A guitar riff is defined as a series of notes, a chord pattern, or musical phrase that is repeated over and over again in a song, or heard only once, say, in a lead guitar solo. Riffs can be minor decorative elements or they can be the basis of an entire song. The best riffs are simple but immediately recognizable and are often enough to determine the tune’s lasting appeal. Everyone knows a good riff when they hear it. The very best are timeless.
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Hendrix comes to mind right off the top of my head. Zeppelin is another band that I immediately think of when it comes to great riffs. Just about everything and anything that emanates from Page’s guitar would qualify—”Kashmir,” “The Ocean,” “The Immigrant Song,” “Heartbreaker,” “Stairway,” and on and on. Metallica is another king of classic riffs. Think of “Enter Sandman,” “One,” and “Master of Puppets.” How about the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” and “Ticket to Ride?” Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” and “Crazy Train?” Dont forget about “Smoke on the Water,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Layla,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Back in Black,” “Satisfaction”… The list goes on and on.
It’s a lot of fun to learn how to play these classic riffs as they are instantly recognizable, quick to learn and will energize your playing. I encourage you to watch the video below to get some ideas of your favorite riffs and spend some time learning them.
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