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The 10 Gnarliest Guitar Riffs Of All Time

  • 15 Nov 2015

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The 10 Gnarliest Guitar Riffs Of All Time

The guitar: the poignant instrument in popular music. Whether rock, pop, indie or alternative, the guitar is always there to provide searing melodies that will go straight into the audience’s fondest memories. From time to time, however, there are a few instances where such a euphorically stimulating riff is created that it’s burned into your brain immediately, and you can’t help but head bang furiously. Here are 10 of the best:


1. Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘No One Knows’

Always making it into the top lists across the internet, Josh Homme and co.’s classic tune is one that stands out for guitarists everywhere. The song’s opening is immediately recognisable from it’s sense of urgency and unique crunch effect, before Homme’s pining vocal enters the fray.


2. Muse – ‘Plug In Baby’

Arguably the best opening to a track of all time, ‘Plug In Baby’ is the biggest riff that Muse have mustered and possibly one of the biggest any artist has managed come up with in the past 20 years. After a strange and distorted opening, the guitar comes through and pierces your eardrum with one sole purpose: to get you off the sofa and miming along.


3. Jimi Hendrix – ‘Purple Haze’

A golden oldie of the rock world, Hendrix’s famous opening lick couldn’t help but pop itself on the list. The man introduced the world to his vision of guitar music, and opened up a whole new path for contemporary music. With bends and slides aplenty, ‘Purple Haze’ is America’s anthem of the 60s.


4. Blur – ‘Song 2’

At first it seemed very strange that Blur would come out with a monster riff like this, but after a week or so of its release it was engraved into British culture. The song lulls you into a false sense of security with its fairly tame opening few seconds, before a barrage of noise enters the fray.


5. Deep Purple – ‘Smoke On The Water’

One of two riffs that you first learn on guitar, it’s so blissfully easy to rock out to that we couldn’t keep it off the list. Referenced in numerous films and used by tutors across the country to look cool, it’s was actually slated for being “too simple” at first, before the composers pointed out that a lot of Beethoven’s work was based on 4 note arrangements. Schooled!


6. Nirvana – ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’

This is part 2 of songs you first learn on guitar. The number 1 grunge anthem of all time, Kurt’s genius is exemplified in its finest form with the vintage riff that gives you goose bumps every time you hear it. While Nirvana had some amazing tracks, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is the fame-clincher


7. Rage Against The Machine – ‘Killing In The Name Of’

Muse’s frontman Matt Bellamy has admitted to taking a huge amount of inspiration from Rage, and it’s easy to see why. Huge melodies, damning lyrics, it’s a emotional ride on a riff made of protest and overdrive. Who else wants to rise up against society? Playing this on guitar will certainly make you do that.


8. The Rolling Stones – ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’

Another old British anthem, this is one of the landmark guitar tracks of our time. When this was released back in the day it blew everyone’s minds, and has continued to do so over the decades. What it now lacks in production quality is certainly made up for in their live performances.


9. The White Stripes – ‘Seven Nation Army’

Where to even begin. One of the biggest guitar riffs of the modern era, this is Jack White on top form, and it will remain in history as probably the biggest track made by a duo as a band. Forget those Black Keys riffs: White’s composition is the REAL deal.


10. Derek & The Dominoes – ‘Layla’

Often under looked, this is Eric Clapton’s finest moment. Fronting a band with his huge amount of talent on the fretboard is something that’s unrivalled, and when the first note of the lick hits your lugholes you know exactly what time it is: air guitar time. And time to appreciate just how amazing Clapton’s guitar skills really are.


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