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Strum it Up: 19 of the Greatest Guitar Riffs for National Guitar Month

Strum it Up: 19 of the Greatest Guitar Riffs for National Guitar Month

1987. ​

​A year of great (or at least, big) hair, memorable music, and a decision that everyone, whether you’re a professional axe-man, novice strummer or just like to listen to some great gu​​​​​itar, can get behind. 1987 was the year April was officially announced as International Guitar Month (tweet this Tune It Up fact!). ​ ​

While the evolution of the guitar started thousands of years ago, in more recent years, artists have been able to manipulate this humble instrument to create sounds that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. To honor the rock gods of the past, use your​ HEOS speaker to play our Guitar Gods Spotify playlist ​(or press the play button below) and listen to 19 of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time.

Songs are listed in no particular order, so just sit back and listen!


1. “Walk this Way” – Aerosmith

So good even Run DMC wanted to sample it. This riff definitely gets us tapping our Adidas!

2. “Back in Black” – AC/DC

So good the Beastie Boys wanted to sample it – and took it without asking (not a cool move but it le​d to a cool song).

3. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – Rolling Stones

Rumor has it that this riff was eventually going to be replaced by a horn section. We’re pretty satisfied the band decided to not go with that decision. 

4. “Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne

Ready to rock like Randy Rhoads? Start growing your hair, cut a low, loooow V in the neck of a black tee & get inspired with this video.


5. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana

Inspiring enough to get thousands of uninterested grunge kids head-banging, there’s definitely something about this song. 

6. “Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple

If you’ve ever picked up a guitar to try and learn to play – you played this song…or tried.

 deep purple 2.gif

7. “Money For Nothing” – Dire Straits

These guys knew learning to play the guitar would pay off and ended up playing the guitar on the MTV while getting money for nothing and chicks for free. #lifegoals

8. “Iron Man” – Black Sabbath

Can’t stop stomping your foot to this riff? Grab your Les Paul and take a look at this tutorial for the Crazy Train guitar solo.

9. “Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page credits the inspiration of “Whole Lotta Love’s” guitar riff to rockabilly guitarists and the atmosphere of his houseboat, floating on the Thames in England.  Want to get inspired for your next recording? Check out these behind-the-scenes photos from the recording of this song from Wall Street Journal.

10. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns ‘n Roses

While this track has become iconic in the age of hair metal, lead guitarist Slash claims to have created this melody as a joke. No matter the origin, the big guitar sound in this song is amazing (especially when played on a perfectly set-up HEOS speaker​) – give the isolated guitar track below a listen if you don’t believe us. 

11. “Barracuda” – Heart

The guitar-goddesses of Heart were given some solid backup by guitarist Roger Fisher in this rock anthem. If you don’t immediately know you’re listening to Barracuda when the guitar solo intro hits, you need to study up on your rock music.

12. “Seven Nation Army” – White Stripes

Think that entrancing intro was a bass? Guess again.​ Oh, the tricks you can do with a Whammy pedal when given the chance.


13. “Snow (Hey Oh)” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

The repetitious guitar picking in this song has solidified into many guitar-lovers’ minds and is known as one of the more difficult guitar solos to learn to play.

14. “You Really Got Me” – The Kinks

Toe tapping and finger snapping – the next thing to do (after listening to this song on your HEOS) is to learn to play it!

View more MusicNotesLib

15. “Layla” – Derek and the Dominoes

When you lay down six tracks of overlapping guitars played by two rock ‘n roll legends, you’re definitely going to make a song worthy of the “replay” button. When it’s a song written about loving George Harrison’s wife, it’s even better.

16. “Johnny B. Goode” – Chuck Berry

Recognized by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time and one of the 100 best guitar songs of all time​, Chuck not only knew how to handle the guitar but had the dance moves to go along with it.

17. “Purple Haze” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Of course a guy who learned to play using a guitar built for his non-dominant hand and who could also play it upside down and behind his back would make this list. While Hendrix is hailed as a guitar god for various reasons, Purple Haze is a stand-out.  

18. “Enter Sandman” – Metallica​

This is another one on the list you probably tried to play the first time you picked up a guitar – it IS Metallica after all! If you weren’t able to get this haunting tune down, grab your guitar and watch below.

How To Play Enter Sandman By Metallica On Guitarby mahalodaily

19. “Do I Wanna Know?” – Arctic Monkeys

The guitar is such an instrumental part of this song that the music video literally follows the sound’s wavelength (give it a watch below). 

Did we leave your favorite guitar solo off the list? Or, are you an artist who has the next ‘greatest guitar riff’? Drop us a note on Facebook or Twitter​ – don’t forget to link out to your track so we can hear the greatness, too.


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