In this article, I’ll be looking at a piece published at Ultimate Guitar on 15 of the worst guitar riffs of all time. This was a list composed via votes from the Ultimate Guitar community. I will be going through each entry and deciding whether I agree with the Ultimate Guitar community or not.
This piece is similar to the one I wrote on 18 of the worst guitar solos of all time. That was also based on a list composed via Ultimate Guitar community votes.
There are no criteria that these apparently awful and offensive guitar riffs have to meet. This was purely down to interpretation and I guess if each one was voted for multiple times, it must be there for a reason.
Before the list starts, there is a little section dedicated to funny honourable mentions. I’d like to point out a couple of those that made me laugh out loud.
A user by the name of CrescendoDaCapo suggested “0000-00-00-0000-0-0000-0000-0b-0 (Slayer, probably).” Mattm1234 suggested “Anything by U2 when you take the effects pedal away.” One more, stamgogos94 suggested “The ones that I’ve written.”
All the above made me chuckle. Especially the last one. That guy really does suck.
15 of the worst guitar riffs of all time as voted for at Ultimate Guitar.
Let’s get to the list. Here we go. 15 of the worst guitar riffs of all time as voted for at Ultimate Guitar. My fingers are crossed in the hope that they’re all complete dog ****. Oh, and, it probably should go without saying but don’t take this seriously. I’m talking to you, that guy who emailed me saying that I should fire whoever wrote the first worst guitar solos article despite the fact that a) I wrote it and b) it was an article where I reviewed an article from another website.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #15 Dope – Bitch
We start naturally at the guitar riff that was voted in at number 15. The summary over at Ultimate Guitar is short and sweet. “The pinnacle of nu metal.”
The riff is…. Basic. There’s some Es, there’s some Fs. There’s nothing else. Is that a problem? For me at least, no. Not really.
I think that the problem comes down to the fact that it feels very stereotypical. If you were going to create a parody of a metal band, you’d come up with a riff like this.
This guitar riff is generic. But I can’t bring myself to hate it. Simple does not equal bad and the word generic could be switched out for standard.
The song isn’t one that will live long in the memory, and the guitar riff is run of the mill but not one of the worst guitar riffs of all time. I just don’t see the justification. It’s too forgettable for that.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #14 Avenged Sevenfold – This Means War
There wasn’t really an Ultimate Guitar summary about this riff. Just some info about Metallica ripping it off. Perhaps that’s because the reasoning that went along with the votes was BS I don’t know.
The reason I say that is because I can’t think why anyone would think this is one of the worst guitar riffs ever.
I’m not really a member of the “guitar community” so maybe I’m missing some sort of commonly held opinion, but this riff sounds perfectly acceptable to me.
I honestly don’t know what to say. This riff is streets ahead of the previous entry but finds itself higher on the list.
No idea. I must be missing something.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #13 Smash Mouth – All Star
I’ve never really thought of guitar riffs when I’ve thought about this song. Come to think of it, does All Star even have a guitar riff?
To be sure, I went back and listened from start to finish and my question was answered. This song has no real clearly identifiable riff.
I guess music is all about interpretation because all I heard was a song that was based around two rhythm guitar sections. There’s the distorted chorus and the chimey verses. I wouldn’t say either of those parts are guitar riffs as such, so again I can’t agree with this entry either.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #12 Coheed and Cambria – Young Love
“Just irritates the **** out of me, it’s like they wrote it on a hangover with one hand and said **** it, let’s write a song out of that.” Quote from some person who nominated it.
Finally, one I agree with. This guitar riff would be ideal for those times where they’re torturing terrorists with loud music. Sorry, suspected terrorists. Play them this guitar riff on loop at full volume for an hour and they’ll tell you everything you need to know.
I do get where the voter was coming from. It does have a kind of “that will do” factor to it. It sounds like Timmy’s first ever guitar riff and he really wants you to hear it.
Yes, you could say that for the first entry too but that worked within the context of the track. This guitar riff just flat out sounds bad.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #11 Danko Jones – Full of Regret
This one was voted onto the list apparently because it’s irritating. Is that correct? The short answer is yes. I think they over egged the pudding with this one.
Motorhead are right up there for bands with the highest good riff to song ratio so this was double disappointing when I saw Lemmy in the video.
You know when you’re in the middle of something and there’s a fly buzzing around your head and you can’t catch it? The first few times, you ignore it but after an hour, that thing starts driving you totally insane. That’s what the notes of this guitar riff do.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #10 Foo Fighters – Make It Right
We reach the top 10 now with the guitar riff from Make it Right by the Foo Fighters. One user at Ultimate Guitar said this. “It just sounds like ****, just a random collection of notes with no real sense of groove, it’s just a pointless riff.”
The first part is almost as Shakespearean as my writing but yes, a random collection of notes with no groove is a recipe for disaster.
I don’t think this guitar riff falls into that category though. I get where the user is coming from in terms of note selection. I can very much see why one would have that interpretation but lack of any groove? No, I don’t get that vibe from it.
I’d say that there’s a nice drive created by the riff and drums combination and I’d add that when the vocals come in, they and the riff complement each other nicely.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #9 Anything by Henry Kaiser
Yeah, that’s not a proper entry. Not much I can do with this. The music in the video that was embedded definitely sucked, but it just looked like try hard look at me fiddling music to me. Not a song or a riff there as such so not much for me to take apart aside from the fact that I never want to see that video again.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #8 American Authors – Best Day of My Life
An Ultimate Guitar user stated that the riff from Best Day of My Life sounded like it was rejected from a McDonalds commercial. He was kind of on the money with that statement to a point because here in the UK, this song has been used in advertising quite a few times relatively recently.
