New survey says over half of music fans believe the guitar riff is dying out

On the bright side, 81 percent believed that a memorable guitar riff was vital to a good rock song.

Slash in 1985, he has a cigarette in his mouth and is playing guitar

Image: Marc S Canter / Getty

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Over half of music fans believe that the humble guitar riff is on its deathbed, according to a new survey carried about by UK TV channel, Sky Arts.

The channel polled “UK music aficionados” in order to rank the nation’s “favourite six-string riff of all time” and uncover other guitar-focused insight for its three part documentary, Greatest Guitar Riffs.

The docuseries premiered across the 24, 25 and 26 of November, and featured guitar icons such as Tony Iommi, Nancy Wilson, Andy Summers and Brian May, who offered their own expertise on some of the most legendary riffs throughout guitar history.

A sample size of 2,000 took part in the accompanying survey, where 53 percent of participants thought that the riff was dying out, with 74 percent of the sample believing that this is “bad.”

More positively, it was revealed that 83 percent said they prefer music with guitars in it, with 81 percent adding that a memorable guitar riff was vital to a good rock song. Queen’s Brian May was voted the greatest guitarist of all time, ahead of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Other notable mentions include Mark Knopfler and Slash.

Being unique (41 percent) and helping you identify the song within seconds of it starting (37 percent) were the other key factors in making a guitar riff great, according to the participants. 30 percent also believed that the ‘golden age’ of the riff was the 1970s, while 21 percent felt the 80s had the most to offer.

Those surveyed also selected their all time favourite guitar riffs with the top five hailing from:

  1. Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
  2. Purple Rain – Prince
  3. Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits
  4. Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
  5. Money for Nothing – Dire Straits

View the full top 10 list of guitar riffs, as chosen by the participants, and find out more about the documentary over at Sky.


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