20 Best Classic Rock Guitar Riffs Of All Time

The Licks That Shaped Rock's Heyday.

Jim Summaria / Wikimedia Commons

What gives a rock song its distinct flair is the amount of passion each member brings to the performance. There has to be a certain swagger that makes people want to stand up and pay attention to what they just heard. While there's no one element that gives a rock song it's thunder, the common language tends to be centered around the riff.

From the 60's heyday all the way up to the 80's, there have been great riffs that have gone on to not just blow away the competition, but also set the standard for what the rock genre would look like going forward. These little musical ideas have such a presence that people more often than not recognize the riff before they can hum you any of the main vocal melody.

However, there's one caveat I'm putting on this list: only 1 per artist. Why? Simple: if I put more than one per artist, bands like Led Zeppelin would take up over half of the list. For a sense of variety, only one from any artist will be used at a time to show the different stripes of classic rock throughout its storied history. Let's not mess around any more: crank it up and let's go.


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