Top Ten Songs with the Greatest Guitar Riffs


The Top Ten

1 Smoke On the Water - Deep Purple

Simply the greatest and most memorable guitar riff ever, written by Ritchie Blackmore, the greatest, most all-round talented guitarist ever. He had a gift for great riffs, amongst many other things, and this riff will forever ensure he has a spot in history.


This is the most recognised riffs in rock n' roll history.. Ritchie blackmore has down an excellent job in this song.. I even like his riffs in his "rainbow" band too - amitcornelius1

Definitely #1 HOWEVER you don't even list #2. Godzilla by BOC

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2 Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses

"I don't understand why people compare Slash to God. I'm mean God is good but he's not Slash. "
-somebody on YouTube

Hell no this can't be! Smoke on the water is easy to play and even I can play it on my guitar but sweet child of mine I can't even imagine how slash plays the riffs without a hinge whereas I can even play the first chord of the song. This should be number 1!

Its just epic

Slash is virtuoso on the guitar. This is his best effort.

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3 Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne


cool riff

Really? This far down in the list? Crazy Train must have the best riff ever. Randy Rhoads left this piece of music for us and it's so far down the list. what is the world getting to? - 2440080345

Did you listen to the riff before giving it a score. Randy Rhoads is awesome. Most of his riffs come from his classical guitar studies, and I have heard comments from other band members like "while some of the band was doing drugs and getting laid, Randy was practicing, and you would have to to be that good. I would like to know what the scores are based on.

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4 Enter Sandman - Metallica

This one blows all of the options away! Hands down the best rock song and riff ever to hit the airwaves to this day. - suthrnbell0105

It's quite similar to Smoke on the Water. - Alkadikce


never heared such a 'deathly' riff... - sumitgd3

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5 Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin

this should so be #1! smoke on the water is good but too over rated and over played. - dltafrc21

In response to the guy who's talking about the song's use of Muddy Waters' lyrics, that isn't really relevant here! We're talking about riffs, and Whole Lotta Love's riff is 100% Jimmy Page! Not to mention 100% rocking' hard. - higgsboson2142

The best of th best! long live led zep! although RIP for john bohnam! - Jedi99

Jimmy page is the best... The horny sound in the middle of the song is sexy;)... Other bands like Guns N' Roses had copied this idea - Joyrider

Jimmy Page is the god of riffs. No other can match his guitar genius.

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6 Iron Man - Black Sabbath

The most catchy tune for a Heavy Metal riff since this was the birth of metal anyways..

Great Job Geezer & Toni for putting this up

This riff is AWESOME!

Why is this so low, this is a great classic. If you don't know about this... Then you don't watch the Iron Man movie or listen real rock songs.

Its to hard to pick just one riff, I don't c in the list you really got me from the kinks,

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7 Layla - Derek & The Dominos

Eric Clapton! Enough said! - Nirmal1991USA

Everyone can sing this riff, and whether or not you like him as a man, Eric Clapton is an incredibly talented guitarist. This riff is a classic and always will be.

Eric Clapton didn't even write the riff. Still one of the best

What do you mean whether or not you like him as a man? He's always been a decent person. Worst thing you could ever say was he once had a drug problem. Oh Gee, him, me, and everyone else our age. He went into seclusion after Layla, resurfaced 2 years later for the Rainbow concert but he was never as good as before. He was smart or lucky enough the stuff didn't kill him like others.

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8 (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones

Seriously, not even in the top five?

So simple but so good

It's the tone that sounds like a foghorn blasting you from a deep sleep.

This riff literally is so unique. Keith Richards apparently woke up in the middle of the night with the riff in his head, recorded it, and went back too bed. He said he had no memory of doing this and woke up in the morning with this sick riff on the tapes.

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9 Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

Yup has to be in the 10 lists because the riffs by Cobain were so amazing and that he provided undeniable vocals make this still a contender for a the greatest song ever

smells like teen spirit is one of the best songs of all time, and it's refreshing to see a list where HEART isn't in the top ten - pauler94

Some of the best riffs are not even on the top 10 come on people by the way SLTS is one of the easiest riffs to learn but it makes you go crazy when the guitar goes into overdrive

Best song ever

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10 Back In Black - AC/DC

50 million copies sold yet somehow not #1. Enter Sandman right behind.

The Riff that helped sell approx. 50 million albums, 'enough said.

Yeah definitely it should be in the top ten it has a great riff

How are no AC/DC riffs even in the top 5? Highway to hell, hells bells, back in black, TNT.

