Years ago, my lifelong friend started learning piano by ear. I remember going over to his house. He dragged me into the living room and said, “Listen to this.” He proceeded to bang out the guitar riff to “Day Tripper” flawlessly. I was blown away. This was about a week after taking up the instrument (he has since become an extremely accomplished musician and music producer).
I have been playing guitar for 50 years now. I teach, compose, produce, and still play out. The riffs below represent some of the best ever written. They not only define the song, they are the song. Music is supposed to invoke feelings. As composers, this is our job. Some of these are mean, dirty, and nasty sounding. Some are happy and upbeat. Whatever the mood they create, these songs would not exist without them. This list is nowhere near complete, nor are these necessarily the “best,” but there is no denying they are a huge part of rock guitar history.