What is a riff?
Even if you are not familiar with the term, you certainly heard one. A riff is a melodic (and rhythmic) segment within a song, a motif, if you will, that is often recurring and it becomes an instantly recognizable segment of a song. As with many things in music, hearing a riff will certainly be more helpful than reading a technical description…so have at it! Here’s a list of the top 5 most recognisable and famous riffs of all times!
5: The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army.
This song is a lot more recent than all the other tracks on this list, but this riff is so memorable and immediate that it became an instant classic. Hard to find anybody who hasn’t heard this famous melody, who has been translated into so many things, from dancefloor anthem to football stadium chant!
4: Queen – We will rock you.
Although the drum pattern is not technically a riff, the massive drum tracks of Queen’s most famous hit is certainly one of the most recognizable sound of the last century of popular music.
3: Rolling Stones – Satisfaction.
That guitar intro sounds so unique and massive that has been an anthem for several years now. It still feels as fresh as the day the song came out!
2: Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love.
This is the quintessential rock and roll riff. Period.
1: Deep Purple – Smoke on the water.
I’m yet to encounter any musician who hasn’t started out building his chops trying to play this riff. This is a total classic and it is one of those rare instances where the riff transcends the song: some people never heard the full song or the original version, but they are certainly familiar with the riff!