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The Newcomers

? Symptom of the Universe - Black Sabbath UListen to Sample
? Humans Being - Van Halen UListen to Sample

The Contenders

11 Paranoid - Black Sabbath

Better riff than all the others on this list, it was also written in like 30 minutes - Sultan_of_Swing

This is one easy song and still it rocks, and think how many covers this song has, so if you don't like the original, there somewere would one you would like. Vote for the best song ever

First song I ever learned on guitar, and the opening riff is still my favorite riff of all time.

12 Day Tripper - The Beatles

Best riff ever!

Go ahead, listen to this song, just hear that riff

Without doubt one of the iconic riff of all time

Should at least be in the top ten. so recognizable.

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13 Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes

Its actually an a downtuned guiter, not a bass

When people sing this song at a football game without even knowing who wrote it, you when you know it's a memorable riff.

Gosh, I love The White stripes. If I could play guitar, I'd learn all their songs! Especially "little cream soda".

Sick riff! This is one of those songs you can't get out of your head! Definitely in the top 10

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14 Kashmir - Led Zeppelin

Seriously what!?!? This has to be number 1! Smoke on the water is overplayed... Arguably zeppelin's best riff... Page is just amazing

This is number 1 and we all know it. actually everyone in the world has heard this at least once

Best riff ever

I thought this was the most recognized one, maybe not the best but come on, make anybody listen to the riff on this track, and they'll be like: "Hey I know this song! "

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15 Black Dog - Led Zeppelin

Slash said that this riff was the "sexiest of all time" I heartily agree, but the rest of this song is kind of annoying - Sultan_of_Swing

Killer, I love playing this riff, it never gets old. This should be way up in the top 10! Smells like teen spirit is in the top 10? I don't get it, it sounds good, but talk about easy to play. Cool technical riffs belong in the top

Can you think of a cooler, bad-ass riff to listen to. Nope, and even slash agrees. The ultimate Led Zeppelin riff, much better than whole lotta love. Smoke on the water was everyone's first riff, but this was everyone's favourite - Ledjam17

I thought everybody thought this was the greatest riff ever? I mean... Slash labelled it the sexiest riff of all time, and it was incredibly complex when written for the studio version

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16 You Really Got Me - The Kinks

I love the the guitar work ihope tobe that good someday

Wonder to see it down here. Undoubtedly, "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks is one the best riffs ever. Just check it out, it's awesome. So upvote, come on.

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17 Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love - Van Halen

Best guitar

Shreddie Van Halen!

why is this not on the list?
the best intro of all time - richie4life

Eddie is a one of kind

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18 The Trooper - Iron Maiden

Trooper should take sweet child's place. The only riff that sent me flying away off my chair. - lntxp01

I was blown away the first time I heard "The Trooper. " Really a great song.

What! How is this not in the top 5. Heavy metal was basically create around the GALLOPING riffs of THE TROOPER

This is the perfect melodic guitar riff. Amazing. Can't believe it's not in top 5 - TheoDR

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19 Thunderstruck - AC/DC

Honestly this riff is extremely easy. But that being said its still one of the best song riffs ever.

Why isn't this song higher? - masonkv

Seriously amazing. You need to be REALLY good to beat this one. Epic, difficult, and AWERSOME.

Best fast guitar playing ever!

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20 Sunshine of Your Love - Cream

Hard to pick one riff, but this riff is simply amazing enough to get my vote. One of the greatest songs ever on one of the greatest albums ever released. Disraeli Gears!

Clapton doesn't use feedback like this any more, worse the luck. Baker's drums, Bruce's bass/vocals very good, but the guitar lick and the various fills he use still make hairs stand up.

The Mac Daddy of blues rock riffs.

Great song, and to the guy who commented on Smells like Teen Spirit, Smoke on the Water came out in the Seventies... - raiderfan372

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21 Rock You Like a Hurricane - Scorpions

Rudolph Schenker is such a class act as are the other Scorps.

Scorpions are definitely underrated I see. Rock you like a hurricane, Believe in love and some handful other of their songs have the greatest of riffs in rock history.

I would also vote for boston... These two songs made me want to play the guitar

The Scorpions invented shredding... This song epitomizes this technique

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22 Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - Jimi Hendrix

He was like a God of the guitar..

Shame on you humanity! This must be in top 10. Shame. Shame.

Top of the list surely

This is a disgrace. Voodoo Child at number 42? Wow, this lists needs some serious contemplation.

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23 Holy Wars... The Punishment Due - Megadeth

There's riffs, there's RIFFS, and then there's Megadeth.

