Saturday, November 28, 2009

On the subject of great guitar riffs

by Smitty

Dustbury notes a web poll crediting noted Seattleite Jimi Hendrix as having the best guitar riff ever.

I'd like to throw in a vote for Joe Satriani, who admits to being a Hendrix disciple. Here, in probably my favorite track by Joe, he takes the brutally simple figure "da-duh da-duh", and sets it on fire. The whole thing is incinerated by 2:00 into the track.

Then, just to show you what a genius he is, Joe brings it back and works it at a medium pace. The second half of this track seems (to the non-guitarist) to pick up right where Hendrix's reading of "All Along the Watchtower" left off.

"Chords of Life" is off of "Strange Beautiful Music", which is a desert island release, as far as I am concerned.

Update: from the comments, Trio Rypdal does indeed set standards:


  1. Not even a close second to Machine Gun
    Band of Gypsys: Live at the Fillmore East

  2. Joe's having fun quoting and playing off a bunch of classic leads in that. Good stuff.

    But all time riff-master is of course Jimmy Page. In fact, he recorded the track that will preserve ROCK in its darkest days.

  3. Two words: Terje Rypdal!

  4. Have you guys watched any Allan Holdsworth videos online yet?
    This is the guy Van Halen raves about.

  5. Akira Takasaki, my friend. Akira Takasaki. I rest my case.

    (PS: Joe Satriani is fricking awesome, too. No beef about that.)

  6. You folks are close but the winner is Al DiMeola. here is a link to his work with Chick Corea and Return to Forever, the greatest Fusion Jazz band of all time.

  7. A great guitar riff: (1) every note counts [see: Jimmy Page]; there are no throwaways or notes that are merely there for show [see Eddie VanH and his clones]. (2) it must so penetrate the soul that it repeats in the head [Ex: Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore are masters], and (3) it must be the main creator of the mood the song is trying to capture and succeeds in doing so [Ex: Kashmir].

    Satriani is doing variations on a theme; this is not a riff, though, as we've come to expect from him, it is a masterful set of variations on a theme.

    Ronsonic is absolutely right that Jimmy Page is the greatest of the greats [Ex: Black Dog, Whole Lotta Love, Living Loving Maid, The Rover, Kashmir, Dazed & Confused, How Many More Times, Heartbreaker, Houses Of The Holy, Nobody's Fault But Mine, etc.]

    I cannot come up with a #1 riff, but I think the best of the best are: Black Dog [Page/Jones], Supernaut [Iommi], Smoke On The Water [Blackmore], Train Kept A Rollin' [various], Louie Louie [Richard Berry], Layla [Clapton], Jumpin' Jack Flash [Richards].