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100 famous guitar riffs in one take
July 7, 2012 8:06 AM   Subscribe

If you wouldn't mind just watching this guy play 100 famous guitar riffs in one take, I'm feeling a sudden urge to grab my Fender Stratocaster.
posted by dry white toast (82 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like how metal was represented.
posted by Renoroc at 8:13 AM on July 7, 2012


I am completely musically stupid, and I was amazed at how many of those riffs I recognized without knowing what the song was called or who had originally played them. Cool video, thanks!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:14 AM on July 7, 2012


MUSIC FOR THE ADD GENERATION
posted by entropone at 8:24 AM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Most of that is kind of chaotic but there are a handful of really nice transitions - a trio starting at around 3.20, Scarlet Begonias -> Sweet Home Alabama -> Walk This Way ... and those are the sort of transitions that make medleys or mashups worthwhile.
posted by entropone at 8:26 AM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I heard about this a couple of days ago but forgot to go find it. Thanks for the link. My wife and daughter and I just watched/listened and were amazed at how many of these tunes we picked up in three chords or so. My wife and I are proud that my daughter (17) picked up most of the tunes from the 70's through the 80's -- we're apparently setting a good example -- or at least we think so.
posted by legweak at 8:28 AM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, can't help but recall all the guitar-store dudes in my day, but what I find really impressive is the good sequencing.
posted by Miko at 8:30 AM on July 7, 2012


What's cool about this for me as a terrible lead player is OMG TECHNIQUE LESSON. Learn any ten of these and wake up that boring left hand.

Also, about three minutes in I was thinking "Play Hot For Teacher or go home." Then he did.
posted by tspae at 8:31 AM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also think that if you had to spend full workdays hanging around a guitar store, by the end of the day this is what the inside of your head sounds like.
posted by Miko at 8:32 AM on July 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


The article mentions he's considering another version with some requests. I'd suggest:
Wild Thing - The Troggs
Reelin' in the Years - Steely Dan
Mob Rules - Black Sabbath
posted by 445supermag at 8:40 AM on July 7, 2012


I wonder why they identified "Pictures of Matchstick Men" as being by Camper Van Beethoven. I know they covered it, but credit where credit's due.
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mostly I was thinking about how sore my fingers would be after playing that.
posted by dry white toast at 8:43 AM on July 7, 2012


This is hilarious. Since I play guitar, I'm looking at how the riffs are being played, and I have the same reactions over and over.

1. Damn that's a great riff, whoever wrote that was a genius.
Subgroup A: beautiful simplicity
Subgroub B: unexpected complexity, but restrained, just at the edge of control

2. Kinda lame. I don't see how that became a classic, but it did

3. He's making that riff seem way better than it really is

4. Goddam heavy metal showboating

I'm only about 5 minutes in, but I don't see how there could be any other categories.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:45 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was a much better execution than the guy in the 50 riffs from 90s songs video from last month. This guy was able to express a much wider range of tonalities which made the transitions smoother and in general made it feel less like an imitation and more like a recreation. I was impressed with his quick transitions into to drop-D and back.

I don't get the "sore fingers" comment in the article -- does the writer not realize that even mediocre guitar players practice for hours at a time? Why would 12 straight minutes be especially taxing? It's all callused over after a certain point.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:50 AM on July 7, 2012


This was shot at the Chicago Music Exchange. Guys who read 'Cigar Aficionado', play golf, sip cognac and collect guitars shop there. The place is a laughing-stock for poor musicians such as myself due the velvet rope mentality of the place. That said, this was quite impressive not so much for the riffs themselves but the way he put them together. If only Guitar Center had this guy sitting in a corner.....
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:04 AM on July 7, 2012


Why would 12 straight minutes be especially taxing?

It's definitely not. That's something a non-player would say.
posted by Miko at 9:06 AM on July 7, 2012


sore fingers.....hahahahahaha...that boat left years ago. I got nothing from the second knuckle down.

No matter...this guy rocks. Guitar Store gods rule!
posted by mule98J at 9:08 AM on July 7, 2012


Woah, what did he do at about 6:30, a drop tuning, and then about later he goes back to standard tuning? I could never do that with my Les Paul with Schaller tuners, they're too finicky to just nail a change by feel.

Oh crap he did it again at 8:30. I have enough trouble with just one tuning, people who can do two or more always impress me.