The issue I have with this being on the list is that I don’t see what the problem with the riff is. It sounds alright to me. Not annoying or irritating unless you decided to loop it for 8 years and there’s a nice warm feel to it. Not every guitar riff has to sound angry. I know it’s a banjo, it’s on the list so I’m just going with it.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #7 Muse – Psycho
I’m glad that the summary at UG stated that “we all like Muse”. I like Muse. That’s why I was slightly worried as I glanced down the list and saw Muse here. The only issue that the summary highlights with the riff though is that it’s somewhat cliché.
My response to that is get a god dam grip. Who cares really? Well, clearly some people because it’s here but as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if a song doesn’t break musical boundaries as long as it sounds good.
This isn’t the strongest Muse song in the world, but its fine, and the riff sounds cool enough to me.
If musicians tried to progress music and create brand new concepts with every track, music would become even more generic. Maybe. That sounded more interesting in my head.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #6 Capture The Crown – You Call That a Knife? This Is a Knife!
An accusation of parody is thrown at this track and we even get a sample of the TAB. Lots of 0s there. Oh, and the link to the track didn’t work. F****** thanks. Off I go to Spotify.
So, I hated the song. Good start. But is this guitar riff out of context? No. Does the isolated riff sound bad? I guess not. Is it as dull as dishwater? Yes. Is that enough to warrant this spot? Yes, but in a kind of symbolic way.
For me, this guitar riff is here to represent anyone else who pulls this ****. The riff at the start of the list was a combo of Es and Fs but it was purposeful at least and it wasn’t “just noise. Welcome to old age me. The Muse riff was described as cliché but at least it was cliché that sounded good.
You can’t just shout and screw around with the low E string and say “cuz metal”. Sorry, not good enough.
15 of the worst guitar riffs #5 Soundgarden – She Likes Surprises
Why that riff? That was the question asked at Ultimate Guitar. My answer to that question is that I don’t know and please slice off my ears.
If you couldn’t tell, I agree with this Soundgarden entry. Furthermore, I agree with the other point raised in the UG summary. This is a decent song that feels screwed up by this bend-based guitar riff that sounds like a type of gang-based assault but with cats. Didn’t know how else to word that.
I don’t know how, but somehow some way, this guitar riff is making my eyes ache, moving on.
#4 Trapt – Headstrong
Isn’t this the band that Glen from SMG Studios hates? He’s not alone. Someone specifically created an Ultimate Guitar account just to vote for this Trapt song on this specific list.
I guess that it just goes to show. All you need is a catchy hook. Well that must be the case because that’s all this song has going for it. It certainly doesn’t rely on the guitars. This is one of the most mundane guitar riffs ever to be composed.
A lot of you reading this are musicians, right? Can you imagine if someone in your rehearsal room came in and said “hey listen to this cool guitar riff I came up with? We’re going to spend the next 3 hours building a song around it”.
I’m someone who’s kicked someone out of a rehearsal room over the PA system. I’m sure many of you out there would join me in using that method if you were presented with the above.
#3 Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine
Let’s break the 4th wall. I’m writing my summary on this entry before any of the others. This one caught my eye when I scanned the list and the reason that happened was because the entry is god dam ridiculous.
Judging by the summary on Ultimate Guitar, the Sweet Child O’ Mine guitar riff is here because the song is a classic and because of that, it’s been over played, and it’s become annoying.
How the hell does that equate to the riff being one of the worst guitar riffs of all time? Over exposure is a weak reason for this riff being here and I couldn’t disagree more with the voters on this one. Here’s why.
So, the song is a classic and guitar players all over the world play it. Why do you think that is? Here’s a clue. Guitarists all over the world don’t play this guitar riff because it sounds bad and because it’s one of the worst guitar riffs ever and they want to sound terrible.
On the flip side, I mentioned earlier that there were not set criteria for voting so one could argue that the reason is irrelevant if there were enough votes but I get the feeling that this riff is a victim of its own fame and people chose it because it came to their head when they saw the topic.
In addition to all the above, the Sweet Child guitar riff sounds good. It isn’t iconic because of how awful it sounds.
#2 Behold… The Arctopus – Alcoholocaust
This one was described over at Ultimate Guitar as not very pleasant to listen to. Sounds promising although I wouldn’t know because the video is no longer available. SPOTIFY!!
No sorry, I can’t get through the whole thing. That guitarist sounds like he was on the bloody alcoholocuast when they composed and recorded this.
This makes my ears cry and I’m too close to the end of the article to stick around and analyse this. Here’s a tip though. If something makes your ears bleed and your brain melt and then your brain liquid comes out your nose, reconsider it.
#1 Imagine Dragons – On Top of the World
UG kind of spend the summary section ragging on Imagine Dragons rather than the riff from On Top of the World which they eventually describe as annoying. I don’t care about the band either way so there’s no prejudice coming from me. Does the guitar riff from On Top of the World belong on top of this list of worst guitar riffs of all time?
I get why this may get on people’s nerves but to me it’s just inoffensive pop. The song as a whole does a lot more than most pop. The sample used from that clapping guy I thought was interesting and the song has a nice upbeat feel about it.
Likewise, the riff is perfectly pleasant to me. It has the potential to become annoying if it was overly played but worst riff of all time? Come on.
I was hoping to end on a real stinker of a guitar riff. Oh well, never mind. This has been a mixed bag for me. There’s been a few I’ve agreed with and several which I haven’t. At the end of the day, music is subjective. There will be people out there who agree with every single entry and likewise, there will be those who don’t agree with any. I think there is one thing that we’ll all agree on though. Talking about music is a great way to waste a few minutes of our lives.
Are you one of those people that just loves lists? In other words, someone with a low attention span. I’m willing to bet on YES. Here are some more guitar related lists that you may find interesting.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.