[Top 10] Best guitar riffs in rock history
In rock bands, the singer is not always the only leader. The guitarist, is also often seen as a charismatic musician, occupying a leading role in the formation and he alone can set fire to the scene or to your musical game night
While vocals are indeed what we will most remember in a hit, guitar riffs are also an important part of the appeal of a rock track. The guitar "solo" is a bit of a climax: the moment of bravery in a rock song which, through its technical demonstration, can make its guitarist legendary.
SongTrivia took a look at some of the most iconic guitar riffs in rock history, through a selection of well-known classics and personal favorites. Let's go for a roaring top 10 to add when doing a “Guess the song” game!
- Trampled Under Foot - Led Zeppelin (1975)
We could have put, like everyone, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, which remains one of the most relentless riffs in rock history, with this purring guitar ready to explode. But for a touch of originality, we will focus on this equally dantesque guitar melody by Mr. Jimmy Page. Madness according to us. Enough to spice up your musical quiz with friends.
- Smoke on the Water - Deep Purple (1972)
It's hard to miss the most famous riff in the world. All the apprentice guitarists wanted to play it, or were "forced" to learn it in class! Did you know that the song was composed following a fire at the Montreux casino in Switzerland, where the group was about to record their next album? “Smoke on the water” in fact refers to Lake Geneva!
- Get It On - T. Rex (1971)
With its very short, looping notes, this is perhaps one of the simplest riffs. And yet, its execution makes it one of the most effective one. As a proof, let's look at its number 1 place in the British charts for 4 consecutive weeks and its multiple covers, notably by Oasis, inspired by it for their single "Cigarettes & Alcohol".
- (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones (1965)
This riff is probably the best known after “Smoke On The Water”. With the same simplicity as “Get It On”, Satisfaction seems to have been built around the most perfect 3 note sequence that can exist. A brilliant idea that Keith Richards would have had while sleeping, and he recorded it immediately after waking up. Add to this is an impossible chorus you can't forget, sung by Mick Jagger… A hit in the making!
- Reptilia - The Strokes (2003)
The 70s were rich in memorable riffs, but rock was not dead in the 2000s… Far from it! The New York band The Strokes rekindled the flame with Is This It, one of the best albums of the decade. But it's on their next record that we find the best guitar riff and solo: "Reptilia".
- Highway to Hell - AC / DC (1979)
It is one of the Australian band's most famous singles, as well as the highlighted track from the latest album featuring frontman Bon Scott, who died less than a year after its release. The first notes played are those of the guitar, piercing the surrounding silence: a truly epic opening. Experts should recognize the song from the first seconds of your “Guess the song” night!
- Hate To Say I Told You So - The Hives (2000)
The Hives have so many great riffs that you could easily make a Top 10 just with their discography. The monumental, critically acclaimed “Hate To Say I Told You So” brings together all of the band's ingredients for success: swing, energy and rock'n'roll!
- Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (1991)
The raw sound of the guitar, coupled with the power of the drums, makes it one of the most furious riffs in rock. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the single that put Nirvana in the spotlight and helped the album Nevermind sell millions of copies.
- Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes (2003)
Before being a stadium anthem, repeated in chorus by all football fans, “Seven Nation Army” is above all, one of the greatest alternative rock songs of the 2000s. The minimalism of the riff and the drums has greatly contributed to its impact.
- Song 2 - Blur (1997)
The quality of the riff of “Song 2” depends as much on its heavy chords, played during the chorus, as on its subtle sharp notes. A good way to give contrast and accentuate the most intense moments.
Our selection of the best rock'n'roll riffs ends here but, between Hendrix, Guns N 'Roses or Rage Against The Machine, we were naturally tempted to add many more ... And you, what are your favorites and what would you put in a musical game night with friends?