BTW, I often window shop at the Chicago Music Exchange website for vintage gear. I usually reminisce over my long lost, lamented '61 Les Paul Jr, see one, and then think that could actually be my old guitar. Then I see stuff like a '62 Les Paul Jr. with a Bigsby and omygod I want it. And then I find the one thing I have been seeking for years, something I really need, a serious 3/4 size electric, like this '57 Les Paul Jr 3/4 and it's cheap because nobody wants a kiddie guitar (but me). I have a short pinkie so my favorite guitar is a Gibson L-2 3/4. But this will all have to be window shopping because I am broke.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:18 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was a great listen. His choices were a very good sampling, though he missed some classics (Kinks - All Day and All of the Night, e.g.), I think he only used one Hendrix riff (?!?), and used some lame riffs, but all in all, good job. His transitions were really well done, especially switching the E string and getting the slide on and off.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:23 AM on July 7, 2012


Woah, what did he do at about 6:30, a drop tuning, and then about later he goes back to standard tuning? I could never do that with my Les Paul with Schaller tuners, they're too finicky to just nail a change by feel.

I think he does it by sound, since that string is ringing when he does it and you can hear it drop into the new tone.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:24 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I heard that when he tuned back up, but didn't hear it when he went down.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:25 AM on July 7, 2012


Previously.
posted by straight at 9:28 AM on July 7, 2012


I was really enjoying some of the early transitions, but wishing I had "perfect pitch" to hear how he did modulations and whether they were all in the original key. But then it got to the songs from the 90s & 00s and I was, "Huh? What's this?" /Olde

As someone who majored in violin my snooty brain scoffs at rock guitar. (As a childhood friend used to ask me, "How do you play that without frets.)

But the rest of mid-life crisis me screams,"I want an electric guitar for my birthday!!!
posted by NorthernLite at 9:32 AM on July 7, 2012


Being a non-guitar player, I found the technique interesting, but found myself trying to catch all of the effect changes. Some were obvious, but others I couldn't tell if it was a change in effect, or just technique.
posted by Ickster at 9:36 AM on July 7, 2012


Among the impressive things he does, he plays all the notes in the riff for "The Streets Have No Name" (#58) by hand. Bono does it by playing just a few notes and letting the delay effects do the rest.
posted by straight at 9:37 AM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


(er...The Edge, not Bono)
posted by straight at 9:38 AM on July 7, 2012


"But then it got to the songs from the 90s & 00s and I was, "Huh? What's this?" /Olde"

I recognized everything until about #90 and then there were a few I didn't, which was disconcerting. And then he ended with St. Vincent, so I felt better. Three or four of those last ten I didn't recognize and I was worrying that I, too, am an old, out-of-touch fart.

I don't play guitar (well, I took a class once in high school) so I have no basis by which to judge this — but I was very surprised that almost all of these sounded right using the same guitar. Processors?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:38 AM on July 7, 2012


As someone who majored in violin my snooty brain scoffs at rock guitar. (As a childhood friend used to ask me, "How do you play that without frets.)

LOL when I was a kid, I tested with perfect pitch (for a kid, I suppose) so the school put me on the cello. My sense of pitch just made me realize how bad my intonation was, and I kept thinking, "this would all be a lot easier with frets."
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:39 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


...Chadwick names Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing" as his top pick from the 100 he played. "Mark Knopfler has a really fantastic technique and it's a lot of fun to try and mimic that," he said.

Knopfler is awesome. That is all.
posted by jquinby at 9:39 AM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ivan, I think that just means that the Fender Stratocaster is a very versatile guitar.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:45 AM on July 7, 2012


Among the impressive things he does, he plays all the notes in the riff for "The Streets Have No Name" (#58) by hand. Bono does it by playing just a few notes and letting the delay effects do the rest.

I saw some UK stand-up a few years ago do a bit where he played U2 songs with and without the effects pedal. Made it kind of impossible to really respect The Edge ever again.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:55 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, he's constantly adjusting (off-screen) the amp/effects settings with his feet using pedals. The change from clean to somewhat overdriven to fully overdriven is not really achievable on the guitar itself.

In-frame you can see when he switches between the bridge pickup (bright, percussive) and the neck pickup (smooth, mellow) and of course you can see things like the difference between finger picking and using the pick, the use of the tremolo bar[1], bends, artificial and natural harmonics, palm muting, etc.

[1] Guitar terminology is really screwed up, with the terms vibrato and tremolo meaning the opposite of what they mean elsewhere, and sometimes used interchangeably.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:59 AM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Made it kind of impossible to really respect The Edge ever again.