Wow. Just wow. You people who voted must not know what a guitar riff even is if Holy Wars is all the way down here. The fact that Enter Sandman is at number 3 shows how ignorant and simple minded everyone is. That is a total joke. Enter Sandman should be on the worst riffs list. I know I sound like a fanboy, but any Megadeth song would beat the riffs ranked higher than this. The entire top ten list is nothing but simplistic rubbish that happens to be popular. Just because they are iconic does not mena that they are by any means the best riffs. In fact, a list of "best guitar riffs" should consist of songs by Megadeth, 80's era Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Death, Death Angel, Sacred Reich, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and newer bands like Havok, Evile, Warbringer, etc. But as usual, I get to see a list containing Guns N' Roses, Avenged sevenfold, System of a Down, and slipknot. Yay... -_-

Go to hell this is one of the best riffs ever written and it deserves at least a top 5 place. Don't believe me? Go and listen to the song. It will blow your brains out!

Only, seriously I get the classic ness or whatever of smoke on the water but seriously that riff is SO simplistic, holy wars is complex, thrashy, fast, intense and just awesome

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24 Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd

Should be at number 1

Sweet Home Alabama! ROLL TIDE ROLL!

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25 Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

One of the evilest Riff and should be way towards the top. Iommi is king of Riffs.

26 Highway To Hell - AC/DC

It's a legendary riff the best three chord riff ever


Very catchy and hard-ass

Try All Right Now by Free. same sounding riff. that was released before this song. - zxm

27 Whole Lotta Rosie - AC/DC

Angus - Angus - Angus - Angus!

28 Hells Bells - AC/DC

I think it has a very unique and recognizable sound! Like many AC/DC songs it is a short riff that is repeated. It also makes their songs easy to learn! This my personal favorite riff to play

Just saying, the music videos 4 this and back in black are almost the same, but the song "hells bells" is still excellent! I love the soft, creepy riff!

It's not the hardest to play, or the fastest, but this is the most memorable and my personal favorite AC/DC song in large part to the opening riff.

I just seen them live in their latest black ice tour and this song was AMAZING along with the whole show - endlessdream

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29 Photograph - Def Leppard

Should be #1. Classic riff. - truckturner

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30 One - Metallica

Should be in the top 10 because if you listen to the song you will hear the word "help" being tapped out in morse code. - thomasnirvanastroud

Why is this all the way down here?! It's one of the greatest guitar riffs EVER! AND one of the most recognisable, it should e in the top 20! - HenP

That clean intro is awesome and ya know, the OD. This is perfection at it finest

It should be in the top 1

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31 Money for Nothing - Dire Straits

Top 5 easily... a ranking of 31 shows not just how underrated Dire Straits is but also how under-appreciated

The best Riff ever.

Wauw nr 31... Top 3 Riff in my opinion. That shows that Dire straits are the most underrated band in history.

How many guitarists have a dinosaur named after them

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32 Layla - Derek And The Dominos

This is already on the list

Don't vote for this, vote for the one on page 1.

This is way to far down. This is a classic, and seriously, GIVE IT A LISTEN!

Best riff of all time, by far. way better than claptons original acoustic

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33 Otherside - Red Hot Chili Peppers

This is a very-simple riff, but I challenge anyyone to write one as amazing as this! - FireInMyDreams

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34 Snow (Hey Oh) - Red Hot Chili Peppers


The riff is awesome cause even thought Jphn Frusciante is playing really fast, it still sounds relaxing - RHCPfan

This riff... Simply amazing. It truly touches your soul and calms your entire body. Definitely the best riff of the 2000s.

Probably the best I have ever heard. And along with the entire songs makes it better

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35 Raining Blood - Slayer

The verse riff is insane! - Userguy44

While not as hard to play as people make it sound, it's very memorable and melodic.

I don't want to live on this planet anymore

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36 Killing In the Name - Rage Against the Machine

Why is this all the way down here? This is the greatest guitar riff in the history of rock, metal, nu metal, and all music genres

One of the best riffs in rock history, when you hear it you know what it is right away.

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37 Plug in Baby - Muse

So good I can't explain... vote this up

Rank 37! what?!

This should be number one. Matt is a revolutionary guitarist and an amazing song writer. I understand some people do not like Muse's style or how Matt uses his voice (I think he is amazing), but even they have to admit this riff is amazing. Forever a Muser.

This is the best Total Guitar voted of the past decade! :)

He should be in an higher rank! :)

It is also really good to play, and all the song is great ;)

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38 Working Man - Rush

Underrated gem

39 Burn - Deep Purple

George Gershwin - Fascinating Rhythm (got/inspired from classical music) - Alkadikce

Great start to the song - u12jb14

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40 Painkiller - Judas Priest

Priest has some of the best and heaviest guitar riffs of all time and they can't get even one song in the top 10?!

My favorite Riff of all time - christangrant

58? People are idiots

37? Really? Wow people, I don't even know what to say, this is one of the most amazkng riffs ever :(

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41 November Rain - Guns N' Roses

Guitar Riff isn't only about speed and loudness. Come on! I don't even see "Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin" up there! And this.. song has one of the PUREST RIFFS ever! The guitar sings, cries, and pulls you right into the heart of this song! Slash is wonderful and this riff is one, you should definitely listen to! I hope to see this up there someday along with 'Stairway to Heaven'.

This should be in the top 10, at least. One of the greatest riffs/solos ever. Better than 'Welcome to the Jungle' and 'Sweet Child O' Mine'

Have you ever listen a guitar sing? Yeah november rain does!

Slash on 39? Seriously? The best guitarist ever on 39?
Please listen to this at least once!
This is his best guitar riff after Sweet child of mine.

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42 All Along The Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix

These assessments are ridiculous and often just for promotional purposes. However intentionally provocative I will say that there is a lot of good music here. Though indistinguishable as to what is the best, if one can quantify that. I guess my biggest problem is who adjudicates over such a silly category. Often those with limited perspective, so we wallow in their design. Throw their judgments away. They have no voice of authority to do so. I'm an old man (64) and grew up with the greats, worked at the Fillmore East and will say that my view has no more merit than the idiots who propose such a silly idea. No Beck, Green, Lee etc etc... Haha, come on...

The best guitar rift of all time. He plays it straight, then slide, then wah wah, then back to straight. Not one other mentioned guitar rift has this variety or explosive energy. This should be Number One!

I would have liked to have been at the recording studio to hear this one being put down in history. I have listened to this song hundreds of times and I'm sure I will listen many hundreds more..

The intro is one of the most energetic things I have ever heard

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43 Walk - Pantera

Dime has way to many greatest riffs ever, but I will vote for the one highest on the list. Incredible.

Can't get it out of my head, and I want to jump around and destroy everything.

amzing riff one of the ones that you just cant get out of your head and when you hear you just star rockin-out where ever you are

One of the most powerful riffs of all time

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44 Stockholm Syndrome - Muse

Stockholm syndrome, plug in baby, citizen erased, assassin, reapers, and micro cuts!

Man! Great written guitar riff it is like a crazy left hand practising song

Cancion no parecida, pero con casi el mismo contexto que Citizen Erased
El riff lo es todo!
Buena melodia, y geniales complementos de bajo y bateria, entre las mejores 5 bandas de la historia!

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45 Are You Gonna Go My Way - Lenny Kravitz

. If I had a guitar I'd play this first. I really love this riff - BigBadBeast

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46 Paint it Black - The Rolling Stones

First riff I ever learned and one of the best in history

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47 Hallowed Be Thy Name - Iron Maiden

Which riff?

Get this song higher!

Completely underrated riff, solo, lyrics, and song. - VonHaggles

The song itself is not underrated, it is #1 on Best Iron Maiden songs and #17 on best songs of all time. - Alkadikce

Hallowed Be Thy Name is one of the greatest song in history. And riff is amazing!

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48 Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry

Should be higher up, probably lacks popularity because it's so hard to play but it is an awesome song.

The Father of them all, this Riff gave rise to half of the other riffs on this page so there's no way it should be this low down.


This is the father of rock'n roll, must be number one

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49 Rebel Rebel - David Bowie


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50 Heartbreaker - Led Zeppelin

So much more interesting than Smoke on the Water. Lets face it, a Jimmy Page riff must be number one, and this is the best Page riff.

The Only Riff In my opinion that gets better every time you here it. It just keeps on sounding more complex. In my opinion that is what a great riff needs!

Addictive and Page made every simple Riff he made sound bigger that it could ever get by any other

Absolutely fanatstic riff! And such a cool (and difficult to get right, I might add) sound that Jimmy played it with! I always use this riff as my tuning cycle, and whenever I need to warm up or anything, I play this riff. LED ZEPPELIN FOREVER!

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List Stats

13,000 votes
555 listings
12 years, 54 days old

Top Remixes (64)

1. Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
2. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
3. Smoke On the Water - Deep Purple
1. Smoke On the Water - Deep Purple
2. Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
3. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
1. Smoke On the Water - Deep Purple
2. Iron Man - Black Sabbath
3. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne

View All 64

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