What makes a great guitar riff? Does it come down to the technical brilliance that goes into playing it, or the ease by which a simple but effective riff can be played by beginners? Similarly, what riffs act as useful indicators of changing periods in music, and how have they transcended their status within songs to almost stand in for a whole band’s career? The following list represents an effort to put together some of the best guitar riffs, which are presented in rough order of influence through to some personal favourites at the top of the list.
Devo have always taken an unconventional approach to their music, videos, and striking fashion sense so it’s no surprise that this attitude would also apply to their choice of guitars. While many think of them as a synthpop band with the occasional guitar thrown in, in their early years they were precisely the opposite – at times featuring three guitarists in their line up (guitarist Bob1 [Mothersbaugh], guitarist/keyboardist Bob2 [Casale], and singer/keyboardist/guitarist Mark Mothersbaugh). By the early 80s, however, Bob1 was the only member with strings on his instrument with Bob2 and bassist Jerry Casale having mostly switched over to playing their parts on synths. They seemed to have not only enjoyed unusual choices in guitars (shying away from the all too common Strats and Les Pauls) but rotating through many different models as well.
EKO was an Italian manufacturer located in Recanati, Italy. Their products include classical guitars, 12-string guitars, arch top guitars, electric guitars and acoustic bass guitars. EKO guitars gained high popularity during the rock’n’roll craze of 1960s, becoming the largest guitar exporter in Europe. Their electric models were often highly ornamented with pearl, featured 3 or 4 pickups and recognizable “rocker” switches for pickup selection. The acoustic models were popular in country and folk rock bands of the late ’60s.
Imagine what you would do if you were a member of a seminal electronic music band that influenced musicians in a myriad of genres over multiple generations and whose stature still remains unparalleled to this day? And then imagine what would you do if your chosen instrument was not a synthesizer but instead a guitar? If you were Michael Rother you would leave Kraftwerk taking drummer Klaus Dinger with you and form the equally acclaimed, if not as well-known, Neu!
Late 1960’s and early 1970’s Tokai guitars are very well crafted instruments. Eventually they drifted into the more profitable Les Paul copies and developed a great reputation – which probably sparked the lawsuits from that era. However, before that, they were making some crazy guitars, and perhaps the Hummingbird was one of the craziest.
If you somehow missed this story at Winter NAMM 2011…well…it’s time you heard about the George Harrison Tribute Duo Jet from Gretsch Guitars. They have made one of the most awesome replica guitars you’ll ever see. It is limited to a run of 60, and it will be available in May 2011 with an MSRP of $20,000.