Nonsense. Any wanker can spend a few years learning flashy guitar technique. A precious few find new techniques to create something that sounds genuinely new. That wall of sound The Edge created with effects was a wonderful, exciting alternative to the sea of Eddie Van Halen wannabes in the 80's playing notes 20 times faster than The Edge, all of them boring.
posted by straight at 10:08 AM on July 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


See also Bill Kirchen's take on Hot Rod Lincoln.
posted by droob at 10:14 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't play guitar (well, I took a class once in high school) so I have no basis by which to judge this — but I was very surprised that almost all of these sounded right using the same guitar. Processors?

Processors (he's clearly working a pedal and FX box off frame, he's bringing in more than just fuzz-or-not) and, yeah, a Strat's a pretty good pick for hitting a broad range of basic rock and roll sounds since you've got five pickup positions by default that run a decent gamut of tonalities.

Among the impressive things he does, he plays all the notes in the riff for "The Streets Have No Name" (#58) by hand. Bono does it by playing just a few notes and letting the delay effects do the rest.

I watched this the other day and concluded in the moment that he was actually using a delay preset there, but maybe I was being ungenerous. I'd have to go back and look.

And yeah, using delay effectively is a skill. Just spend some time around guys who don't know that and try anyway. Knocking the Edge for using delay is like knocking David Gilmour for using echo effects or Jimi for using a wah. They're tools. You make good music with them or your don't.
posted by cortex at 10:20 AM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


My only complaint is that he played the riff from Lust for Life out of order and with the wrong subtitle.
posted by skymt at 10:20 AM on July 7, 2012


Don't get me wrong, straight, I love the sound The Edge ends up with, but it just takes some of the piss out of it to know what he's actually playing there. To quote achewood: "The only actual member of U2 is Flood. The others are just four Irishmen who have agreed not to age badly."
posted by Navelgazer at 10:29 AM on July 7, 2012


He did too use a delay on the U2 song.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:29 AM on July 7, 2012


For those who want to take a crack at some of these riffs, I will recommend the lessons at the Guitar Alliance website. They have a list of their picks for Top 100 Riffs with lessons for each one. Even without guitar tabs, I can play almost anything if I just see how it's done, and their lessons have looping videos and audio tracks so you can hammer on it until you get it right.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:33 AM on July 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Watched it expecting to mock it, but came away impressed. Although a riff doesn't equal a song, he did a nice job of stitching that together into something coherent.

Also, nice Strat!
posted by mosk at 10:36 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also think that if you had to spend full workdays hanging around a guitar store, by the end of the day this is what the inside of your head sounds like.
posted by Miko at 11:32 AM on July 7 [8 favorites +] [!]


Actually, I've asked guitar store dudes what the inside of their head sounds like at the end of the day. And I'm sad to report its bad renditions of Stairway to Heaven.

Even in shops with signs forbidding the song people start playing it anyway.
posted by bilabial at 10:40 AM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


*Practices alone in a dark basement without a '58 strat.*
posted by cmoj at 10:52 AM on July 7, 2012


I now have to keep repeating to myself that I sold my strat because I sucked, and realised I didn't have the dedication to overcome my inherent unmusicality. I do not need to go out and buy a new strat. Do not. No.
posted by Coobeastie at 11:18 AM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


That was fun. It was particularly watching him cycle through stuff I have heard in a nostalgia setting, through stuff I was too young for, through all the stuff I loved, through to stuff I'm too old for.

Although of all those riffs, which one is stuck in both me and my husband's heads? Layla. That must say something.
posted by KathrynT at 11:20 AM on July 7, 2012


Based on his trajectory, the grim darkness of our future will feature Jack White playing with cockroaches for Space Marines.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:31 AM on July 7, 2012


Agreed, a little too much Jack White...
posted by safetyfork at 11:36 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, if he's taking suggestions how about some Replacements? I vote for Bastards of Young. Also I did not see the Jam represented and I can think of at least one other person who would find this a crime.

And was that really "Fortunate Sun" I read in the titles? I just don't know.

I enjoyed the video don't get me wrong.
posted by safetyfork at 11:43 AM on July 7, 2012


As a non-guitarist, I was totally impressed by the on-the-fly tunings. I'm used to watching folk acts where they spend a good three minutes chatting and bantering while tuning.
posted by whitneyarner at 11:59 AM on July 7, 2012


Also, pffft, whatever, I can totally do a bunch of those in Rock Band on EXPERT.

(no, seriously, this was awesome.)
posted by whitneyarner at 12:00 PM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


My totally non-musical self was impressed. As I expected, I knew them all up until 1990 or so and only about 1/2 after that.
posted by octothorpe at 12:32 PM on July 7, 2012


a little too much Jack White

these words together don't make sense to me
posted by found missing at 1:04 PM on July 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


This made me suddenly feel bad for my mother, who spent hours upon hours listening to me as a teenager, trying to get half of these riffs up to speed. Sorry, Mom, I'll turn it down.
posted by a hat out of hell at 1:45 PM on July 7, 2012


Twelve-plus minutes with no Dave Davies boggles the mind.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:52 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you bash The Edge for effects you need to throw out Johnny Marr and Jonny Greenwood too. No double standards.
posted by Blue Meanie at 2:22 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Loved it.

However: there is no way in the universe you can play those Guns n Roses riffs on a strat! God that was painful. Like 25 overgrown teenage wasps getting together and deciding to rock out, on a really practical, efficient, bolted-together plank. Which is what a Strat is.

And his 'Paranoid' is wrong because that has to be played at the 12th fret - light touch gives you a sort of harmonics feel; bear in mind Tony Iommi wrote it just after his finger tips had been sliced off in an industrial accident, so it needs that.
posted by colie at 2:23 PM on July 7, 2012


Anyone who thought this was too heavily weighted toward the 20th century, might enjoy the answers to my AskMefi question about best riffs of the 21st century.
posted by straight at 2:39 PM on July 7, 2012


He did too use a delay on the U2 song.

Not the same way. He's still picking twice as many notes as The Edge does.
posted by straight at 2:53 PM on July 7, 2012


I think that just means that the Fender Stratocaster is a very versatile guitar.

Strat-hater confesses: This is true of the guitar they've been selling for over 20 years as the 'Eric Clapton Strat'. It's had several variations but all of them have pre-amp circuitry stuff that gives you so much more than the single coil pickup sound of the 50s Strat.

Clapton I think deserves credit for not just his incredible 60s playing, but also collaborating with Fender on this guitar, to bring the Strat up to what it really should be. Pete Townshend, who knows how to rip up a Gibson, has used this model 'signature' guitar (not his signature) for over 20 years now:

http://www.thewho.net/whotabs/gear/guitar/fenderecstrat.html

I bought a bad one two years ago though. I think the 90s ones are sought after.
posted by colie at 2:53 PM on July 7, 2012


Knopfler is awesome. That is all.

*nods* That was the one that really stuck out most - it was like WALL OF ROCK CHORD WALL OF ROCK CHORD WALL OF ROCK CHORD melody and fingerpicking WALL OF ROCK CHORD
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:31 PM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


My only complaint is that he played the riff from Lust for Life out of order and with the wrong subtitle.


I believe you mean the riff from "You Can't Hurry Love".
posted by Cosine at 3:32 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw some UK stand-up a few years ago do a bit where he played U2 songs with and without the effects pedal.

That would be Bill Bailey.
posted by phl at 3:59 PM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had a trenchant comment but I started listening to SRV before reading the thread and damn you Stevie, so good.
posted by ersatz at 4:46 PM on July 7, 2012


I think someone answered my first question, what the heck was he doing with the guitar peg but my next one is, can someone please put together a playlist on Youtube of all those songs in that order? There's so many there that I love and haven't listened to in ages.
posted by b33j at 5:23 PM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


All this and he still didn't pass the BSO audition.
posted by dfan at 6:15 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


but it just takes some of the piss out of it to know what he's actually playing

It's always way easier to deconstruct a piece art than to create it. As a photographer, I see countless incredible photographs I could have taken just as well as the original photographer. If only I had thought of them.
posted by The Deej at 7:27 PM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


b33j: "can someone please put together a playlist on Youtube of all those songs in that order?"

Done. 100 Riffs (Brief History of Rock N' Roll) playlist.

Now to go make dinner like I should've done 30 or 40 videos ago.
posted by Lexica at 8:05 PM on July 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


Fantastic. I'm fairly proud to have been able to ID a good 90% of those.
posted by flatluigi at 8:14 PM on July 7, 2012


God gave rock 'n' roll to him.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:23 PM on July 7, 2012


Actually, I've asked guitar store dudes what the inside of their head sounds like at the end of the day. And I'm sad to report its bad renditions of Stairway to Heaven.

I've heard on good authority that, while Sweet Child o' Mine makes it to the list along with Stairway to Heaven, the absolute #1 song of all time in guitar-stores here is in fact Smoke on the Water.

Which made me a bit sad because I've played exactly that in most stores I've been to. The only song I can play, sadly. :(
posted by the cydonian at 9:06 AM on July 8, 2012


Stairway to Heaven is a mainstay (even I've been guilty of perpetrating that one), but yeah, so are many of these. Smoke on the Water, yeah (because even people who can't play anything know how to do that), Blackbird (particularly great for testing intonation pretty far up the neck), Dear Prudence, Walk This Way, various distorted metal riffs (I can't tell them apart), Crazy Train, Iron Man, and All Along the Watchtower come to mind.
posted by Miko at 9:13 AM on July 8, 2012


Yeah, part of the guitar store riff thing is that there's different weight classes and categories that have their own riffs. Seasoned duder shopping for a new wah pedal is going to break out a different class of riffs than a sixteen-year-old buying his first electric. Smoke on the Water is nice and approachable, just slide that sloppy power chord barre up and down a few frets. Move a couple notches up and maybe you'll get some Sunshine of Your Love, same deal but a little more fingerwork required (but maybe not extant).

Really, if someone were to put together some careful documentation of a wide collection of guitar store customer riff specimens, that'd be fantastic to browse through.
posted by cortex at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is not really what you're asking for, cortex, but I've been working for a while at compiling exercises for beginning guitarists based on classic guitar riffs, starting with Day-1 beginner level and gradually increasing in difficulty to about "Sweet Child of Mine" and "Back in Black." Here's a zip file with the first 52 exercises in PowerTab and ASCII formats.

Getting the difficulty gradient right has been the hardest part, also finding riffs students enjoy and weeding out the ones they don't. It's still a work in progress, but if you do any teaching you might find it useful.
posted by straight at 10:56 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm coming at this more from a field anthropology angle (surveillance footage of in-store candid customer riffing, etc), but that's a neat exercise in sort of quantifying riffage as a syllabus, yeah.
posted by cortex at 11:11 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a zip file with the first 52 exercises in PowerTab and ASCII formats.

I am working on my lead guitar skills and I'd like to try these, but I'm on a Mac. Any way you could export these to Guitar Pro .gpx format or suggest a Mac tool that will open .ptb files?
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:47 PM on July 8, 2012


Oops, nevermind, I found the import tool. Thanks for this.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:52 PM on July 8, 2012


My thoughts were "Damn, that's a really good sounding strat" and "He's fingering Sultans wrong".

Most represented guitarist (if I counted correctly): Eddie Van Halen (Running with the Devil, Beat It, Hot for Teacher).
posted by plinth at 5:20 PM on July 8, 2012


"He's fingering Sultans wrong".

I totally agree. That was the only moment where I was like "whoa, that arrangement is pretty far from (and easier than) the original."
posted by Miko at 7:06 AM on July 9, 2012


1. 100 things I cannot do
2. from about #85+ I only recognize probably 3 songs. Yep. I'm wayyy out of touch with music of the 2000s.
3. Anyone notice that 1990s rock sounds like a revival of late 60s?
posted by stormpooper at 7:21 AM on July 9, 2012


"He's fingering Sultans wrong".

Can't blame him. It's hard.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:25 AM on July 9, 2012


Can't blame him. It's hard.

It's well within his capabilities. It's within mine, and I'm nowhere near as fluid as he is. It just sounds like he worked it out by ear quickly and didn't really reference the recording to match the fingering.
posted by Miko at 8:32 AM on July 9, 2012


It's within mine, and I'm nowhere near as fluid as he is.

Good on ya.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:40 AM on July 9, 2012


Actually, I've asked guitar store dudes what the inside of their head sounds like at the end of the day. And I'm sad to report its bad renditions of Stairway to Heaven.
I went piano shopping a few months ago. On the way to the store, I said to my wife, "Ha ha, it would be really funny if we got there and people are playing Stairway to Heaven."

About 20 minutes into our visit, a middle-aged couple showed up, and the guy sat down at a piano and started picking out Stairway to Heaven.
posted by dfan at 11:33 AM on July 9, 2012


The Chicago Music Exchange is awesome. Sure, go ahead and grab that '70s Explorer and take it into a booth with a 50-watt Marshall! And our salespeople won't hassle you. The total opposite of Guitar Center with the noises all over and the aggressive (and blatantly lying in one case!) salesmen.

Now, I've never considered buying anything there, but I bet they knew that the times I visited, and it was cool of them to still be cool to me.
posted by ignignokt at 8:09 PM on July 9, 2012


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