Welcome to my first ever listicle. Here I shall be revealing my top 9 best Led Zeppelin riffs of all time. Get ready and brace yourself because there is zero originality here. There won’t be any shocking revelations or even any original opinions here but here’s the challenge. Try to get through this list without getting one of these riffs stuck in your head or heading to your music streaming platform of choice for a Led Zeppelin listening binge. I wrote the thing and I’ve been listening to Led Zeppelin all afternoon. I don’t think we need that “of all time” either but oh well. List time.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #1 Whole Lotta Love
I’m not placing these riffs in any particular order, but I thought it was fitting to start with Whole Lotta Love. For me, the Whole Lotta Love guitar riff is the first riff I think of when I think of Led Zeppelin. The main guitar riff from Whole Lotta Love is an example of “how did they do that?” The riff is incredibly simple in its composition, but the result is pure raw rock perfection. This riff is a prefect representation of the fact that a guitar part doesn’t have to be complex to be brilliant. A couple of notes + a power chord = iconic rock song that will be adored by Led Zeppelin fans and rock fans all over the world forever.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #2 Immigrant Song
Whole Lotta Love is mostly known by the guitar riff. Immigrant song on the other hand is known just as much or even more for the lead vocal performance. This doesn’t make the guitar riff any less impressive though. Again, we have another example of a riff consisting of just a handful of notes and again, the few notes are used to perfection. The pacing of the riff is spot on and the riff drives the song. Immigrant song simply could not exist without this riff. A really fun one to play on guitar too.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #3 Black Dog
Black dog gives us a riff that takes things up a notch in terms of complexity and once again, the whole song is based around it. I love the alternation between riff and vocals and despite its frequency, this riff never gets boring. We’re even treated to impressive harmonisations later in the track. This is one that I love to play but it took me longer to get the hang of this one compared to Whole Lotta Love and Immigrant song. I’d argue that it looks more impressive to an audience too. Furthermore, I love how the guitar and drums almost sound independent even though they’re not. This is a riff that embodies everything that’s great about lead guitar riffs. If you want to show an alien what rock guitar is, you can show them this.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #4 Kashmir
At some point in time, I’ve learned all the guitar riffs in this list. Apart from Kashmir. This is due to its utilisation of DADGAD tuning and my reluctance to play in another tuning other than standard or E flat at a push. I can’t judge it from a player perspective, but I sure can from the point of view of a listener. This riff is right up there in my opinion thanks to its impact on the track. The sheer intensity and tension created by the riff combined with the vocal performance and other impressive elements results in a very interesting piece of music. The riff plays on in the background with the rest of the track largely built around it. Alone, this riff would get old fast but when combined with the rest of the composition, we have brilliance.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #5 Heartbreaker
The heartbreaker riff truly wouldn’t sound out of place in any ear or sub-genre of rock music. This is a timeless riff indeed. Another example of less is more that does a nice little job of moving around. Want a riff that sets the tone from the first second? This is the one for you. You hear this riff and you know you’re in for a few minutes of amazing mindless rock.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #6 The Ocean
Love that art work lol. The Ocean gives us a riff that is less of a bombardment than the one in immigrant song but it still does a good job of setting the pace. It’s another example of a timeless guitar riff and yet another example of less is more. This one rolls a lot of what I’ve praised the other riffs for so far into one. The partnership with the drums is an important factor for this riff and I love its placement in the arrangement.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #7 Communication Breakdown
Welcome back to raw rock city via simple done well road. Kind of like Whole Lotta Love, this is one of those that I wish I could come up with. It’s so simple but so effective to such a degree that it’s rather annoying and depressing. Side note, this is another Led Zeppelin riff that’s fun to play so give this one a try if you haven’t already.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #8 Moby Dick
Moby Dick features a riff that is similar in feel to a couple of others that have been a part of the list thanks to a similar approach in composition. But this one takes a step up in complexity and impressiveness thanks to the infusion of lead guitar licks. I absolutely love the combination of guitar riff and lead guitar snippets. It sounds so free. You can really get lost in this one very easily. Moby Dick is entirely reliant on the riff to drive the song forward (during the parts where there’s guitars) and the riff is more than up to the challenge. Powerful and commanding.
Best Led Zeppelin Riffs #9 Rock n Roll
The Rock n Roll riff is one that I have a soft spot for. I can’t say that I think the riff is particularly ground-breaking or unique, but I love it. I know that many wouldn’t include this one in their lists, but it belongs in mine. From a guitar player point of view, it is extremely fun to play, and it encapsulates everything I love about rock / rock n roll music. Rock n Roll is a fun song to listen to and the riff is a big part of that listening experience. Light-hearted rock n roll guitar at its best.
Where’s that riff that I love that you’ve missed out?
The line must be drawn somewhere. We could fill the ocean with cool Led Zeppelin music and this article could have easily turned into a review of pretty much every Led Zeppelin song ever recorded. I’d love to have the determination to do something like that but sadly I haven’t so if I haven’t given a whole lotta love to the tracks that you consider to have the best Led Zeppelin riffs, you’re going to have to just deal with it. Sorry for the communication breakdown. I know it’s a heartbreaker, but we must get through both the good times and bad times. What? The last one was a reach? Stop being such a Moby **** or I’ll send you up the stairway to heaven….
Do you like lists? What am I saying. Of course you like lists. Everyone loves lists that’s why you’re here. Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat has more lists. Didn’t you know? Would you like to check out some of the other lists here? If so, some of these may prove 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.