Top Ten Riffs For Summoning A Guitar Store Clerk

There are ten songs that boast riffs likely to be heard on a daily basis in guitar stores throughout the world.

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"Absolutely, under no circumstances at all are customers allowed to play "Stairway To Heaven", "Sweet Child O' Mine" or "Smoke On The Water" while trying out guitars". Sign in the window of a music store on Denmark St, in England.

It's imperative that anyone in the market for a new guitar have a grab-bag of great licks at his or her disposal. Ask any sampling of store clerks which riffs are played most often by potential buyers, and chances are you'll get a fairly wide range of selections.

Still, when a shopper takes a seat and cradles that Les Paul or SG, some licks just beg to be played. Below are ten songs that boast riffs likely to be heard on a daily basis in guitar stores throughout the world.

10. "Walk This Way" - Aerosmith

Based on the E blues scale (E G A B-flat B D), the opening lick to this funk-rock romp is a snap to master. Lots of novice players never venture past those first four bars, but that brief snippet comprises one of rock's most instantly recognizable hooks. Shoppers who go deeper into the song are guaranteed to cause heads to turn.

09. "La Grange" - ZZ Top

This prime example of ZZ Top's low-down boogie style kicks off with just a handful of notes, plucked with the promise of more powerful stuff to come. Sophisticated guitar shoppers are careful to incorporate the subtle bends Billy Gibbons tosses into the pattern. Players who move past the first drum-fill should have a pick handy, as Gibbons sets fire to the lick and kicks it into a full-on wallop.

08. "Smoke On The Water" - Deep Purple

Simplicity and brilliance have rarely merged in better fashion than on this Deep Purple classic. Virtually every beginning guitarist is drawn magnet-like to Ritchie Blackmore's easily-fingered two-string intro (although many make the mistake of picking the strings instead of plucking them). The verse sections are only a tad trickier, consisting, as they do, mostly of single notes and occasional double-stops played at a leisurely tempo.

07. "Purple Haze" - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

It's fitting that the very first song on Hendrix's very first album is also the one most often heard in guitar stores. The reason? The intro sounds amazing and is one of the most easily-grasped licks in the Hendrix canon. Based on E pentatonic minor, the intro is richly melodic in an outer-space sort of way. For players drawn toward psychedelic-blues, this riff offers a great test-run.

06. "Enter Sandman" - Metallica

Some shoppers are compelled to play "Enter Sandman" because it's simple; others are drawn to the song's ominous vibe. Moreover, as metal riffs go, this one ranks among the most melodic. Lars Ulrich once aptly characterized "Enter Sandman" as a "one-riff" song, since all the parts emanate from Kirk Hammett's memorable lead pattern.

05. "Sunshine Of Your Love" - Cream

This riff is not only one of Eric Clapton's most memorable, it's also one of the most fun licks for beginners to play. Nailing the song's signature vibrato is probably the trickiest challenge, along with accurately duplicating Clapton's renowned late '60s "woman tone". It's imperative that an SG be the instrument of choice for shoppers using this Cream classic as their "test" riff.

04. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Nirvana

Shoppers of a certain age invariably like to showcase their skills with this alternative-rock classic. Played in the key of F minor, the main riff consists of four power chords played in a syncopated sixteenth note strum. In typical fashion, Cobain brushed aside the riff's minimalist brilliance, hinting that it was a rip-off of Boston or even The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie". In point of fact, the riff was a master-stroke that established how grunge players approached their instrument.

03. "Heartbreaker" - Led Zeppelin

We understand that a day rarely passes that guitar clerks aren't treated to at least one version of "Stairway To Heaven" Still, "Heartbreaker" is the go-to Led Zeppelin riff for electric-guitar shoppers. Characterized by paint-by-numbers simplicity and elegant blues aggression, the intro marks one of the first instances in which Jimmy Page used his famous Les Paul/Marshall stack combination. Steve Vai once said it was this riff that "had the biggest impact on [him] as a youth". The same is undoubtedly true for a sizeable portion of guitar shoppers.

02. "Sweet Child O' Mine" - Guns N' Roses

The opening riff for this Guns N' Roses classic has all the ingredients aspiring six-stringers love: majesty, melody and just enough difficulty to constitute a challenge. Comprised of a simple eight-note pattern, the riff pedals around the fifth note of the key a standard exercise in rock guitar. It's ironic that a riff that started out as a throwaway exercise for Slash is now regarded as a prime example of why melodic octaves sound so great.

01. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" - The Rolling Stones

It's a good thing it was Keith Richards who dreamed the riff for "Satisfaction". A less astute player might have laughed it off as child's play, rather than seeing it for the slice of minimalist brilliance that it is. Echoes of Richards' beloved Chuck Berry licks can be heard in those four simple notes. Many shoppers gussy up "Satisfaction" with their own personal flourishes, giving the lick an even greater wallop than it already has.

