The greatest opening guitar riffs of all time, prioritizing electric guitar riffs, include "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple, "Layla" by Derek & The Dominos, and notably "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones, which is ranked as the top introductory riff.
|Song||Band||Background||Why It’s Memorable|
|Smoke on the Water||Deep Purple||Inspired by the sound of a burning casino in Switzerland, played on a Fender Stratocaster by Ritchie Blackmore.||The simplicity and power of the intro make it one of the first riffs many young guitarists learn, and its sound is instantly recognizable worldwide.|
|Sweet Child O’Mine||Guns N’ Roses||Slash stumbled upon this riff while doing a string skipping exercise during a band rehearsal.||Slash’s riff, combined with Axl Rose’s lyricism, created a rock ballad that’s as powerful today as it was when released in 1987.|
|Stairway to Heaven||Led Zeppelin||Jimmy Page reportedly penned the famous intro at Bron-Yr-Aur, a remote cottage in Wales.||The introspective, folky opening transcends into a blistering electric solo, showcasing Page’s dynamic range and making it an unforgettable experience.|
|Layla||Derek and the Dominos||Inspired by Eric Clapton’s undying love for Pattie Boyd, this song became the highlight of the band’s only studio album.||Starting with a fiery, urgent riff that explodes into a blistering solo, the intro encapsulates the raw emotion that the song conveys.|
|Sultans of Swing||Dire Straits||Mark Knopfler wrote the song after hearing a struggling Jazz band perform in a nearly empty pub.||The fingerpicked intro, along with Knopfler’s smooth vocals, paints a vivid picture that’s hard to forget.|
TOP 80 GREATEST GUITAR INTROS
The Importance of a Good Guitar Intro in a Song
A powerful guitar intro is a hallmark of memorable music. It is the opening statement and sets the stage for the entire song, grabbing listeners' attention and immediately diving them into the musical journey that is about to unfold.
Criteria for Ranking the Best Guitar Intros
Our choices for the greatest guitar intros are based on several factors: their musical brilliance, uniqueness, lasting impact, and sheer recognizability. Please note that we are focusing on electric guitar intros, and we're allowing only one entry per band to maintain diversity.
The Anatomy of a Memorable Guitar Intro
Unique Riffs and Chords
Guitar intros often share common characteristics, but the truly unique ones stand out due to their exceptional riffs and chord progressions. They push the conventions of what has been done before, keeping the listener engaged and intrigued.
The Role of Melody and Rhythm
Melody and rhythm are the backbone of a compelling guitar intro. An irresistibly catchy melody can be hummed for days, while a compelling rhythm can get your foot tapping instantly!
The Impact of Equipment and Sound Effects
Guitars, amplifiers, and effects pedals all contribute to the overall sound of a guitar intro. A specific guitar model could produce a distinct tone that becomes a key feature of the opening riff. Other times, an innovative use of an effects pedal can set an intro apart from others.
The Top 10 Greatest Guitar Intros of All Time
"Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple
Do you know the famous four-note riff of "Smoke on the Water" was actually inspired by the sound of a burning casino in Switzerland?
Background: The song's iconic intro, played on a Fender Stratocaster by Ritchie Blackmore, is based on a real-life incident that the band witnessed in Montreux in 1971 during the recording of their album "Machine Head".
Why It’s Memorable: The simplicity and power of this intro make it one of the first riffs many young guitarists learn, and its sound is instantly recognizable worldwide.
"Sweet Child O'Mine" by Guns N' Roses
Is there any guitar intro more evocative of the late 80s hard rock scene than the opening of "Sweet Child O'Mine"?
Background: Slash stumbled upon this riff while doing a string skipping exercise during a band rehearsal, which eventually turned into one of the most famous intros in rock history.
Why It’s Memorable: Slash's riff, combined with Axl Rose's lyricism, created a rock ballad that's as powerful today as it was when released in 1987.
"Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin
Can we talk about iconic guitar intros without mentioning "Stairway to Heaven"?
Background: Jimmy Page reportedly penned the famous intro at Bron-Yr-Aur, a remote cottage in Wales, and the song was performed for the first time at Belfast's Ulster Hall in 1971.
Why It’s Memorable: The introspective, folky opening transcends into a blistering electric solo, showcasing Page's dynamic range and making it an unforgettable experience for listeners.
"Layla" by Derek and the Dominos
"Layla" is a testament to the power of unrequited love and its ability to create timeless music.
Background: Inspired by Eric Clapton's undying love for Pattie Boyd, this song became the highlight of the band's only studio album.
Why It’s Memorable: Starting with a fiery, urgent riff that explodes into a blistering solo, the intro encapsulates the raw emotion that the song conveys.
"Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits
Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing" can make you feel like you're strolling down a London street.
Background: Mark Knopfler wrote the song after hearing a struggling Jazz band perform in a nearly empty pub, and the intro illustrates the band's distinctive sound.
Why It’s Memorable: The fingerpicked intro, along with Knopfler's smooth vocals, paints a vivid picture that's hard to forget.
Mastering these Intros: Tips for Aspiring Guitar Players
If hearing these intros has inspired you to pick up a guitar and delve into these iconic riffs, here are a few tips:
Learning the Basic Chords and Rhythms
Using the Correct Technique
Whether it's fingerpicking or a particular strumming pattern, using the correct technique is essential to achieve the right sound. YouTube provides a wealth of knowledge in this area.
Like with anything in life, consistent practice is the key to mastery. Start slow and gradually increase your tempo as you get more comfortable.
Importance of Creativity and Originality in Creating Guitar Intros
The intros we discussed shared a commonality – they are all products of unique creativity and originality. So, let these intros inspire you, but remember to develop your voice and style through experimenting and innovating.
Whether you're an established guitarist, a beginner, or just a music lover, you can't deny the exhilarating power of a good guitar intro. They not only set the tone for a song but also leave an indelible mark on music lovers worldwide.
About the Author
Our writer is an experienced guitarist with over 15 years of experience. He has studied various music genres, performed in numerous bands, and currently teaches music to aspiring guitarists. His inherent love for music and his ability to simplify complex concepts makes him a trusted voice in the guitar community.
- The article focuses solely on the greatest electric guitar intros, leaving out any acoustic guitar entries.
- The list gives an equal chance to bands by allowing only one riff per band.
- Some of the recognized best guitar intros include “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple, “Layla” by Derek & The Dominos, and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.
- The opening riff of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones is ranked as the best guitar intro of all time according to the article’s list.
- Opening guitar riffs are vital ingredients of songs that make them instantly recognized and unforgettable to many listeners.
- The list was compiled with a thorough ranking starting from the 50th best guitar intro counting down to the top 10.
Top Five (5) Rock Concert Opening Songs Of All Time
What is the most famous guitar riff?
The guitar riff in “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple is widely considered the most famous. Since guitarist Ritchie Blackmore introduced the unique riff in 1972, its popularity has grown greatly and is now recognizable by listeners worldwide.
How do you write a good guitar riff?
A good guitar riff is built by combining the basic musical elements such as melody, rhythm, and harmony in a distinctive and engaging way. It's a complex process that involves understanding of music theory, creativity, and lots of practice to execute it smoothly.
What country song has a famous guitar intro?
The song “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash has one of the most famous guitar intros in country music. Released in 1956, this guitar riff is instantly recognizable and still cherished by country music fans today.
What should be my first electric guitar song?
“Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple is an excellent choice for your first electric guitar song. It’s a relatively straightforward track that helps newcomers build their grasp of the fretboard, as well as improve their chord changing speed.