Five Riffs Every Guitarist Should Know

Published on 07 January 2020

We've all been there. We have all air-guitared and horrendously sang along to some of the world's most iconic guitar riffs at some point in our lives. They are catchy, repetitive and easily get stuck in our heads... the most important elements of a good riff in our opinion. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate or an experienced player, you've gotta have a couple of impressive, classic riffs under your belt that you can whip out at any time to impress your friends.

Aside from being your go-to party trick, learning riffs is also a good way to improve your technique and fretboard knowledge. 

So, have your axe at the ready, plug it in, crank up the volume and get ready to rock out! We've created a list of five iconic riffs every guitarist should know, or should at least learn at one point in their guitar playing career. Let's go! 

Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Right, we're really not messing around here. Calling Jimi Hendrix 'The Ultimate Riff Master', would be the understatement of the century. Hendrix single-handedly pushed and tested the boundaries of music while cranking out some of the most iconic and inventive riffs ever to be recorded. Voodoo Child as a track is a banquet of tasty licks, effects, and tones. But let's not forget about it's cracking opening riff! 

Black in Black - AC/DC

One of the best riffs of all time, in our opinion, Back in Black by AC/DC. Yeah, that riff. If you've never air-guitared to this tune... like, seriously? Are you OK?!? I mean, it's only the title track of one of the biggest-selling albums in history. No biggie. 

Now that we've mentioned this epic tune, the odds that you'll be singing it for the rest of the day are very high. We're not sorry about this.  

Paranoid - Black Sabbath

We're sure that you all know and love this song... Tony Iommi's work needs no introduction. Here's a fact for ya... did you know that Sabbath almost never recorded this tune because they feared that it sounded a little too much like Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown"? 

Whole lotta love - Led Zeppelin 

Coined as the 'most important guitar riffs of the 20th century' by record producer Steve Levine, this Zeppelin song is instantly recognizable. Two notes in and we're already air-guitaring, and we know you are too! It's undeniable that this album opener revolutionised the round of rock vocal and guitar. Jimmy Page came up with the riff in the summer of '68, on his houseboat on Thames after being inspired by his love for big rockabilly intros. While recording the intro riff, Page used a Sunburst 1958 Les Paul Standard through a 100w Marshall "Plexi" head amp with distortion from the EL34 output valves. 

Day Tripper - The Beatles

This Beatles classic is a great one if you are starting out on your riff playing journey. Despite how masterful this song sounds, this track was actually written in a hurry. The band were pressured to write a single to accompany the release of Rubber Soul. Lennon and McCartney quickly got to work, and based the track from a blues song Lennon had written previously. The riff is an interesting one too, as it incorporates elements of both the minor and major scale. 

 Even the man himself Jimi Hendrix, would cover this cracker of a tune at his concerts! Amazing. 


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