Thanks for the report to Russell Hall, Gibson.com

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    nargoth
    These are the traditional ones we all love as guitar store classics, but now when I go into a guitar store, all I hear is CHUG CHUG CHUG SQUEAL played by a bunch of br00tal kids who are in the guitar store to escape from home because they are angsty at the fact their parents made them tidy their bedroom. No kiddin' either. I'm right about these sort of things.
    Amuro Jay
    I like to out-brutal the brutal kids and play along to whatever the beginners are playing, except correctly. Checked.
    Jesus_Dean
    I'm gonna write all these songs down and run to the next guitar shop. I'll time myself to see how long it takes to get kicked out and then post my time for the rest of you to try and beat.
    ....Satan
    I don't care what people play. I go in, try out a few stuff, play what I want to play then leave. Seriously who cares what anybody else is playing. If their shredding or playing the Br00t4lz, why would it affect you?
    korbhag
    Just play some Protest the Hero. The clerk's gonna cry since he can't play it!
    CaMacKid
    This makes no sense. I don't know why people give a damn about pointless things like this. I don't care if some kid next to me is playing like crap, just as long as they don't talk it.
    Ghefly
    Mr Winters wrote: I don't really get all this hate towards "stupid kids who rape all the guitars by playing TEH BR00TZ". Just like you, these kids are in the store to try guitars, and just like you, these kids have their own tastes in music and they are going to play whatever they want to play, because it's what they like. There's no need to insult them just because you don't like br00tal chugga chugga stuff.
    I was just going to post another comment saying this but you got it in one. There's lots of music/guitarist elitism in music shops which I really hate. I've been to Denmark Street and everyone who works there is a stuck up prick (cept for the bass shop, they're cool).
    FRr3AkOnALEaSh
    Wither a kid is playing d4 br00tz or one of many songs in this list, at least their getting their ass off guitar hero thinking their boss after experting a song.
    mydian
    Wow. A bunch of musicians ripping on other musicians for playing (all be it not very well sometimes) their favorite song. Real mature. No wonder I can't get along with anyone in a band. Bunch of stuck up *****s.
    TheBlackening91
    But you guys need to remember not everyone is as amazing as UG users, we all know you're the best people in the world ever and you always to everything right, so there's no need to go on about it and insult other people (who are generally just beginners)
    HellsYeah
    dopelope wrote: I get sick of the teenies downtuning and messing up ALL the damn guitars in thte store. can't even try something out without spening 20 minutes tuning it to STANDARD.....
    It takes you 20 minutes to tune a guitar to standard...? Also, there are alot of great songs written in drop tuning. Not trying to be a prick here, just saying.
    Metalhead118
    I play some Riverside and King Crimson on guitars I'll never make enough money to own on an amp at a low volume...then piss off some wannabe shredder with "Big Love". Priceless
    Mr Winters
    I don't really get all this hate towards "stupid kids who rape all the guitars by playing TEH BR00TZ". Just like you, these kids are in the store to try guitars, and just like you, these kids have their own tastes in music and they are going to play whatever they want to play, because it's what they like. There's no need to insult them just because you don't like br00tal chugga chugga stuff.
    Controlpanel
    Brave Moonlight wrote: I've worked at a guitar store for 2 and a half years. Of this list, I've only heard people play Sweet o Child. Ignoring this list, Stairway to Heaven, every ****ing day.
    Smoke on the ater at every single fing store
    headbang123
    when i go to a guitar store i prefer to go all kirk hammet/synester gates on their ass
    stjimmy522
    i understand that some people are not that good or play fast and shred and such but can u do the rest of us some favors 1. Turn down the volume, we need to hear ourselves play. 2. Dont drop tune and forget to bring it back, it gets really annoying.
    Bezza27
    Me and my bass player got a bad reputation in a guitar store. We went in. He played a 500 Ibanez bass. And bought a kazoo. I played a les Paul and had some kind of riff-off with the girl trying out a tele next to me. That annoyed the clerks and then I bought a pack of strings and left. They seem to hate me now.
    rattleurhead
    Rebelloc : I dream of one day jamming with someone on poison was the cure.
    lets do it man! I play alot of Megadeth for distortion, usually Rust in Peace, Mechanix, Set the World Afire, or Holy Wars. For clean stuff I go with Lamb of God or In the Valley of the Shadow of Death by Manson. And if I feel like switching it up a bit, I'll play the Gerudo Valley theme from Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
    epic17
    I tend to hear One a lot. Most of the itme, it fails cause all the people know are the opening 3 notes.
    FireFromTheVoid
    I hardly go to GC cuz at mine their is always somebody playing so damn loud and its never like amazing its always likes unrecognizable string hitting
