Ultimate Guitar poll finds that the UK public doesn’t really know what a guitar riff is

The list of top guitar riffs includes a couple of basslines, a horn melody, a song that doesn’t exist and an album.

A new poll by Muse Group, the company behind Ultimate Guitar, Audacity and MuseScore asked the British public to vote for the best guitar riff of all time, with slightly unexpected results: apparently, the participants went a little wild with their interpretations of the words “guitar,” and “riff.”

The list of 30 guitar riffs includes the horn melody in Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire, the basslines of The Chain and Another One Bites The Dust and the entire one-hour-and-20-minute runtime of Pink Floyd’s high-concept double album The Wall, which is technically only a riff if you play the album on repeat. Confused? So are we.

The participants also voted for a song called Walk The Way, which is either a very deep Aerosmith cut or a misspelling of Walk This Way. Those surveyed probably don’t work in guitar shops, as the list also contains Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple and sees Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses claim the number one spot.

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As is often the case, the list skews massively towards the 70s and 80s: there are zero songs released in the 2010s, a handful from the 90s and 2000s, while the vast majority of the guitar riffs – when they are actually guitar riffs – have walked straight out of the daytime playlist of a classic rock radio station. Not to say that Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger riff isn’t enduring (for better or worse) – but the second-best riff of all time?

Muse Group’s Jonathan Kehl explained the survey – sort of – in a statement. “As owners of Ultimate Guitar, we wanted to find out with this research what the nation’s favourite guitar riffs of all time are, and it’s great to see the variety and timelessness of many of the pieces selected. It’s clear that people are genuinely interested in how they can learn these riffs, and why it’s worthwhile picking up an instrument whether it’s for the first time or the 70th time.”

Whether he was surprised to see an entire album make the list, or a horn riff, he didn’t say.

See the list in all of its baffling glory below.

1. Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns N’ Roses
2. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
3. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
4. Sex on Fire – Kings of Leon
5. Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin
6. Beat It – Michael Jackson
7. Smells like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
8. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
9. Layla – Eric Clapton
10. Money for Nothing – Dire Straits
11. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
12. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
13. Back In Black – AC/DC
14. The Ace of Spades – Motorhead
15. Walk the Way – Aerosmith
16. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
17. You Really Got Me – The Kinks
18. The Wall – Pink Floyd
19. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
20. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett
21. Voodoo Child – Jimi Hendrix
22. Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf
23. Seven Nation Army – the White Stripes
24. Satisfaction (I Can’t Get No) – the Rolling Stones
25. Come as You Are – Nirvana
26. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin
27. I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor – Arctic Monkeys
28. Message In A Bottle – The Police
29. All Right Now – Free
30. Brown Sugar – the Rolling Stones

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