Top 3 Greatest Guitar Riffs of All Time

02/11/2011
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Today, Gibson concludes their countdown of the Top 50 Greatest Guitar riffs of all time. Here are the three that came out on top:

3. "Whole Lotta Love," Led Zeppelin (1969): Jimmy Page can claim more than a few of the greatest riffs in rock, and Led Zeppelin fans will always debate which one is the best. But none packs more swagger than the riff that drives "Whole Lotta Love." Page played the heavy blues riff on his Sunburst '59 Les Paul Standard, although there's some debate as to where and when the riff originated. Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones said it came out of an in-concert jam for "Dazed and Confused" and other sources attribute it to another concert improvisation, but Page has claimed that it was one of the riffs he wrote during rehearsals for Led Zeppelin II. The song became an instant classic and was performed at every subsequent Zeppelin gig (often as the closer). Bryan Wawzenek

2. "Smoke on the Water," Deep Purple (1972): They are, quite simply, the holy chords of rock. By guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's standards, "Smoke on the Water" is actually a pretty simplistic riff, considering this is the same mage who summoned "Lazy," "Burn," "Woman from Tokyo," "Man on the Silver Mountain" and a host of other alchemic finger-twisters. But the impact of "Nuh. Nuh. Nuh. Nuh. Nuh. Nuh-uh. (etc., etc.)" is undeniable. Ask any music store clerk, any marching band director or any guitarist worth his salt and they'll all tell you that those driving chords are a core component of the universal language of rock. Michael Wright

1. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," The Rolling Stones (1965): No other riff has ever captured the essence of rock and roll as succinctly, elegantly and infectiously as the one for "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." With just a handful of notes, Keith Richards crafted a guitar-based mantra upon which rock's rebellious spirit could be perfectly hung. The riff came to Richards in his sleep, and he woke up just long enough to record the part on a portable cassette player. The band later recorded an acoustic version at the Chess facility in Chicago, and then did the definitive version using a Gibson distortion pedal at RCA Studios in Hollywood. Remarkably, Richards at first envisioned the riff as a horn line. "The fuzz tone came in handy so I could give a shape to what the horns [would later] do," he writes, in his biography. "But the fuzz tone had never been heard before anywhere, and that's the sound that caught everybody's imagination." Nearly a half-century later, it still does. Russell Hall

Agree? Disagree? One reader gave Gibson and earful here. Check out the full list and the results of the reader poll here

Read the full Top 10 here

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