    slash 'n' dash
    i just rip out the fermented offal discharge solo haha jokes i can't play that i just go with the classics like metallica with a bit of trivium thrown in
    fuzzthedog
    jammyninja wrote: Hearing stuff like Bullet For My Valentine played badly is pretty excruciating as well.
    Not that hearing it played well is that great, either.
    asmileyfish
    I think i can see where ppl are coming from on those particuler songs being played alot but. i dont get what ppl dont like about shredders. if its what sumones feels as they play why shouldnt they shred?
    Brave Moonlight
    I've worked at a guitar store for 2 and a half years. Of this list, I've only heard people play Sweet o Child. Ignoring this list, Stairway to Heaven, every ****ing day.
    jammyninja
    Hearing stuff like Bullet For My Valentine played badly is pretty excruciating as well.
    Anjohl
    I don't agree with all of these, I play Smoke on the Water sometimes, but I play it properly, with the fingerpicked double stops. I have also gotten props from clerks for playing lesser known songs like Angry Again by Megadeth and Symptom of the Universe by Sabbath.
    Lion_Slicer
    I like Plug In Baby/Blood and Thunder. They're easy and give a good feel for the sound. If I feel showoffy (almost never) and get my hands on a 7-string I'll do Born by Nevermore. I wouldn't mind hearing Stairway if they didn't PICK the intro at like max distortion. What the hell.
    pineaple expres
    i think itd b cool to learn how to how to make a guitar talk and then just make the guitar ask them for help.
    Eifler121
    Anjohl wrote: I don't agree with all of these, I play Smoke on the Water sometimes, but I play it properly, with the fingerpicked double stops. I have also gotten props from clerks for playing lesser known songs like Angry Again by Megadeth and Symptom of the Universe by Sabbath.
    Symptom is an unknown song?
    sweep456
    Jesus_Dean wrote: I'm gonna write all these songs down and run to the next guitar shop. I'll time myself to see how long it takes to get kicked out and then post my time for the rest of you to try and beat.
    hm, do it, i have a bad guitar store reputation anyway czz everytime i came to the store i tested expensive guitar but then always bought only 1 f***king pick.
    pto654
    Midnightoutlaw wrote: ah i'll use the may i help you riff
    You have won the comment section for this list. I actually agree with this entire list. If you DON'T want to summon a clerk, play some Lamb of God or BTBAM
    ordinary_story
    BTBAM, Rush and Scar Symmetry is on top of my list...But I've been learning some Moon Safari songs and Heartland is now up there..Boosh!
    nailsarecruel
    EpiExplorer wrote: I dont even venture into guitar shops these days, mostly because they can be very unkind towards anyone who doesn't want to buy anything. Denmark street in particular. I've been there 3 times, 4 of the shops are run by the moodiest wankers ever and dont help you with anything aside from 'You gonna pay up front?'.
    Same problem I've got, but with a twist: the basic music store which is a dream for standard tuning has the most helpful clerks. They know their stuff, are really helpful and can even throw in a quick, free music lesson. Great guys, but they don't have 7-string guitar string packs. So I head to the pro-semi pro shop. They've got the stuff you need for extended range instruments, but the asshat hipster guy behind the counter just reeks of condescension and is determined to look cool manning the cash register. You got a question or need for recommendation? Simple: buy the priciest one. But don't take too long pondering your options, because he'd rather you use the music shop like a drive-thru. Absolute twat. As for me playing something, I get overly self conscious and "forget how to play".
    Twistedrock
    There's one quote that will sum up every ****ing post here. Each to their ****ing own. >_
    dynastywest69
    shred_wizzard wrote: ChucklesMginty wrote: Where the hell is Crazy Train? my thoughts exactly
    +1
    LordArbiter
    Whenever I go into a guitar shop to try out a bass, I always play something by Funkadelic to try and see if any of the clerks know anything besides the top ten riffs on this list.
    AlanD
    nothing is worse than a kid playing tons of riffs andthen walks out with out even buying a pack of strings. Some of us have had to make a living selling guitars at one poin in our lives. Plus there is always at least one person in the store that could run circles around what that person that shows off. I think that people should test the equipment to see how it plays not show everyone how you play.
    darkfire_storm
    Midnightoutlaw wrote: ah i'll use the may i help you riff
    i was just thinking this list was trash unless number one was the "may i help you" riff. failed again, UG...
    XSamX
    Jesus_Dean wrote: I'm gonna write all these songs down and run to the next guitar shop. I'll time myself to see how long it takes to get kicked out and then post my time for the rest of you to try and beat.
    hahahahah please do that
    ATFN
    When I teach my students some classic licks. I always tell them: "this is not to go play in a music store". How about playing Bach's toccata fugue in Dm. Some say he used it to test Organ's.