PHIL KEAGGY - Grammy nominated and seven-time Dove Award winner, is one of the world’s great guitar players and a pioneer in contemporary Christian music.
- September 8, 2016
- Guitar Lessons
I’ve pondered this topic a while and looked at some other lists of awesome guitar riffs and guitar licks. Our favorites may not be yours, nor yours ours, so we’ll have to agree to just form a list together. If you’re new at this and wondering which guitar riffs and guitar licks should you learn, we’d say learn them all.
Here’s the deal, within all great guitar riff and guitar licks is knowledge and experience. There’s always a take away; eat the meat and spit out the bones sort of thing.
But, you’ll for sure find something you like about each of these classic guitar riffs and guitar licks. That is unless you’re so young and / or arrogant that you can’t be taught. Hopefully that’s not the case.
All great guitarist are open to learn new things. It’s what keeps us going. It’s why we play everyday and get any little revelation on the fretboard. You want to add to your arsenal of licks a taste of all the greats. Only then can you manipulate these classic riffs and bend them to make them your own.
Classic 50’s and 60’s Guitar Riffs
Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” is where we’ll start. Mr. Berry’s reckless abandon on the guitar is what makes him so stinkin’ great. It was not always pretty, but man was it cool. Chuck’s classic licks have shaped all of us.
Keeping it classic, let’s move on to Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman.” You gotta love the open low strings and the mysterious riff to match the woman in the lyric.
Johnny Rivers “Memphis Tennessee” is a favorite for me. That Memphis shuffle has been a feel all great musicians have set out to conquer. Made popular by a number of bands like the Ventures, Safaris, and the Beach Boys, “Wipe Out” is a guitar classic.
While we’re digging deep into the oldies, let’s go ahead and get Johnny Cash’s “Wild Wood Flower” and “Folsum Prison Blues,” both are a guitarist must for a well rounded list.
Heck, many of Elvis’s songs had killer Rockabilly guitar. Learn “Jailhouse Rock,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Hound Dog.”
Again, that Memphis feel is a style all of it’s own, and you need to get it.
Classic 60’s Rock Riffs
Here’s a few musts:
- “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
- “Sunshine of Your Love,” by Cream
- “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix
Hey, let’s stop here for a moment.
You should get all the classic Hendrix tunes and just study the heck out of them. Memorize all the classics, “Foxy Lady,” “Voodoo Child,” “Hey Joe,” “Little Wing,” and all the rest. It would serve you well to master them all.
We’re just getting started. How about, “Day Tripper,” “I Feel Fine,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “A Hard Days Night,” “Paperback Writer,” “Blackbird,” or any of the other Beatles classics. Get the total collection and do your homework.
“You Really Got Me,” by the Kinks, “Crossroads” by Cream, “Born To Be Wild,” by Steppenwolf, “Honky Tonk Women,” by the The Rolling Stones, “House of the Rising Sun,” are some more classics you don't wanna miss.
You can see that there is virtually a century of great guitar works.
In fact, go back to Charlie Christian and some of the great 30’s and 40’s swing players to pick up some fantastic guitar licks. Many of their riffs where horn lines.
Guys, it’s impossible to mention them all. You're gonna have to pick somewhere to start and just don’t look back.
Classic 70’s Guitar Riffs and Guitar Licks
Let’s devote a moment to Jimmy Page and the rock legends of Led Zeppelin. “Whole Lot of Love,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and “Rock and Roll,” to name a few.
These songs have endured, and every guitarist needs to explore the genius of greats like Jimmy Page. It’s easy to overlook them if you’re just focused on B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” or “Stormy Monday.” Don’t leave the Blues Legends out for sure, but there is a wealth of guitar beauty in these classic rock bands like Zeppelin. Just trying to get the subtleties and nuances of each player is a daunting task. B. B.’s vibrato alone is massive feat.
Hey, little by little right? Not everything you learn will change you but there will be some guitar riffs and licks and techniques that’ll change your playing forever.
Finally, Let’s not forget, Deep Purple’s, “Smoke on the Water,” Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” or Derek and the Dominoss, “Layla.”
How about, “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd or “All Right Now” by Free.
Classic 80’s Guitar Riffs and Guitar Licks
AC/DC’s “Back in Black” just may come in at #1.
Redone later, but originally recorded in 1975, Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way, ” is a classic for sure.
Van Halen’s Eddie Van Halen better be among your great riff’s pursuit. Eddie changed guitar forever with his two-hand tapping approach but there are some killer guitar riffs and guitar licks you should pick up from this genius.
For example: “Eruption,” “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, “Jump,” “Hot For Teacher,” “Panama,” “Spanish Fly,” and others are very involved and will force you to stretch and grow.
Let’s not leave out some Steve Lukather from the band Toto. He did some pretty spankin’ guitar riffs that have lasted too. “Hold the Line” and “Rosanna” are among a few that guitarist have tried hard to duplicate. He also played on a huge list of hits in the 80’s. Check Lukather out.
Classic 90’s and beyond
“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” by Nirvana, “Sweet Child of Mine,” by Guns and Roses, “Money For Nothing,” by Dire Straits, “Enter Sandman,” by Metallica, “Crazy Train,” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, “Money” by Pink Floyd, “Pride and Joy,” by Stevie Ray Vaughn, “La Grange,” by ZZ Top, and many many more.
Check all of these classics out. You get the sense that there’s an overwhelming list of must learns, so don’t panic. Pick your favorite band of the month and download tablature for the tune from a reliable source and listen very close to the details of the original recording.
Whoo! It’s a deep subject we will not all agree on, so just add your favorites to the list and we’ll just enjoy the journey together. Maybe you’ll make a few classic riffs and licks of your own.
Feel as if we’ve left one of your favorites off of the list? Make sure to leave a comment below.
Happy shredding…Oh ya. If you would like tabs for the most famous 50 Guitar Riffs and Guitar Licks click here. Lastly, if you would like our pros to show you these guitar riffs and guitar licks firsthand, click on the link below and get started.