The guitar – arguably one of the most important instruments in music, the guitar is a powerhouse in many genres. From traditional music to modern pop and rock, the guitar can produce everything, from the soothing and mellow acoustic sounds to the hard hitting heavy riffs. Furthermore, many songs have instantly recognizable riffs and melodies, many of which were later sampled and repurposed in a variety of different ways. That is why today we are bringing you the top 5 most iconic guitar riffs and melodies in history:
Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin (1969)
Jimmy page is widely regarded as one of the best guitarists of all time, and his riff for Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” further emphasized his magnificent guitar playing skills. The riff itself has been voted as the best guitar riff of all time by BBC Radio 2 listeners in 2014. Page himself described it as both “menacing as well as quite sort of caressing”, adding further that his goal was to make the people listening to the song moved and to put a smile on their faces. And that indeed happened, as “Whole Lotta Love” is one of the most well-known Zeppelin songs, and it owes that success to none other than Jimmy Page!
Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water (1972)
Arguably the most recognizable riff ever created in the history of rock music, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” serves as an introductory song to many aspiring guitarists. Richie Blackmoore recalls writing this riff together with the drummer Ian Paice during a jam session, and in his words, the song should never be played with a pick, but rather, be plucked. As such, Richie himself plucked each of the notes simultaneously by using one finger for each string.
Yes – Roundabout (1971)
Yes were the pioneers of the progressive rock subgenre and the introductory riff and melody to their song Roundabout is one of the most legendary guitar intros in the history of music. The song opens up slowly, with the mellow sounds of an acoustic guitar pulling you into the song before it starts to steadily pick up and explode in a whirlpool of instruments and melodies.
Aerosmtih – Walk This Way (1975)
“Walk this Way” is yet another rock classic. Written by Joe Perry, this riff, like the one from “Smoke on the Water” is also often picked up by young up-and-coming musicians who are taking their first steps into learning the guitar. The song was so popular, that it was later sampled by hip-hop legends Run-DMC. For their version, Run-DMC even managed to get Joe Perry and Steven Tyler in for the ride, further strengthening this song’s place in music history.
John Barry – James Bond Theme (1962)
Finally, we have yet another highly-sampled guitar riff. The legendary James Bond theme, composed by John Barry, has been sampled over 150 (!) times. Though mostly making an appearance in subsequent James Bond films, albeit in an altered way, the main riff from the theme found its place in many hip-hop and rap tracks, with its most notable appearance as a sample in Special Ed’s “The Mission”