Get ready to rock out and transport yourself back to the groovy 1970s with the top 30 iconic guitar riffs!
From the bluesy sounds of Led Zeppelin to the rebellious energy of AC/DC, this collection will have you reminiscing about the golden age of rock.
So grab your guitar, crank up the volume, and get ready to jam along to these unforgettable classics that have stood the test of time.
Whether you’re a seasoned guitarist or simply a fan of rock music, this list is sure to bring a smile to your face as you relive the magic of the 1970s.
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Classic Rock Riffs
If you’ve ever picked up a guitar, chances are you’ve tried playing some classic rock riffs. These iconic guitar parts are instantly recognisable and have stood the test of time. In the 1970s, classic rock was at its peak, and this era gave birth to some of the most memorable riffs in music history. Here are five classic rock riffs that defined the decade:
- Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple: This riff is arguably one of the most famous guitar riffs ever written. The four-note guitar line is instantly recognisable and has become a staple at guitar stores around the world. It’s a simple yet powerful riff that showcases the raw energy of classic rock.
- Layla – Derek and the Dominos: “Layla” is a masterpiece that blends rock and blues in a way that captivates listeners. The iconic opening riff sets the tone for the entire song, and it’s no surprise that “Layla” remains one of the most beloved guitar songs of all time.
- Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin: No list of classic rock riffs would be complete without “Stairway to Heaven.” This epic song features a legendary guitar solo, but it’s the opening arpeggio that truly captures the essence of the song. The haunting beauty of this riff is a testament to the talent of guitarist Jimmy Page.
- Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses: Guns N’ Roses burst onto the scene in the late 1980s, but their sound was heavily influenced by the classic rock of the 1970s. The opening riff of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is instantly recognisable and demonstrates Slash’s incredible skill on the guitar.
- Back in Black – AC/DC: AC/DC is known for their hard-hitting riffs, and “Back in Black” is a prime example. The opening riff is catchy, powerful, and instantly gets your head nodding. It’s a riff that has stood the test of time and remains a favourite at rock concerts to this day.
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Blues Rock Riffs
Blues rock is a genre that combines the raw emotion of the blues with the energy of rock and roll. In the 1970s, blues rock experienced a resurgence, thanks to the talents of guitarists who took the blues to new heights. Here are five blues rock riffs that epitomise the genre:
- Cocaine – Eric Clapton: Eric Clapton is often referred to as “God” when it comes to guitar playing, and “Cocaine” is a prime example of why. The opening riff is bluesy, catchy, and showcases Clapton’s incredible talent on the guitar.
- Black Magic Woman – Santana: Santana’s unique blend of Latin rhythms and bluesy guitar playing made them one of the most influential bands of the era. The opening riff of “Black Magic Woman” is instantly recognizable and draws listeners in with its hypnotic melodies.
- Born on the Bayou – Creedence Clearwater Revival: Creedence Clearwater Revival may not be the first band that comes to mind when you think of blues rock, but their swampy sound and gritty guitar riffs make them a perfect fit for this genre. The opening riff of “Born on the Bayou” sets the tone for the entire song and captures the essence of the blues.
- La Grange – ZZ Top: ZZ Top is known for their gritty blues-infused rock, and “La Grange” is a prime example. The opening riff is instantly recognisable and sets the stage for the band’s signature sound. It’s a riff that exudes coolness and showcases Billy Gibbons’ masterful guitar playing.
- Mississippi Queen – Mountain: “Mississippi Queen” is a hard-hitting blues rock anthem that features a memorable opening riff. The riff is powerful, catchy, and perfectly captures the energy of the song. Leslie West’s guitar playing on this track is nothing short of legendary.
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Hard Rock Riffs
Hard rock took the energy and aggression of classic rock to new levels in the 1970s. This genre was characterised by heavy guitar riffs, thunderous drums, and soaring vocals. Here are five hard rock riffs that are guaranteed to get your head banging:
- Highway to Hell – AC/DC: AC/DC is known for their hard-hitting riffs, and “Highway to Hell” is a prime example. The opening guitar riff is instantly recognisable and sets the tone for the entire song. It’s a riff that demands to be played at maximum volume.
- Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne: “Crazy Train” is one of the most iconic hard rock songs of all time, and the opening guitar riff is the driving force behind it. Randy Rhoads’ guitar playing on this track is nothing short of legendary, and the riff is a testament to his incredible skill.
