killing In The Name"
    How about some Audioslave if you don't feel that RATM fits the "pure rock" definition? One way or another Tom deserves to be on this list... It's not my personal favorite from them, but is probably the most well known: Cochise - Audioslave
    If we're speaking Audioslave, I'd say "Bring em Back Alive". The solo only appeals to a certain niche. I loved it, but to many, its just noise. But hey, we're talkings riffs aren't we?
    this is more alternative than straight up rock IMO. not saying that's a bad thing, but i feel like it doesn't really stand in with stuff like zeppelin on this list.
    Agreed about how great this riff is. But isn't it a little too heavy for "Rock Riffs"?
    Hmm, I think, it's not enough heavy for metal genre
    Not heavy ENOUGH? Idk about that... Either way, metal, alt-metal, alt, rap metal, rap rock, whatever the **** you want to call it... they're all subgenres of ROCK.
    Most people these days think that it has to be tuned super low, gain all the way up, and super chuggy or it's not metal. It might not be death metal or extreme metal, but it is most certainly metal.
    or smoke on the water also pretty damn iconic
    Sunshine of your love - Cream. Brilliant riff, sometimes when I play it i'll add a pinch-harmonic on the 9th note.
    Also, i'm pretty damn proud of this riff. The lyrics however, are probably some of the worst i've ever written or heard in music. The video sucks as well and i'm thinking of deleting it and making a new one. Damn my ego.
    Can't Stop - RHCP
    Can't stop... It's pretty wild hearing 30,000 people singing the riff instead of the lyrics.
    Black Dog Edit: Again beaten to it ;
    come to life alter bridge. badass intro riff that's then taken down an octave the rest tof the song. so cool
    I agree. That's a Badash riff. People are just downvoting cause they haven't heard it.
    There are probably two more likely reasons people are downvoting it. 1) It could easily be considered a metal riff. That's not what this list is looking for, if you read the article. 2) It's really nothing special. Sounds like a generic modern metal riff. I'm sure most guitar players certainly wouldn't put it in their top 10 riffs of all time, even if metal was included. People don't want this riff on the list.
    Dazed and Confused- Led Zeppelin
    Jimmy's just mirroring JPJ. I'd say that's an amazing bass riff, but not worthy of this list. Don't get me wrong; to me, Jimmy Page = Dave Grohl = God
    Cult of Personality-Living Colour
    How come black guys don't play guitar anymore? They kick ass at it! To think, black guys invented blues which led to rock&roll, and now they all play RAP. What the hell?
    White Stripes - Icky Thump
    the correct answer is Screwdriver, always Screwdriver
    Seven Nation Army isn't his best riff, but it gets my vote. It's pretty much the new Smoke on the Water; simple, catchy, and instantly recognised by everyone that hears it.
    Also was going to post Icky thump, better riff than Seven nation army in my opinion.
    back in black i think that was one of the first i learned at least
    Id like to say Stargazer by rainbow, just powerful.. And smoke on the water ofc.. thats a nobrainer
    John Frusciante is total garbage. This proves it once and for all.
    You're total garbage, man. Your comment proves that once and for all.
    Interstate Lovesong - STP
    one of my first riffs when I picked up the guitar to seriously learn, instead of goof off. +1