Top 10 Weirdest Riffs of All Time

Rockers just get off their rockers sometimes.

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For this week's Wednesday Question, we asked you guys to name the single weirdest guitar riff in the history of rock and metal. Summing up your votes was quite an experience, check out the final list below.

10. Tool - Schism

Did you know that "Schism" changes time signature 47 times? It kicks off with two 5/4 bars, goes on with one 4/4 bar, followed by bars alternating 5/8 and 7/8, until the first interlude, which further consists of alternating 6/8 and 7/8 bars.

Then there's the verse, the middle section and the outro, featuring more 5/8, 7/8, 11/8, 6/8, 9/8, 10/8, 2/8, 4/4 and 5/4 bars.

Making matters even weirder, the band is referring to the "Schism" time signature as 6.5/8. Many composers would use 13/16 instead, but 6.5/8 is still a valid fractional time signature nevertheless. Granted, this is the explanation of the full song, but it's still weirdness galore here.

9. Rage Against the Machine - Ashes in the Fall

This one might remind you of an old dial-up modem, but it's a riff and of course, it's played on a guitar. Just goes to show that Tom Morello always has plenty of tricks up his sleeve.

8. Mr. Bungle - My Ass Is on Fire

One of those blatantly weird, yet awesome tunes - Mr. Bungle and "My Ass Is on Fire." A bit of King Crimson, a bit of Zappa and a teaspoon of magic weirdness. And shouting, never forget shouting.

7. The Fall of Troy - Dirty Pillow Talk

Up next are the Fall of Troy and their 2009 track "Dirty Pillow Talk." Squeaky sound, weird vibe, 'tis all there.

6. Alice in Chains - Sickman

This one came about when late singer Layne Staley asked guitarist Jerry Cantrell to "write him the sickest tune, the sickest, darkest, most f--ked-up and heaviest thing he could write." The resulting track is right below.

5. Buckethead - Jordan

It's hard to believe that "Jordan" riff was recorded on a guitar, but that's the mastery of Mr. Buckethead right there. You guys also made sure to point out the "chicken-picking riff" at 3:02.

4. Mastodon - Divinations

Mastodon's "Divinations" kicks off with that nice banjo-sounding riff right before jumping into the Black Sabbath-like monster riff right afterwards. A fine tune, and quite a peculiar one as well.

3. Primus - Jerry Was a Race Car Driver

Primus sucks. And that's a bass riff.

2. Nirvana - Hairspray Queen

Driven by Krist Novoselic's weird bass line, Nirvana's "Hairspray Queen" is further fueled by Kurt Cobain's weird guitar riff, serving as a perfect introduction to some weird vocals. It's a weirdness frenzy here!

1. Queens of the Stone Age - I'm Designer

Taking the weirdness crown, Queens of the Stone Age claim the throne with "I'm Designer." Josh Homme and co. have the power of turning what seems as doodling guitar wankery into a genuine catchy tune and they demonstrate it perfectly here.

145 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    GtrVieth
    There should be a "Weirdest Bands" list next to go with this
    qrEE
    don't worry, Queens of the Stone Age will still win. They always do for some reason.
    Burnzyburns
    Seems to me that the general guitar sound from all of Era Vulgaris is what was voted in, and "I'm Designer" is the representative because it is arguably oddest song on it... but the riff is just too simple to be the 'weirdest,' if you ask me.
    jonathan.keeler
    Thats a good idea actually. I think out of these ten on here, the chickin pickin riff from jordan was probably the weirdest. Also I think Schism has closer to 100 time changes.
    H3LLB0Y
    Do the alternating 5/8 + 7/8 and then 6/8 + 7/8 really count as changes? I would have considered the 5/8 + 7/8 to be a 12/8 riff, and then the change to the 13/8 riff instead, so that's a single change not 1 per bar? I don't think having 18 (or however many that makes it) time signature changes makes it any less awesome of a song though!
    azrael667
    To be fair the 100 or so time changes makes it appear much more complex than it actually is. This is one example where the theory behind is may be harder than the actual song. (let the downvoting begin)
    tonello
    technically, they do count as time changes. thats why the band uses 6.5/8 time because it reduces the number of time changes
    MyUserName777
    If there is, I'm casting my vote for Primus and Babymetal.
    thebigredjj10
    Mr. Bungle, System of a Down, Strapping Young Lad/ Devin Townsend, Buckethead, anything Frank Zappa was in, Gentle Giant, and Gong should all get consideration as well. Primus should definitely win though. The only band that reaches their level of "weirdness" is Mr. Bungle. Being weirder than Frank Zappa or Devin Townsend is an accomplishment!
    Xpl0r
    Just from seeing Devin Townsend Project live with Ziltoids 20 minute long video intro prior to Devin blasting out on stage more than gains my vote for weirdest band, braw gig, even if I was incredibly drunk and dragged away from it early
    Jimjambanx
    Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains. Buckethead and Les Claypool, I needn't say more.
    Jimjambanx
    Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains. Buckethead and Les Claypool, I needn't say more.
    Kueller917
    I don't find I'm Designer #1 worthy.
    iommi600
    Rule #1: anything QotSA put out deserves to be #1, any day of the week.
    KungFuRooster
    I think Turning on the Screw is a much weirder riff if you're talking Era Vulgaris. Otherwise, I Think I Lost My Headache takes the cake for me. It sounds like a headache... 'nuff to drive a Jazz guy insane
    real182
    I think that QOTSA deserves No.1 in general. Just think about Fun machine took shit and died, Keep your eyes peeled, Battery acid etc. They know how to do weird riffs
    Kueller917
    Kinda related, I would be more accepting if Fun Machine was #1 rather than I'm Designer. The former I do consider a bit of a strange riff.
    JBTheLefty
    It seems Incesticide had a lot of weird riffs, like Beeswax, Mexican Seafood, and Aero Zeppelin. But Hairspray Queen takes the cake from the album, definitely.
    Krieger91
    Pretty good list.. My own two cents is that Korns' A.D.I.D.A.S deserved a spot. That riff is just some ill noise, but obviously it didn't get enough votes.