- Barracuda – Heart: Heart may be best known for their powerhouse vocals, but “Barracuda” features a killer guitar riff that can’t be ignored. The opening riff is powerful, catchy, and showcases the Wilson sisters’ ability to rock out.
- Cat Scratch Fever – Ted Nugent: Ted Nugent is a master of the hard rock riff, and “Cat Scratch Fever” is a prime example of his talents. The opening riff is aggressive, catchy, and demands your attention. It’s a riff that perfectly captures the essence of hard rock.
- Detroit Rock City – KISS: KISS is known for their larger-than-life performances, and “Detroit Rock City” is a hard-hitting anthem that showcases their signature sound. The opening riff is powerful, energetic, and instantly gets your blood pumping. It’s a riff that’s meant to be played loud and proud.
Funk Rock Riffs
Funk rock is a genre that blends the groove of funk with the raw energy of rock music. In the 1970s, funk rock was at its peak, with bands incorporating funky grooves into their rock sound. Here are five funk rock riffs that will get you moving:
- Superstition – Stevie Wonder: Stevie Wonder may not be known for his guitar playing, but the opening guitar riff of “Superstition” is instantly recognisable and sets the tone for the entire song. It’s funky, catchy, and showcases Wonder’s ability to blend genres.
- Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers: The Red Hot Chili Peppers are masters of blending funk and rock, and “Give It Away” is a prime example. The opening guitar riff is funky, energetic, and instantly gets your body moving. It’s a riff that perfectly captures the band’s unique sound.
- Brick House – Commodores: The Commodores may be best known for their soulful ballads, but “Brick House” is a funk rock anthem that gets you up on your feet. The opening riff is funky, catchy, and demands to be danced to. It’s a riff that never fails to get the party started.
- I Want You Back – The Jackson 5: The Jackson 5 may be known for their catchy pop tunes, but “I Want You Back” features a funky guitar riff that can’t be ignored. The opening riff is infectious, groovy, and showcases the band’s incredible talent.
- Funky Worm – Ohio Players: “Funky Worm” is a classic funk rock track that features a memorable guitar riff. The riff is funky, catchy, and captures the essence of the genre. It’s a riff that will have you nodding your head and tapping your feet in no time.
Progressive Rock Riffs
Progressive rock is a genre that pushes the boundaries of rock music, incorporating elements of classical, jazz, and other genres to create complex and intricate compositions. In the 1970s, progressive rock was at its peak, with bands pushing the limits of what was possible in music. Here are five progressive rock riffs that showcase the genre’s complexity:
- Roundabout – Yes: “Roundabout” is a prog rock masterpiece that features a memorable guitar riff. The opening riff is intricate, catchy, and sets the tone for the entire song. It’s a riff that demonstrates the technical prowess of the band and the genre as a whole.
- The Spirit of Radio – Rush: Rush is known for their virtuosic musicianship, and “The Spirit of Radio” is a prime example. The opening riff is complex, energetic, and instantly grabs your attention. It’s a riff that showcases the band’s incredible talent and their ability to push the boundaries of rock music.
- 2112 – Rush: “2112” is an epic prog rock suite that features multiple guitar riffs throughout its 20-minute runtime. The opening riff is powerful, melodic, and sets the stage for the rest of the song. It’s a riff that takes you on a journey and showcases Rush’s ability to create intricate compositions.
- Carry On Wayward Son – Kansas: “Carry On Wayward Son” is a prog rock anthem that features a memorable guitar riff. The opening riff is catchy, energetic, and instantly draws you in. It’s a riff that perfectly captures the spirit of the song and the genre.
- Eruption – Van Halen: While Van Halen may be known for their hard rock sound, “Eruption” showcases guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s incredible talent on the guitar. The instrumental track features an iconic guitar solo that pushes the boundaries of what is possible on the instrument. It’s a riff that has inspired countless guitarists and solidified Van Halen’s place in rock history.
The 1970s were a golden age for guitar riffs, and these 30 iconic riffs are just the tip of the iceberg.
Whether you’re a fan of classic rock, blues rock, hard rock, funk rock, progressive rock, or any other genre, these riffs are a testament to the power and versatility of the guitar.
So grab your guitar, crank up the volume, and get ready to rock out to these legendary riffs that have left an indelible mark on music history.