Epic Riff

If you drop a guitar down a flight of stairs, it'll play "Gloria" on its way to the bottom.

An Epic Riff is that piece of instrumental flair that lays the foundation of an entire song, and is immediately recognizable from a small fragment, even by people who don't generally follow the type of music it is from (even if they can't identify which song it's from). For example, even people who are not fans of rock will probably recognize "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly. They may not know the name of the band; they may not even know the name of the song; but they'll say "Oh, yeah, it's that song!" when they hear it, and they'll be thinking of the right song.

To provide an example: a person once posted a request for help on a blog. The gist of the post was "I can't figure out what song this is. The tape label says it's called "Portrait of a Gentle Young Girl". Help?" Five people identified it, "it" being two chords on a steel guitar, as the start of the opening riff of Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" – from an audio clip that was literally less than two seconds long. That's an Epic Riff.

See Fanfare for the orchestral equivalent. Many Standard Snippets probably also fit here.

Please note: This is not simply "Songs Tropers really like." If the song does not meet the criteria listed (the riff lays the foundation for the song, and that riff is memorable enough to be all it takes to identify the song), it is not an example and should not be added to the page.


Examples:

  • Oasis: "Rock 'n' Roll Star", "Cigarettes & Alcohol", "Supersonic", "Acquiesce", "Lyla", "The Importance of Being Idle", "Fade Away", "Don't Look Back in Anger", "Wonderwall", "Fuckin' in the Bushes", "Champagne Supernova"
  • Sugarloaf: "Green-Eyed Lady" (bass)
  • The Killers: "Somebody Told Me", "When You Were Young", and most of all, "Mr. Brightside" – Even the indie kids leap to their feet to dance when the first few notes are heard at any party. The fact that everyone knows the words also helps.
  • AC/DC: "You Shook Me All Night Long", "Highway to Hell", "Back in Black", "Thunderstruck", "Hells Bells", "Shoot to Thrill", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Let There Be Rock", "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)", "Whole Lotta Rosie", "Rock 'N' Roll Train", "T.N.T.", "Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution", "It's a Long Way to the Top", "Mistress for Christmas", "Beating Around the Bush", "Fire Your Guns", "Jailbreak"
  • The Allman Brothers Band: "Whipping Post", "Dreams", "Jessica", "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed", "Ramblin' Man", "Mountain Jam", "Statesboro Blues", "Midnight Rider"
  • Bob Dylan: "The Times They Are A-Changin'", "All Along the Watchtower", "Subterranean Homesick Blues", "Lay, Lady, Lay", "Like a Rolling Stone"
  • Free!: "All Right Now"
  • Jane's Addiction: "Mountain Song", especially the opening bassline.
  • Ozzy Osbourne: "Crazy Train", "Bark at the Moon"
  • Slipknot: "Psychosocial" (bass), "Duality", "Before I Forget"
  • Black Sabbath: "Iron Man", "Paranoid", "Sweet Leaf", "The Mob Rules", "War Pigs", "Children of the Grave", "Symptom of the Universe", "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", "Supernaut", "N.I.B.", "Sabbra Cadabra", "Fairies Wear Boots", "Black Sabbath"
  • Alice in Chains: "Man in the Box", "Would?" (bass), "Angry Chair" (bass), "No Excuses", "Stone", "Killing Yourself", "We Die Young", "Sea of Sorrow", "Bleed the Freak", "I Can't Remember", "Love, Hate, Love", "It Ain't Like That", "Sunshine", "Put You Down", "Confusion", "I Know Somethin' (Bout You)", "Real Thing", "Dam That River", "Rain When I Die", "Sickman", "Rooster", "Junkhead", "Dirt", "God Smack", "Hate to Feel", "Down in a Hole", "Brother", "Got Me Wrong", "Right Turn", "Am I Inside", "Love Song", "Rotten Apple", "Nutshell", "I Stay Away", "Whale & Wasp", "Don't Follow", "Swing on This", "All Secrets Known", "Check My Brain", "Last of My Kind", "Your Decision", "A Looking in View", "When the Sun Rose Again", "Acid Bubble", "Lesson Learned", "Take Her Out", "Private Hell", "Black Gives Way to Blue", "Hollow", "Pretty Done", "Voices", "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here", "Lab Monkey", "Low Ceiling", "Breath on a Window", "Scalpel", "Phantom Limb", "Hung on a Hook", "Choke"
  • The James Bond theme, Monty Norman/John Barry. Vic Flick performed the guitar riff.
  • Queen: "Another One Bites the Dust" (bass), "Under Pressure" (bass), "Fat Bottomed Girls", "Tie Your Mother Down", "I Want It All", "Hammer to Fall", "Stone Cold Crazy", "I Want to Break Free"
  • Heart: "Barracuda", "Crazy On You", "Magic Man"
  • The Doobie Brothers: "Long Train Runnin'", "China Grove", "Listen to the Music", "Black Water"
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Give It Away", "Under the Bridge", "Suck My Kiss", "Californication", "Get On Top", "Scar Tissue", "By the Way", "Can't Stop", "Venice Queen", "Snow (Hey Oh)", "Tell Me Baby", "Dani California", "Charlie", "Animal Bar"
  • Chic: "Good Times"
  • Tom Petty: "Runnin' Down a Dream", "Mary Jane's Last Dance", "Free Fallin'", "Good Enough", "Refugee", "Learning to Fly", "Breakdown", "The Waiting", "American Girl"
  • Chicago: "25 or 6 to 4"
  • The Rolling Stones: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", "The Last Time", "Get Off of My Cloud", "19th Nervous Breakdown", "Paint It Black", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Brown Sugar", "Street Fighting Man", "Sympathy for the Devil", "Gimme Shelter", "Rocks Off", "Tumblin' Dice", "All Down the Line", "Beast of Burden", "Shattered", "Start Me Up", "Mixed Emotions", "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'", "Miss You", "Dead Flowers", "Bitch"
  • System of a Down: "Aerials", "Toxicity", "Chop Suey!", "B.Y.O.B."
  • Michael Jackson: "Billie Jean" (bass), "Beat It", "Bad" (bass), "Smooth Criminal" (bass), "Black or White".
  • ZZ Top: "La Grange", "Sharp-Dressed Man", "Tush", "Legs"
  • Muse: "Knights of Cydonia", "Plug In Baby", "Unnatural Selection", "The Groove", "The Small Print", "Supermassive Black Hole", "Invincible", "Glorious", "Dark Shines", "Showbiz" (when the distortion and wah kicks in), "Bliss" (bass), "Cave", "Hysteria" (bass), "Starlight" (bass), "Psycho" (a modified variation of the old live outro to "Stockholm Syndrome")
  • "My Sharona" by The Knack.
  • Bruce Springsteen: "Born to Run", "Born in the USA", "Glory Days"
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Proud Mary", "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?", "Fortunate Son", "Bad Moon Rising", "Run Through the Jungle", "Green River", "Ramble Tamble", "Who'll Stop the Rain", "Up Around the Bend", "Travelin' Band", "Born on the Bayou", "Down on the Corner", "Suzie Q", "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "Lookin' Out My Back Door"
  • The Hollies: "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress", "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
  • Rush: "Limelight", "The Spirit of Radio", "Working Man", "Red Barchetta", "Temple of Syrinx", "Tom Sawyer"
  • Metallica: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "Enter Sandman", "Seek and Destroy", "Ride the Lightning", "Master of Puppets", "Fuel", "Creeping Death", "All Nightmare Long", "Battery", "Hit the Lights", "The Four Horsemen", "Motorbreath", "Jump in the Fire", "(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth", "Whiplash", "Phantom Lord", "No Remorse", "Metal Militia", "Fight Fire with Fire", "Fade to Black", "Trapped Under Ice", "Escape", "The Call of Ktulu", "Disposable Heroes", "Leper Messiah", "Orion", "Eye of the Beholder", "The Shortest Straw", "Harvester of Sorrow", "The Frayed Ends of Sanity", "To Live Is to Die", "Holier Than Thou", "Through the Never", "Of Wolf and Man", "The God That Failed", "My Friend of Misery", "The Struggle Within", "Ain't My Bitch", "2 X 4", "The House Jack Built", "Until It Sleeps", "King Nothing", "Hero of the Day", "Bleeding Me", "Cure", "Poor Twisted Me", "Wasting My Hate", "Mama Said", "Thorn Within", "Ronnie", "The Outlaw Torn", "Fuel", "The Memory Remains", "Devil's Dance", "Better Than You", "Slither", "Carpe Diem Baby", "Bad Seed", "Where the Wild Things Are", "Prince Charming", "Low Man's Lyric", "Attitude", "Fixxxer", "Frantic", "St. Anger", "Some Kind of Monster", "Dirty Window", "Invisible Kid", "My World", "Shoot Me Again", "Sweet Amber", "The Unnamed Feeling", "Purify", "All Within My Hands", "That Was Just Your Life", "The End of the Line", "Broken, Beat & Scarred", "Cyanide", "Suicide & Redemption", "My Apocalypse", "Damage Inc.", "Blackened", "The Shortest Straw", "Whiplash", "One", "The Thing That Should Not Be", "...And Justice for All", "The Day That Never Comes", "The Judas Kiss", "Dyers Eve", "Sad But True", "Disposable Heroes", "The Unforgiven", "The Unforgiven II", "The Unforgiven III", "Wherever I May Roam", "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (distorted bass with added wah-wah)
  • Jethro Tull: "Aqualung", "Cross-Eyed Mary", "Locomotive Breath", "Thick as a Brick", "Hymn 43", "Teacher", "Minstrel in the Gallery", "It's Breaking Me Up", "My Sunday Feeling", "Living in the Past" (bass), "A New Day Yesterday", "Fat Man", "Nothing to Say", "A Passion Play", "War Child", "Back-Door Angels", "Baker St. Muse", "Crazed Institution", "Big Dipper", "Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die", "Songs from the Wood", "Velvet Green", "No Lullaby", "Heavy Horses", "North Sea Oil", "Old Ghosts", "Black Sunday", "Uniform", "Fallen on Hard Times", "Broadsword", "Radio Free Moscow", "Heat", "Steel Monkey", "Mountain Men", "Rock Island", "Heavy Water", "Rocks on the Road", "Sparrow on the Schoolyard Wall", "Rare and Precious Chain", "Stuck in the August Rain", "Spiral", "Far Alaska", "Birthday Card at Christmas", "Ring Out Solstice Bells"
  • Plain White Ts, "Hey There Delilah".
  • Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky"
  • Overkill: "Time to Kill"
  • Ronnie James Dio: "Holy Diver", "Stand Up and Shout", "The Last in Line", "Egypt (The Chains Are On)", "Wild One", "Rainbow in the Dark", "Between Two Hearts"
  • Tool - "Vicarious", "Lateralus", "Schism" (bass), "Parabola", "Sober", "Ænema", "Stinkfist", "Forty Six & 2" (bass), "Right in Two", "The Grudge" (bass and guitar)
  • Bachman-Turner Overdrive: "Not Fragile", "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet", "Takin' Care of Business"
  • A distorted bass playing stacked sevenths in Beastie Boys' "Sabotage"
  • Jefferson Airplane: "White Rabbit" (bass)
  • Ben E. King: "Stand by Me" (bass)
  • Commodores: "Brick House" (bass and trumpet)
  • Radiohead: "Creep", "The National Anthem" (bass), "I Might Be Wrong" (bass), "Talk Show Host" (bass), "Where I End and You Begin" (bass), "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", "Optimistic", "My Iron Lung", "The Amazing Sounds of Orgy", "There There", "Just", "Paranoid Android", "Separator", "Karma Police"
  • Iron Butterfly: "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"
  • Megadeth: "Dread and the Fugitive Mind", "Hangar 18", "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due", "Symphony of Destruction", "Angry Again", "Peace Sells", "Back in the Day", "Sweating Bullets", and "The Mechanix", which was modified by Metallica into "The Four Horsemen".
  • Elton John: "The Bitch Is Back", "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", "Madman Across the Water" (the piano later joins in with this one)
  • Yes: "Owner of a Lonely Heart", "Yours Is No Disgrace" (bass), "Love Will Find a Way", "Awaken", "Starship Trooper", "I've Seen All Good People" (bass), "The Fish" (bass), "The Gates of Delirium", "Heart of the Sunrise" (bass), "Siberian Khatru", "Parallels" (church organ), "Machine Messiah", "Into the Lens", "Tempus Fugit" (bass), "Roundabout" (bass)
  • The Kinks: "Tired of Waiting for You", "Juke Box Music", "Destroyer", "Till the End of the Day", "I Need You", "Sunny Afternoon", "All Day and All of the Night", "Lola", "You Really Got Me", "Waterloo Sunset"
  • Pink Floyd: "Breathe", "Money" (bass), "Us and Them", "Brain Damage", "Eclipse", "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", "Have a Cigar", "Wish You Were Here", "Dogs", "Pigs (Three Different Ones)", "Sheep", "Another Brick in the Wall" (bass), "Young Lust", "Hey You", "Comfortably Numb" (bass), "Learning to Fly"
  • The Beatles: "Day Tripper", "I Feel Fine", "Come Together" (bass), "Ticket to Ride", "You Never Give Me Your Money", "Something", "Paperback Writer", "Get Back", "A Hard Day's Night", "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window", "Golden Slumbers", "Carry That Weight", "Hey Jude", "Hey Bulldog", "Twist and Shout", "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", "In My Life", "I've Got a Feeling", "Octopus's Garden", "Helter Skelter", "Rocky Raccoon", "What Goes On", "Think for Yourself" (bass), "Strawberry Fields Forever", "I Am the Walrus", "A Day in the Life", "Long Long Long", "Revolution", "Good Morning Good Morning", "Dear Prudence", "Don't Let Me Down", "Martha My Dear", "Sexy Sadie", "Happiness Is a Warm Gun", "Piggies", "Blackbird", "I'm So Tired", "Because", "Mean Mr. Mustard", "Polythene Pam", "Lovely Rita", "Back in the U.S.S.R.", "The End", "Fixing a Hole", "Wild Honey Pie", "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?", "Honey Pie", "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"
  • The Doors: "Break On Through (To the Other Side)", "Soul Kitchen", "Light My Fire", "The End", "Love Me Two Times", "Hello, I Love You", "Five to One", "Roadhouse Blues", "Peace Frog", "Love Her Madly", "L.A. Woman", "Riders on the Storm", "When the Music's Over", "The Unknown Soldier" (note that many of these also have Epic Riffs on organ)
  • Howlin' Wolf: "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Evil", "Spoonful", "How Many More Years?", "Back Door Man", "Moanin' at Midnight", "Killing Floor"
  • R.E.M.: "Gardening at Night", "Radio Free Europe", "Talk About the Passion", "Standing Still", "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)", "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville", "Driver 8", "Life and How to Live It", "Begin the Begin", "Fall on Me", "Finest Worksong", "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", "The One I Love", "Stand", "Pop Song 89", "Get Up", "Orange Crush", "Losing My Religion" (mandolin), "Shiny Happy People", "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite", "Everybody Hurts", "Man on the Moon", "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?", "New Test Leper", "Electrolite", "At My Most Beautiful", "Imitation of Life", "Leaving New York", "Living Well Is the Best Revenge", "Supernatural Superserious", "Discoverer", "Überlin", "Oh My Heart", "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter"
  • The Animals: "The House of the Rising Sun", "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (bass), "It's My Life" (bass)
  • Kansas: "Carry On Wayward Son", "Dust in the Wind"
  • Cream: "Sunshine of Your Love", "Crossroads", "White Room", "Badge" (bass)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: "Sweet Home Alabama", "Free Bird", "Simple Man", "Tuesday's Gone", "Gimme Three Steps", "That Smell"
  • Led Zeppelin: "Stairway to Heaven", "Whole Lotta Love", "Immigrant Song", "Rock and Roll", "Black Dog", "Thank You", "Heartbreaker", "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)", "Ramble On", "Kashmir", "Dazed and Confused", "When the Levee Breaks", "Good Times Bad Times", "Communication Breakdown", "Trampled Under Foot", "The Crunge", "Misty Mountain Hop", "What Is and What Should Never Be", "Tangerine", "Celebration Day", "Out On the Tiles", "Over the Hills and Far Away", "The Ocean", "Dancing Days", "No Quarter", "The Rain Song", "D'yer Mak'er", "Black Country Woman", "Custard Pie", "In the Light", "Ten Years Gone", In My Time of Dying", "Night Flight", "The Wanton Song", "Sick Again", "Achilles Last Stand", "For Your Life", "Royal Orleans", "Nobody's Fault but Mine", "Candy Store Rock", "Hots On for Nowhere", "Tea for One", "In the Evening", "South Bound Suarez", "Fool in the Rain", "Hot Dog", "Carouselambra", "All My Love", "I'm Gonna Crawl"
  • Boston: "More Than a Feeling", "Peace of Mind", "Foreplay/Long Time", "Smokin'", "Don't Look Back", "Hitch a Ride"
  • The Byrds: "Mr. Tambourine Man", "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better", "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)", "Eight Miles High"
  • Dire Straits: "Money for Nothing", "Walk of Life", "Sultans of Swing", "Romeo and Juliet", "Lady Writer"
  • Jimi Hendrix: "Purple Haze", "Foxy Lady", "Fire", "Hey Joe", "Little Wing", "Voodoo Chile", "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", "All Along the Watchtower"
  • Deep Purple: "Smoke on the Water", "Highway Star", "Lazy", "Space Truckin'", "Burn", "Fireball", "Knocking at Your Back Door", "The Battle Rages On", "Speed King", "Child in Time", "Hush"
  • Nirvana: "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Come as You Are", "All Apologies", "Heart-Shaped Box"
  • Foo Fighters: "Everlong", "Monkey Wrench", "The Best of You", "The Pretender", "Learn to Fly", "Walk"
  • Bon Jovi: "Livin' on a Prayer" (bass)
  • Bryan Adams: "Summer of '69"
  • Marvin Gaye: "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
  • Disturbed: "The Night", "Down with the Sickness", "Stricken", "Inside the Fire", "Stupify"
  • Beck: "Loser"
  • The Beach Boys: "Good Vibrations" (bass)
  • Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit" has an epic 12-string acoustic guitar riff.
  • Wolfmother: "Joker and the Thief", "Woman"
  • Eagles: "Hotel California", "Life in the Fast Lane", "Lyin' Eyes", "One of These Nights" (bass), "Those Shoes", "Victim of Love", "Take It to the Limit" (guitar and strings), "Witchy Woman", "Peaceful Easy Feeling", "The Best of My Love", "Take It Easy"
  • Pantera's "Walk", "Cowboys From Hell", "Cemetery Gates", "Mouth for War"
  • Three Days Grace: "Animal I Have Become", "Just Like You", "I Hate Everything About You"
  • Coldplay: "In My Place", "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face", "Politik", "Yellow", "Shiver"
  • Dead Kennedys: "California Über Alles", "Holiday in Cambodia", "Pull My Strings"
  • Sex Pistols: "Anarchy in the U.K.", "Pretty Vacant"
  • Bad Religion: "We're Only Gonna Die", "Fuck Armageddon...This Is Hell", "Damned to Be Free", "American Dream", "Chasing the Wild Goose", "Billy Gnosis", "Time and Disregard", "Losing Generation", "How Much Is Enough?", "Give You Nothing", "Suffer", "Pessimistic Lines", "Big Bang", "No Control", "Automatic Man", "Billy", "The Positive Aspect of Negative Thinking", "Faith Alone", "Anaesthesia", "Against the Grain", "Generator", "Two Babies in the Dark", "Heaven Is Falling", "The Answer", "Recipe for Hate", "American Jesus", "Man With a Mission", "Stealth", "Stranger Than Fiction", "The Handshake", "Better Off Dead", "Infected", "A Walk", "Punk Rock Song", "Nobody Listens", "Pity the Dead", "Shades of Truth", "No Substance", "Victims of the Revolution", "At the Mercy of Imbeciles", "A World Without Melody", "New America", "Whisper in Time", "Let It Burn", "Destined for Nothing", "Kyoto Now!", "Sorrow", "Epiphany" (bass), "Social Suicide", "Atheist Peace", "The Empire Strikes First", "Boot Stamping on a Human Face Forever", "Germs of Perfection", "New Dark Ages", "Requiem for Dissent", "The Grand Delusion", "The Resist Stance", "The Devil in Stitches", "Someone to Believe", "Where the Fun Is", "True North", "Past Is Dead", "Robin Hood in Reverse", "Dept. of False Hope"
  • Kiss: "Rock and Roll All Nite", "Detroit Rock City"
  • Blue Öyster Cult: "Godzilla", "(Don't Fear) the Reaper", "Burnin' for You"
  • Queens of the Stone Age: "3's and 7's", "No One Knows", "Go with the Flow"
  • Living Colour: "Cult of Personality", "Which Way to America?" (bass)
  • Muddy Waters: "Mannish Boy", "Hoochie Coochie Man"
  • The Police: "Roxanne", "Message in a Bottle", "Every Breath You Take", "Synchronicity I", "Synchronicity II"
  • Bo Diddley: "I'm a Man"
  • The White Stripes: "Seven Nation Army", "The Hardest Button to Button", "The Air Near My Fingers", "Blue Orchid", "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground", "Icky Thump", "I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman"
  • Survivor: "Eye of the Tiger"
  • The Ramones: "Blitzkrieg Bop", "Pet Sematary"
  • Jack White: "Sixteen Saltines", "Freedom at 21", "Weep Themselves to Sleep"
  • Van Halen: "Unchained", "Panama", "Runnin' with the Devil", "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love", "Hot for Teacher", "Finish What Ya Started", "Pleasure Dome"
  • Blondie: "One Way or Another", "Call Me", "Heart of Glass"
  • Slayer: "Raining Blood", "War Ensemble", "Angel of Death"
  • Iron Maiden: "Phantom of the Opera", "Running Free" (bass), "Sanctuary", "Iron Maiden", "Wrathchild" (bass), "Murders in the Rue Morgue", "Killers" (bass), "Prodigal Son", "Purgatory", "Drifter", "The Number of the Beast", "Run to the Hills", "The Prisoner", "22 Acacia Avenue", "Hallowed Be Thy Name", "The Trooper", "Where Eagles Dare", "Revelations", "To Tame a Land", "Aces High", "2 Minutes to Midnight", "Powerslave", "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", "Caught Somewhere in Time", "Wasted Years", "Alexander the Great", "Moonchild", "Infinite Dreams", "Can I Play with Madness", "The Evil That Men Do", "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", "Only the Good Die Young", "No Prayer for the Dying", "Run Silent Run Deep", "Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter", "Be Quick or Be Dead", "From Here to Eternity", "Childhood's End", "Fear of the Dark", "Sign of the Cross", "Lord of the Flies", "Judgement of Heaven", "The Unbeliever", "The Angel and the Gambler", "The Clansman", "Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger", "The Wicker Man", "Brave New World", "Blood Brothers", "The Fallen Angel", "Wildest Dreams", "Rainmaker", "No More Lies", "Dance of Death", "Different World", "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns", "Out of the Shadows", "The Legacy", "Satellite 15... The Final Frontier", "Mother of Mercy", "The Alchemist", "When the Wild Wind Blows", "If Eternity Should Fail", "The Red and the Black", "When the River Runs Deep", "The Book of Souls", "Tears of a Clown", "Empire of the Clouds"
  • Mötley Crüe: "Shout at the Devil", "Kickstart My Heart", "Wild Side", "Dr. Feelgood", "Girls Girls Girls"
  • The Clash: "Should I Stay or Should I Go", "White Riot", "London Calling" (bass)
  • Soundgarden: "Spoonman" (guitar and bass), "Pretty Noose", "Jesus Christ Pose", "Hands All Over", "Outshined", "Black Hole Sun", "Fell on Black Days", "Ty Cobb", "Superunknown"
  • Judas Priest: "Breakin' the Law", "You've Got Another Thing Comin'", "Electric Eye", "The Ripper", "Victim of Changes", "Dissident Aggressor", "Hell-Bent for Leather", "Painkiller"
  • The Who: "Substitute", "I Can't Explain", "My Generation", "Pinball Wizard", "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", "I'm Free"
  • The Stooges: "I Wanna Be Your Dog", "TV Eye", "1970", "Raw Power", "Search and Destroy", "Shake Appeal", "No Fun", "The Passenger"
  • Primus: "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" (bass)
  • Marilyn Manson: "The Beautiful People"
  • Joan Jett: "I Love Rock & Roll", "Bad Reputation", "I Hate Myself For Loving You"
  • The Guess Who: "No Time", "American Woman", "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature"
  • Neil Young: "Cinnamon Girl", "Like a Hurricane", "Bite the Bullet", "Last Dance", "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)", "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)", "Powderfinger", "Rockin' in the Free World" (electric version), "Heart of Gold", "Danger Bird", "Cortez the Killer", "Walk On", "Mr. Soul", "The Loner", "Here We Are in the Years", "Cowgirl in the Sand", "Southern Man", "Don't Let It Bring You Down", "Harvest", "The Needle and the Damage Done", "On the Beach", "Tonight's the Night", "Lookout Joe", "Comes a Time", "Already One", "Lost in Space", "Hawks & Doves", "T-Bone", "Motor City", "Computer Age", "Sample and Hold", "Wonderin'", "Everybody's Rockin'", "Misfits", "Old Ways", "Violent Side", "Hippie Dream", "People on the Street", "Long Walk Home", "Cryin' Eyes", "This Note's for You", "Twilight", "Wrecking Ball", "Country Home" "Days That Used to Be", "Harvest Moon", "Dreamin' Man", "Sleeps With Angels", "A Dream That Can Last", "I'm the Ocean", "Fallen Angel", "Slip Away", "Music Arcade", "Silver & Gold", "Red Sun", "Let's Roll", "Are You Passionate?", "Leave the Driving", "Be the Rain", "No Wonder", "Prairie Wind", "Living with War", "Let's Impeach the President", "White Line", "Kansas", "Star of Bethlehem", "Homegrown", "Ordinary People", "No Hidden Path", "Fuel Line", "Fork in the Road", "Walk with Me", "Angry World", "Clementine", "Travel On", "Psychedelic Pill", "Born in Ontario", "Twisted Road", "If You Could Read My Mind", "My Hometown", "Plastic Flowers", "Say Hello to Chicago", "Wolf Moon", "Monsanto Years"
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash (And Young): "Ohio", "Woodstock", "Déjà vu", "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", "Carry On", "Marrakesh Express"
  • Dick Dale: "Misirlou"
  • The Grateful Dead: "Casey Jones", "Truckin'", "Friend of the Devil", "Uncle John's Band", "Sugar Magnolia", "Scarlet Begonias", "Box of Rain", "Cream Puff War", "That's It for the Other One", "Born Cross-Eyed", "St. Stephen", "Dark Star", "Hell in a Bucket", "Touch of Grey", "Mountains of the Moon", "China Cat Sunflower", "Easy Wind", "Ripple", "Weather Report Suite", "Let Me Sing Your Blues Away", "Stella Blue", "Unbroken Chain", "Crazy Fingers", "The Music Never Stopped", "Terrapin Station", "Estimated Prophet", "Shakedown Street", "Fire on the Mountain", "Don't Ease Me In", "Lost Sailor", "Built to Last", "Foolish Heart"
  • Papa Roach: "Last Resort", "She Loves Me Not", "Between Angels and Insects", "...To Be Loved", "Scars", "Hollywood Whore", "Getting Away with Murder"
  • Gentle Giant: "Alucard", "Pantagruel's Nativity", "Prologue", "The Advent of Panurge", "Knots", "An Inmate's Lullaby", "A Reunion", "Proclamation", "Valedictory", "Mobile", "Interview", "Design", "Empty City", "Nothing at All", "The House, the Street, the Room", "Plain Truth", "Prologue", "Schooldays", "Peel the Paint", "The Runaway", "Way of Life", "Experience", "In a Glass House", "Playing the Game", "Free Hand", "His Last Voyage", "Interview", "I Lost My Head", "River", "Giant for a Day!", "All Through the Night"
  • Pearl Jam: "Even Flow", "Jeremy", "Alive", "Black", "Yellow Ledbetter"
  • Def Leppard: "Rock of Ages", "Photograph", "Bringin' On the Heartbreak", "Pour Some Sugar On Me", "Armageddon It", "Too Late for Love", "Foolin'", "High 'n' Dry (Saturday Night)", "Hysteria"
  • Green Day: "Longview" (bass), "Basket Case", "Welcome to Paradise", "Holiday", "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "American Idiot", "When I Come Around", "Hitchin' a Ride"
  • Roy Orbison: "Oh, Pretty Woman". Though the drums tend to be much more prominent.
  • Aerosmith: "Walk This Way", "Dream On", "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)", "Sweet Emotion" (bass)
  • U2: "Pride (In the Name of Love)", "With or Without You", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", "Where the Streets Have No Name".
  • Stevie Wonder: "Higher Ground"
  • Derek and the Dominos: "Layla", "Little Wing", "Anyday", "Keep On Growing"
  • Scorpions: "Rock You Like a Hurricane", "No One Like You", "Wind of Change"
  • David Bowie: "Rebel Rebel", "Ziggy Stardust", "The Man Who Sold the World", "The Width of a Circle", "Black Country Rock"
  • The Smiths: "How Soon Is Now?", "This Charming Man", "What Difference Does It Make?", "Nowhere Fast", "I Want the One I Can't Have"
  • Talking Heads: "Take Me to the River" (bass), "Psycho Killer" (bass), "And She Was", "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)", "Once in a Lifetime" (bass)
  • The Cult: "Love Removal Machine", "She Sells Sanctuary"
  • blur: "There's No Other Way", "Parklife", "Beetlebum", "Song 2"
  • Motörhead: "Ace of Spades", "(We Are) the Road Crew", "The Game"
  • Avenged Sevenfold: "Bat Country", "Beast and the Harlot", "Afterlife"
  • The Strokes: "Reptilia", "Last Nite"
  • Rammstein: "Du hast", "Feuer frei!", "Ich tu dir weh"
  • Thin Lizzy: "The Boys Are Back in Town", "Whiskey in the Jar", "Jailbreak"
  • Rage Against the Machine: "Bulls on Parade", "Killing in the Name", "Testify", "Bombtrack", "Bullet in the Head"
  • Sweet: "Ballroom Blitz", "Little Willy", "Wig Wam Bam", "Fox On The Run"
  • Chuck Berry: "Johnny B. Goode".
  • The Strokes, "Reptilia", "Last Nite"
  • Sonic Youth: "Teen Age Riot", "Kool Thing", "Silver Rocket", "Trilogy"
  • Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine", "Welcome to the Jungle", "Paradise City", "November Rain", "You Could Be Mine"
  • Steely Dan: "Reelin' in the Years", "Hey Nineteen", "Do It Again", "Bodhisattva", "Peg", "Jack of Speed", "Josie"
  • The Pixies: "Debaser", "Letter To Memphis", "Where Is My Mind?", "Velouria"
  • Steppenwolf: "Born to Be Wild", "Magic Carpet Ride"
  • Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog", "Love Hurts"
  • Foghat's "Slow Ride"
  • Magazine: "Shot by Both Sides"
  • The Smashing Pumpkins: "Today", "1979", "Zero"
  • X Japan: "Standing Sex" (live version only), "Kurenai", "Art of Life"
  • The Darkness: "I Believe in a Thing Called Love"
  • The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie". Compare it to "More Than a Feeling" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit", among many others.
  • George Thorogood and the Destroyers: "Bad to the Bone"
  • Unbowed: "The Shadow of Dark Decay".
  • Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and its cover by The Who.
  • Rick James' "Super Freak"
  • The Romantics' "Talking in Your Sleep"
  • Counting Crows: "Mr. Jones", "Round Here"
  • Pennywise: "Bro Hymn" (or "That 'wooah woah oh ohhhh' song").
  • INXS: "Need You Tonight"
  • Twisted Sister - "We're Not Going to Take It", "I Wanna Rock"
  • Violent Femmes - "Blister in the Sun"
  • Silverchair: "Israel's Son", "Anthem for the Year 2000".
  • Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music".
  • The Hives, "Main Offender", "Hate to Say I Told You So"
  • The Troggs - "Wild Thing"
  • Focus - "Hocus Pocus" (can be identified simply by calling it "the classic rock song with the yodeling")
  • Fleetwood Mac: "The Chain" (bass), "Rhiannon", "Dreams" (bass), "Gold Dust Woman"
  • Fans of old-school Doom Metal will instantly recognize the first few opening notes of Pagan Altar's "Cry of the Banshee" and Witchfinder General's, er, "Witchfinder General".
  • Play Darkthrone's "Transilvanian Hunger" to any fan of Black Metal, and they will instantly recognize it. This probably applies to any song on the album, but the title track most of all.
  • Running Wild - "Under Jolly Roger"
  • Venom - "Welcome to Hell", similar riff is also used in Accept's "Flash Rockin' Man" and Grave Digger's "Heavy Metal Breakdown"
  • Nightwish - "Ghost Love Score" (You may know it as Epic Maneuver)
  • Tom Waits. The one chime at the beginning of "Goin' Out West".
  • Them - "Gloria". Actually, a lot of garage rock songs count here.
    • From Van Morrison's solo career, "Domino", "Brown-Eyed Girl", "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)", and "Wild Night", plus a bunch on other instruments besides guitar.
  • Saxon - "Wheels of Steel".
  • Golden Earring: "Radar Love", "Twilight Zone"
  • Bob Marley: "Get Up, Stand Up", "Stir It Up", "No Woman, No Cry"
  • Bush: "Machinehead"
  • Switchfoot: "Meant to Live", "This is Your Life" (bass)
  • The bass riff from the Peter Gunn theme. Many will recognize it from the classic arcade game Spy Hunter, or from The Blues Brothers.
  • The bass riff from the theme to the TV show Barney Miller.
  • Dragonforce: "Through The Fire And Flames", "Fury of the Storm"
  • "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" by Rick Derringer
  • The Standells' "Dirty Water". Especially if you're a Red Sox fan.
  • 43% Burnt by The Dillinger Escape Plan.
  • "Jack and Diane" by John Cougar Mellencamp.
  • Big Country: "In a Big Country", "Fields of Fire"
  • A Flock Of Seagulls: Their fast hits have prominent guitar riffs, notably "Space Age Love Song" and "The More You Live The More You Love", combined with synths ("Space Age Love Song" also adds space/sci-fi sound effects to them). Whereas "Photograph of You" has a drum riff that then adds a buzzing sound.
  • Horslips: "Dearg Doom". Considered the most epic riff ever by at least one person.
  • Fratellis' "Flathead", "Chelsea Dagger"
  • Aya Hirano's "God Knows...". Sure, it's Japanese, but damn near everyone knows the song from the first riff. It is that epic.
  • Horde's "Invert The Inverted Cross". Unblack metal. Hear that riff once and you will know it forever.
  • Bad Brains: "Re-Ignition".
  • Richard Marx: "Now and Forever" and his "Can't Help Falling In Love" cover have acoustic guitar riffs. "Right Here Waiting" on the other hand has piano.
  • The Chills' "Pink Frost", which actually goes through two riffs before settling into the one that continues through the song.
  • "Just Got Lucky" by Dokken.
  • The iconic "Personal Jesus" intro.
  • Joe Bonamassa's "The Ballad of John Henry". In concert, he likes to joke about how a journalist friend told him it was voted one of the top 10 riffs of the decade by a magazine... only to later discover that it was #10.
  • "Metal Health (Bang Your Head)" by Quiet Riot.
  • Periphery's "Icarus Lives" is possibly the single most recognizable djent riff ever written.
  • "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot.
  • Korn: "Here to Stay", "Right Now", "Somebody Someone", "Evolution", "Falling Away from Me", "Freak on a Leash", "Hold On", "Thoughtless"
  • The wah-wah funk guitar and trumpet in the 1983–86 version of 3-2-1 Contact's theme tune.
  • "Dance of the Manatee", "Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow", "Kyla Cries Cologne" by Fair To Midland. Especially "Dance of the Manatee" with the sliding.
  • Asia: "Heat of the Moment".
  • Mirror, Mirror by Blind Guardian has the tune of the chorus, which is played on guitar at the beginning. It is wonderful.
  • Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl".
  • This guitar battle on a Japanese game show called Hebimeta-san ("Mr. Heavy Metal") between Marty Friedman and Paul Gilbert (two icons in Japanese guitar rock) has the two of them cycling through several Epic Riffs they know (the host randomly picks out a ball marked with letters on their side, and the two contestants have to think of a band whose name starts with that letter)note 
  • Everything Else's "What Can't Be Seen" on guitar, and "The Enemies" and "Everything Else" on bass.
  • Miley Cyrus has epic guitar riffs in "Start All Over" (written by Fefe Dobson) and "Fly on the Wall".
  • The Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me" has a very distinctive guitar riff and a driving backbeat rhythm that are also instantly recognizable. The various covers of the song have always carried it through (and sometimes made it even more awesome).
  • Kyuss: "Demon Cleaner", "Whitewater", "Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop"
  • "Wipe Out" by The Surfaris.
  • America's "Ventura Highway". The riff was later sampled for Janet Jackson's "Someone to Call My Lover".
  • Status Quo: "Pictures of Matchstick Men", "Caroline", "Paper Plane", "Down Down", "Rain", "Hold You Back", "Whatever You Want"
  • Neil Diamond: "America" with its combination of synthesizer, guitar, and bass creating an extremely memorable Ear Worm backbeat constantly behind the melody.
  • Royal Blood: "Little Monster".
  • Frankie Goes To Hollywood: "Relax". Notably, the repeated bass riff consists of a single note, but its aggressive, pounding rhythm makes it instantly identifiable.
  • Garth Brooks: "Friends in Low Places"
  • Badfinger: "No Matter What", "Baby Blue", "Day After Day".
  • Head East: "Never Been Any Reason".
  • The Raspberries: "Go All the Way".
  • Burzum has a similar example to the Darkthrone one above in that, while the song may be obscure to the general public, any fan of Black Metal will instantly recognise "Dunkelheit" from the first chord. Some of his other riffs probably have significant amounts of recognition among black metal fans, but that one particularly stands out.
  • Mayhem also have a few riffs that will be instantly recognisable to Black Metal fans, such as in "Funeral Fog" and "Freezing Moon".
  • It tends to be a Canadian thing, but the first few notes on acoustic guitar of Spirit of the West's "Home for a Rest" are immediately recognized.
  • Mastodon: "Blood and Thunder" at the bare minimum; probably a lot of other songs too.
  • Isis: "So Did We", "Dulcinea", "The Beginning and the End"

Examples that don't use a guitar or bass:

Drums:

  • The Amen break is one of the single most sampled and recognizable drum riffs ever.
  • Judas Priest: "Painkiller" (drums)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Dani California". Everyone knows that drum beat.
  • As does Mike and the Mechanics' "Silent Running".
  • X Japan again with "Blue Blood", (drums or piano).
  • Disturbed: "Down with the Sickness" (Drum opening)
  • The Who + drums on "Pinball Wizard" = epic.
  • Rush: "YYZ" (drums - specifically, the tingling chimes at the very beginning)
  • Van Halen: "Hot for Teacher" and "Jamie's Cryin'".
  • Rick Astley: "Never Gonna Give You Up" (synth drums) which is all the Internet's fault!
  • Iron Maiden: "Run to the Hills" (drums) and "Paschendale" (morse code rhythm on a high hat).
  • Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" (drums)
  • The drum intro to "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin – this drum loop is one of the most sampled breaks in music. "Rock 'n' Roll" is also instantly recognisable from the drums.
  • Hall & Oates: "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" (drum machine/synths)
  • The drums from Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight".
  • Industries' "State of the Nation" has a deep orchestral intro with a thundering drum beat, soon followed by the recognizable synth sequences.
  • Bauhaus, "Bela Lugosi's Dead" opens with an iconic and instanly recognizable drum beat.
  • Gary Numan's "Cars"
  • Booker T. and the MG's "Green Onions" (organ)
  • ? and the Mysterians "96 Tears"
  • If Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" isn't recognized by the opening drum beat, it will be when the bass kicks in.
    • Similarly with "Beat It"'s drum beat, followed by the rhythm guitar.
  • "Untitled" by Everything Else.
  • U2's "With or Without You" starts off with the steady drum beat, with the piano riff and lead guitar teasers creeping in before the bass really establishes the song.
  • The intro to The Offspring's "Come Out and Play".
  • The cowbell intro to Tears for Fears' "Shout"
  • "Dearg Doom" by Horslips
  • Nine Inch Nails: "Head Like a Hole", just the nice disco beat that is "Head Like a Hole". Especially the intro. "March of the Pigs" also counts, as, probably, does "Closer".
  • Metallica's "Motorbreath", especially live versions, starts with a pretty awesome drum riff.
  • Status Quo's "Just Take Me".
  • Eagles' "Heartache Tonight"
  • The All-American Rejects' "Dirty Little Secret"
  • The Surfaris' "Wipe Out", in addition to the guitar riff mentioned above, has a drum solo that has become iconic and will be instantly recognisable to any listener of a certain age.
  • The drum break of Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart", already mentioned above for its epic guitar riff, is one of the most widely sampled passages of all time.
  • Peter Gabriel's "Biko".

Other instruments:

  • The opening piano riff, followed by the opening sax riff of "Take Five" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. A jazz fan will not only recognize the song, but also be able to tell if it's really Dave Brubeck or a cover from the first 20 seconds.
  • Rush's "Subdivisions" (synthesizer).
  • Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and X Japan's "Silent Jealousy" (piano)
    • The "Ode to Joy" and the second movement of Symphony No. 9 also count. The latter is most famous for its vocal arrangement, but the melody is used repeatedly even before then, and it'll be instantly recognisable even to people who don't listen to classical music.
  • Da-dum da-dum, da-dum-da-dum-da-dum-da-dum-da-daaaaaaah da-da-duuuuuum. The Pink Panther theme, of course.
  • Queen's "We Will Rock You" (percussion; two stomps and a clap).
    • The synthesizer vamp from "The Show Must Go On" and "I Want to Break Free".
    • "Bohemian Rhapsody" (piano; also has epic riffs on guitar)
  • Van Der Graaf Generator: 'Killer', 'Lemmings (Including Cog)', 'Scorched Earth' and 'The Sleepwalkers'. All played on saxophone and Hugh Banton's often heavily distorted custom organ, as the band lacked a full-time guitar player.
  • Caesars' "Jerk It Out" keyboard riff is insanely famous and noticeable, known for being used in the iPod ads.
  • Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is" (piano) - or as young generations might know, 2pac's "Changes."
  • The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (violin).
  • Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" (saxophone).
  • Chicago's "Colour My World" (piano).
  • The Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black" (sitar).
  • Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, an organ piece recognizable from dozens of horror films.
    • Pop-Cultural Osmosis has essentially turned it into The Phantom of the Opera's theme song, specifically. The mix of this song heard in Phantom holds a special honor, in that it's one of the few songs (if not the only one) that is recognizable from the first note.
    • Bach has a lot of these, including the Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 846 (piano), and the Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 (cello). If you don't recognise the names of the pieces, you'll almost certainly recognise their main melodies.
  • Also recognisable from its first note is the opening chord of the finale of Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, better known as the Organ Symphony.
  • New Order's "Blue Monday", the bass line and kick drum intro.
  • The Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" (piano).
  • The Who: "Won't Get Fooled Again" (organ/synthesizer), "Baba O'Riley" (synthesizer), "Love, Reign O'er Me" (synthesizer).
  • Van Halen: "Jump" (synthesizer).
  • Spencer Davies Group: "Gimme Some Lovin'" (organ)
  • Procol Harum: "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (organ)
  • The Main Theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Similar to the Michael Jackson example above, If you don't recognize Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" by the drums, you will when the wah-pedalled clavinet comes in.
  • Ravel's "Bolero" is built upon a two-measure rhythm and a much longer melody, both of which repeat themselves continually in one massive, ten-to-fifteen minute crescendo.
  • Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is another whole-song crescendo, with added accelerando, but this one is much shorter at less than 3 minutes.
  • Billy Joel: "Piano Man" (started by a harmonica)
    • Also, "Prelude/Angry Young Man" (started by a piano)
  • Bruce Springsteen: "Thunder Road" (harmonica)
  • Warren Zevon: "Werewolves of London" (piano)
  • Steve Winwood: "While You See a Chance" (organ)
  • Johnny Cash: "Ring of Fire" (trumpets)
    • Also, the guitar open to "Folsom Prison Blues".
  • Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells Part One"; despite the fact that it runs 25 minutes, the opening riff is a near-continual presence throughout.
  • Orbital: "Chime" (Synthesized bell-ish sound)
  • U2: "New Year's Day" (piano)
  • Lady Gaga: "Just Dance" (synthesizer)
  • Ke$ha: "We R Who We R" and "Blow" (both synthesizers)
  • Charles Mingus' "Moanin'" has the coolest baritone sax riff in history right after the intro solo.
  • La Marseillaise, the French national anthem (trumpet).
  • Def Leppard: "Rock of Ages" (spoken intro and/or drums)
  • Eurythmics: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" (synthesizer bass line)
  • Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (piano).
  • The theme song to Dragnet (brass).
  • The Band's "Chest Fever" (organ).
  • Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" (piano).
  • George Michael's "Careless Whisper" (saxophone). Especially well known now due to the Sexy Sax Man video on YouTube.
  • Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", though nearly everyone (including Elmer Fudd) gets it wrong by leaving out the sixteenth note.
    • Wagner's Bridal Chorus ("Here Comes the Bride") also counts.
  • Tori Amos' "Professional Widow" (harpsichord), and "Precious Things" (piano).
  • The Trans-Siberian Orchestra managed to pull one with a violin in "Mozart and Memories" from Night Castle.
  • The Beatles occasionally had some organ/piano riffs too. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "A Day In The Life", and "Hey Bulldog" being the most prominent examples. Also, the saxophone solo in "Lady Madonna", even though it was played by jazz musician Ronnie Scott.
  • "Get Ready For This" by 2 Unlimited (electronic keyboard).
  • "Boston" by Augustana has a memorable piano opening, perhaps easier to remember than the song's lyrics.
  • Hall & Oates:
    • "Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)" (vocals).
    • "You Make My Dreams" has an epic clavinet riff.
  • Kasabian's "Club Foot" (synth)
  • Many of The Doors' pieces have well known riffs by keyboardist Ray Manzarek: "Light My Fire", "Soul Kitchen", "When the Music's Over", "Riders on the Storm", "Peace Frog", "The Changeling"
  • Coldplay: "Clocks", "The Scientist" (piano), "Viva La Vida" (strings), "Fix You" (organ and later guitar), and Life in Technicolor II (Yangqin).
  • The brass opening of the Bar Kay's, "Soul Finger"
  • More of an epic vocal, but the first thing most people think of when they think of The Oak Ridge Boys is Richard Sterban's Basso Profundo "giddyup ba oom papa oom papa mow mow" from the chorus of "Elvira".
  • Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" has one of the most recognizable piano openings of all time, which makes the beginning of "Smoke on the Water" sound complex.
  • Underworld's sampling on "Cowgirl". "Everything everything everything everything everything..."
  • Dire Straits has "Walk of Life"'s synthesizer organ riff.
  • "Take On Me" by "a-ha" (sic), and its synthesizer riff.
    • The trumpet-based recreation by ska band Reel Big Fish is just as epic.
  • Peter Bjorn and John's Young Folks (whistling)
  • The Andy Griffith Show's theme song. (whistling)
  • Matchbox 20 - "Unwell" (banjo)
  • Phil Collins: synths and strings of his hit "Groovy Kind of Love".
    • "Sussudio" and "In the Air Tonight" have epic synth riffs.
  • Speaking of opening pianos, "Welcome to the Black Parade"
  • Khe Sanh, Cold Chisel. The piano intro is so well known in Australia, the instant it begins, every Aussie within earshot can ID it (and more often than not join in singing)
  • Pretty much all of the music Daisuke Inoue did for the original Mobile Suit Gundam. The opening piano riff of "Soldiers Of Sorrow", or the piano and guitars from "Encounter" are probably the most recognizable. If you've neverheard his work before, imagine a Japanese Meat Loaf and you're not too far off.
  • Joe Walsh, "Life's Been Good."
  • Tank!.
  • Critical Acclaim by Avenged Sevenfold (organ).
  • Animotion, "Obsession" (synthesizer)
  • Linkin Park's "In The End", "What I've Done" (keyboard)
  • Laura Marling: Ghosts. The duuu-nuuuh thing.
    • Don't Ask Me Why's spanish guitar.
    • All My Rage's guitar- considering it's one of her only songs in C Major.
  • Toto: "Africa". If not for the tribal style of the drums and percussions, the synths that follow.
    • Also counts for "Hold the Line" with that epic piano beginning before the guitar kicks in (the guitar is a pretty epic riff too FWIW)
  • Spandau Ballet: "True" (synths and guitar, later sampled for PM Dawn's "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss")
  • Berlin: "Take My Breath Away" (synth bass(?) and a chorus-like synth)
  • Styx: "Babe" (Rhodes electric piano with stereo tremolo), and "Mr. Roboto" (vocoder synth: "dōmo arigatō misutā Roboto")
    • Dennis de Young's solo hit "Desert Moon" (also synths)
    • "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)", the Epic Instrumental Opener for which is a unique riff that resembles a sailor's hornpipe played on a synthesized calliope.
  • Most of Fra Lippo Lippi's hits are quickly recognized either by synth openings (eg "Light and Shade") or piano openings (eg "Beauty and Madness"), with the exception of the studio album version of "Every Time I See You" (which has a bass guitar opening).
  • When In Rome: "The Promise" 12" version has a very odd robotic sounding riff in the intro.
  • Most of Depeche Mode's hits have synth riffs, but perhaps the most famous of them all is the vibraphone riff of "Everything Counts" (which is also notable for its square-wave synth riffs as well, especially in the extended version).
    • Also notable are the noise riffs (which includes a sound like breaking glass and an explosion) of "People are People".
    • One could also count the main rhythm loop in "Stripped", which is the sound of a motorcycle engine slowed way down.
  • Lou Sern's "Swiss Boy" has sounds from a Cuckoo Clock (in fact the "tick-tock" continues throughout nearly the whole song) and some yodelling.
  • Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy" also has a vocal riff, which is inspired by Tarzan's (from the 1966 TV series) signature "Call of the Wild".
  • The single version of Wham!'s song "Careless Whisper" which begins with an instantly memorable saxophone line.
  • Ronnie James Dio's "Rainbow in the Dark"'s synth intro.
  • "'Till I Collapse" by Eminem has an epic riff, mainly because it was used in the trailer for Modern Warfare 2.
    • And then there's Won't Back Down, also by Eminem, used in the trailer for the latest Call of Duty game, Black Ops.
  • Also, Pushing the Sky from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack also has an epic guitar riff.
  • "Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears, which has the iconic and famous three note keyboard riff at the beginning.
  • Yes has "Heart of the Sunrise".
  • Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" (synth-shakuhachi, then horns)
  • Supertramp has epic electric piano riffs, all played on a chorused Wurlitzer EP200. Examples include "Dreamer", "Bloody Well Right", "Goodbye Stranger", "The Logical Song", "Lady"...
  • Europe's "The Final Countdown" has an epic synthesizer riff.
  • "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" by Digable Planets has an epic brass and sax riff.
  • New Order - Perfect Kiss (synth brass, especially in the Epic Instrumental Closer)
  • Between Epic Violin Guy and Epic Sax Guy, SunStroke Project's "Run Away" is unmistakable.
  • Muse have several examples on the piano, most notably "New Born" and "Butterflies and Hurricanes".
  • For Metalcore fans, there's (possibly?) "Composure" by August Burns Red, though that may be a bit obscure.
  • Space have 'Female Of The Species' (vibraphone/keyboards). There's also 'The Ballad Of Tom Jones' and 'Avenging Angels', both keyboards.
  • Cave Story has Last Battle. Bum, dum ba dumbadum, dum badumbadum, badumbum...
  • "Religion Song (Put Away The Gun)" has one on organ, and "Untitled" has one on horns.
  • The synth and brass ensemble of Huey Lewis and the News' "Power of Love"
  • The synth riff from Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love".
  • The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" should be identifiable from any part of the string arrangement.
  • The opening electronic riff from the theme to Doctor Who, particularly in the original version from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
  • Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen". Destiny's Child sampled it for their "Bootylicious"
  • Simple Minds' famous one-note bass line on "Waterfront" holds the entire song together.
    • The guitar riff of "Ghostdancing".
    • The central riff of "Don't You (Forget About Me)". Especially during live performances.
  • The Mellotron on The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin".
  • The opening strings of INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart"
  • It wasn't a big hit, but the few people who remembered "Love Done Gone" by Billy Currington remembered it first for the trumpet/backing vocal intro ("Ba-ba-da, ba-da-ba…").
  • The distorted electric guitar solo on "Don't Worry" by Marty Robbins, one of the first examples of distortion in country music. It was a production mistake that was left in the final cut, too.
  • The synth intro to "Real World" by The All-American Rejects.
  • For psychedelic soul fans, the piano near the opening is this for "I Am the Black Gold of the Sun" by Rotary Connection.
  • Kraftwerk: "Computer Love". