When it comes to making “best of” lists, there is always room for upsetting someone – especially if it’s about music.
“Why isn’t ‘Freebird’ on here, man?! It’s the best damn jam of all time!” says the anonymous disgruntled music lover.
In an effort to curb hurting anyone’s melodic feelings, this list of the best guitar intros takes from several “best of” articles to make an unbiased collection. Everything from general sites where users vote to respected industry sources like Gibson and Guitar World were considered in making this list of…
The Best Guitar Intros of All Time
From the moment you hear the first melodical notes played by GnR’s Slash, a legend whose signature style is just as recognizable as his guitar riffs, you know you’re in for a sweet ol’ time. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” is one of the Roses most beloved and recognizable hits and its intro has a lot do with it. What began as Slash running through string skipping exercises during rehearsal caught the attention of his bandmates, which ran with the riff. The results are not only one of the best guitar riffs to be laid down but also one best guitar songs of all time.
Ozzy Osborne, the former lead singer of Black Sabbath, departed for a solo career which resulted in the release of Blizzard of Oz (1980). A classic hit from this album is “Crazy Train” which features on lead guitar the legendary Randy Rhoads. Rhoads’ famous for his shredding abilities delivers one of the best intros, and arguably one of the best guitar songs of all time. After Ozzy’s wails “All aboard!”, one of the best guitar riffs sets the pace for musical journey of the crazy variety.
What at first sounds like a bass guitar is Led Zeppelin guitarists Jimmy Page’s Gibson laying down one of the sexiest and simplest guitar intros of all time. “Whole Lotta Love” is filled with all types of innuendo and works perfectly with Page’s deep guitar tone. Bassist John Paul Jones’ layering of Page’s opening guitar riff adds even more depth to the song, and by the time Robert Plant shrieks out the opening lyric it’s clear we’re in for a whole lotta something sensual.
For a guitarist nicknamed “slow hand”, Eric Clapton’s blistering riff at the beginning of “Layla” is one of the most iconic intros of all time. The blues-rock riff rips through stereos preparing you for 7 minutes of Clapton’s musing on an impossible love interest. The intro riff replays throughout the song on top of blistering solos, until climaxing with smooth classic piano chords.
They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but never mentioned thunder. AC/DC’s blistering classic opens with guitarist Angus Young’s timeless hammer-on riff that is nothing short of electric. The “Thunderstruck” has a guitar intro which strikes in the same place every time – the hearts of music lovers.
What is perhaps the most famous song by the band who ushered in the 90s grunge rock era, Nirvana’s “Smell Like Teen Spirit” has one of the best guitar intros of all time. Where some songs make their impact with complex guitar riffs and melodies, Nirvana’s intro is all about the energy and grungy angst expressed through a few crunchy chords. It embodies the spirit of the socially disenfranchised and represents a drastic change from the 80s.
Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” is a classic example of metal guitar intro mastery. For an entire minute James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet riff through overdrive distortion setting the pace for an 8-minute heavy metal ballad filled with thumping kick drums and deep crunchy riffs. These layers of instrumentation accompany perfectly the lyric’s message of desperation. After its extended bridge it returns to the opening riff bringing masterful resolution to one of best guitar songs of all time.
Often regarded as the greatest guitarist of all time, it’s only fitting that Jimi Hendrix would have a great intro or two in his repertoire. The opening to “Voodoo Child” is another minute-long intro of a completely different variety. From initial crunchy guitar scratches accentuated by his wah-wah pedal, to the psychedelic guitar riffs and solo, this song’s opening is not only signature Hendrix, but one of the most groundbreaking guitar intros and songs of all time for its experimental nature and guitar mastery.
The Best is Yet to Come
That’s fine! The most recent song on this list was released in 1991. That means there’s almost 3 decades of songs which have come out since then which are marinating in the hearts of music lovers. While it’s clear these 8 at least deserve to be ranked among the best, there’s always room for more.
Give it a decade or two.