Top Ten Greatest Guitar Riffs

DeathToMayo

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

What a great riff from a great band! I love how Richie Blackmore plays this riff, even though it is very simple he makes it sound brilliant! And a top album to boot!

Richie Blackmore sucks but the riff is good

Richie Blackmore sucks? You never listened to Highway Star or Child in Time. Just saying. And it's Ritchie not Richie. - Userguy44

V 52 Comments
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!

Ask someone if he knows that. He will recognize it! It' the most famous of all! And to be so famous. it's to be absolutely great! ;-)

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

V 86 Comments
3 Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne

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.

Without doubt, this song ought to be among the top three greatest riffs ever... Randy rhoads for the win

Randy was a genius. This riff is iconic and distinctive as hell. EVERYONE knows it. Period.

V 25 Comments
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

SINISTER! LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOLOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT... You get the idea - MasterThrasher

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

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

V 35 Comments
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

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

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

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

V 24 Comments
6 Iron Man - Black Sabbath

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

How Is This Number Nine?!
Number 2 For Sure! - Neosantana

This is definitively number 1! I can't believe they put Sweet Child O' Mine before this AMAZING song! What is wrong with you people! Tony Iommi is the riff master!

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

V 13 Comments
7 (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones

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

If this isn't number one, it's time to go back to the drawing board. There is just no comparison. - chris.cg.102

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.

So simple but so good

V 10 Comments
8 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.

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.

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

V 17 Comments
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

V 34 Comments
10 Back In Black - AC/DC

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

back in balck is the best album, best song, and best riff by acdc. its the best riff ever fun to play or listen to. - lezakattack

Come on this is the most iconic badass riff ever written. 40 years after and sign of aging.

V 20 Comments

The Newcomers

? 2 Minutes to Midnight - Iron Maiden
? Rockin' In the Free World - Neil Young

Good song. And great guitar work. - Userguy44

The Contenders

11 Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes

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

I love this, but may I remind you this is mostly the bass? - GGiant1921

V 10 Comments
12 Paranoid - Black Sabbath

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

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

13 Day Tripper - The Beatles

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

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

Without doubt one of the iconic riff of all time

Best riff ever!

V 2 Comments
14 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.

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

The Mac Daddy of blues rock riffs.

V 8 Comments
15 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.

One of the the best. Love it. Makes me really smile when l hear it. And also the best band ever.

V 6 Comments
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.

17 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

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! "

Hey the most addictive solo in rock n' roll history hey this has to be at the top

You'll be hypnotize if you listen this.simply magical.

V 18 Comments
18 Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd

Sweet Home Alabama! ROLL TIDE ROLL!

19 Black Dog - Led Zeppelin

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

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

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

€�Sexiest riff ever’

V 9 Comments
20 Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love - Van Halen

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

Eddie is a one of kind

Shreddie Van Halen!

Best guitar

V 1 Comment
21 Highway To Hell - AC/DC

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

Simple
BUT THE BEST RIFF EVER - shatti

Very catchy and hard-ass

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

22 The Trooper - Iron Maiden

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

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

V 6 Comments
23 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.

Awesomeness

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

24 Rock You Like a Hurricane - Scorpions

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

This song completely rocks! The Scorps have so many GREAT guitar riffing songs, it makes your head spin. Women also love the Scorps.

V 2 Comments
25 Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - Jimi Hendrix

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

Clearly more people need to take The Jimi Hendrix Experience!

This is one of the most iconic guitar riffs EVER. It hurts me to think about how many of the first 65 songs don't deserve to be on this list.

Top of the list surely

V 9 Comments
26 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.

First riff I ever learned

V 5 Comments
27 Holy Wars... The Punishment Due - 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 45...wow, 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

Underrated, Megadeth OWNS RIFFS!

V 14 Comments
28 Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

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

29 Whole Lotta Rosie - AC/DC
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

31 Photograph - Def Leppard

Should be #1. Classic riff. - truckturner

32 Layla - Derek And The Dominos

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

bare 42?

33 Raining Blood - Slayer

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

34 Money for Nothing - Dire Straits

WHY IS THIS NUMBER 85? This is such an incredible riff! How is Avenged Sevenfold, Nirvana, The White Stripes and "SLIPKNOT" (what) ahead of this amazing riff? Get your money for nothing' an' your chicks for free!

This is one of those that you just can't prevent yourself from playing the air guitar to. Mark Knopfler's tone with this song, as well as the overall beat make for one of the best songs of the 1980's. - c0mf0rta61ynum6

It even sounds great on acoustic, but when distorted it becomes as iconic as anything. Sure, some of the higher-rated riffs come from great songs, but taking just the riff alone, it's clearly top-ten material.

How many guitarists have a dinosaur named after them

V 13 Comments
35 Otherside - Red Hot Chili Peppers

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

36 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

This riff is relaxing. - zxm

V 5 Comments
37 Purple Haze - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

This song is so fun to play it's something I try to play every time I perform. I think it's cool the inspration for the song was an aquatic dream!

So great, it's on here three times - MojoSpaederman

38 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

Better than many riffs higher than it

V 1 Comment
39 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.

40 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!

THIS ISN"T A RIIF. IT HAS NO LICK IN IT AT ALL

V 2 Comments
41 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 :(

42 Plug in Baby - Muse

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 ;)

Great riff...
When I go in Guitar shops I see everyone play this its so good. - GlonnAtronnAdonnAdict

This is the sickest riff. Take it to the ER now. Call a doctor.

V 12 Comments
43 Burn - Deep Purple

Great start to the song - u12jb14

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

44 Working Man - Rush
45 Walk This Way - Aerosmith

The guitar groove in the verse (not the main chorus riff) is next to impossible to play. I can barely do it an I've been playing for 20 years! - waex

This is the best riff ever and no matter what you say people!

Joe Perry is so underrated. This riff is great and catchy. - Userguy44

46 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

V 2 Comments
47 Walk - Pantera

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

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

48 Hallowed Be Thy Name - Iron Maiden

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!

Love it, best song on 'Number if the Beast' and I'm an old rocker so I should know!

Get this song higher!

V 2 Comments
49 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!

50 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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List Stats

13,000 votes
542 listings
11 years, 173 days old

Top Remixes (62)

1. Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
2. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
3. Smoke On the Water - Deep Purple
DaRealXgen
1. Smoke On the Water - Deep Purple
2. Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
3. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
himanshu22
1. Smoke On the Water - Deep Purple
2. Iron Man - Black Sabbath
3. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
ryanrimmel

WRemix
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