Top 50 Guitar Riffs of All Time

Gibson have finished the final 10 in their series of top guitar riffs, but should all of these be in the list? Are they all genuine riffs?

Here in the Hitsquad / office, we had a bit of a discussion on what really constitutes a riff. Should a mostly chord based thing be a riff or should it only be counted if it’s mostly notes (melodic doesn’t seem to be the right word here)? And should it be played lower on the fretboard for extra grunt?

For example, ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ is what we consider to embody the best in what aught to be considered a riff. While on the other hand, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ is too far up the fretboard and should be more thought of as a lead rather than a riff.

Anyway – here’s what Gibson came up with:

1. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” The Rolling Stones

2. “Smoke on the Water,” Deep Purple

3. “Whole Lotta Love,” Led Zeppelin

4. “Iron Man,” Black Sabbath

5. “Back in Black,” AC/DC

6. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana

7. “You Really Got Me,” The Kinks

8. “Day Tripper,” The Beatles

9. “Walk This Way,” Aerosmith

10. “Sunshine of Your Love,” Cream

11. “Crazy Train,” Ozzy Osbourne

12. “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses

13. “Layla,” Derek and the Dominos

14. “Purple Haze,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience

15. “Enter Sandman,” Metallica

16. “Heartbreaker,” Led Zeppelin

17. “Black Dog,” Led Zeppelin

18. “Oh, Pretty Woman,” Roy Orbison

19. “Johnny B. Goode,” Chuck Berry

20. “Foxy Lady,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience

21. “I Feel Fine,” The Beatles

22. “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” Van Halen

23. “Seven Nation Army,” The White Stripes

24. “Ticket to Ride,” The Beatles

25. “Highway to Hell,” AC/DC

26. “Shakin’ All Over,” Johnny Kidd and the Pirates

27. “Rebel Rebel,” David Bowie

28. “Mannish Boy,” Muddy Waters

29. “Bo Diddley,” Bo Diddley

30. “Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses

31. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” The Jimi Hendrix Experience

32. “Wild Thing,” The Troggs

33. “T.V. Eye,” The Stooges

34. “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” Scorpions

35. “Rock and Roll,” Led Zeppelin

36. “Panama,” Van Halen

37. “Rumble,” Link Wray & His Ray Men

38. “Teenage Kicks,” The Undertones

39. “Sultans of Swing,” Dire Straits

40. “I Can’t Explain,” The Who

41. “I Fought the Law,” Bobby Fuller Four

42. “Susie Q,” Dale Hawkins

43. “Somethin’ Else,” Eddie Cochran

44. “Peggy Sue,” Buddy Holly

45. “Cat Scratch Fever,” Ted Nugent

46. “Revolution,” The Beatles

47. “Born on the Bayou,” Creedence Clearwater Revival

48. “Louie Louie,” The Kingsmen

49. “School’s Out,” Alice Cooper

50. “Guerilla Radio,” Rage Against the Machine

You can also find the Gibson Reader’s Poll top 25 at Full Top 50 Riffs List, Readers Poll Revealed.

The Top 50 Riffs is republished here courtesy of Gibson Lifestyle

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4 thoughts on “Top 50 Guitar Riffs of All Time”

    1. I think there's merit in your sentiment

      I think you’re right – there will be people who disagree just because they don’t like a particular band/song/style without taking the time to appreciate the music on it’s own merits.

      That said, I still think many people have different ideas as to what constitutes a riff – as I outlined in the article above.

  1. Gibson's Top 50
    Randy aka Cubby

    I am waiting for the cretins to start in with their ‘You didn’t include ‘WhatstheBand’ and their riff in ‘TheirSongILike ‘, which is soooo much better than..(pick one.) This is a poll. That means people voted on it. Doesn’t matter if you agree or not. I think the list is fine. And yeah, I play Gibsons.

    1. This list isn't a Poll - but there is one on Gibson's website

      The Top 50 riff list above was not voted for – it was the list chosen by Gibson.

      They do have an alternate list which was voted on and you can find that by following the link at the bottom of the list above.

      I hope this helps.

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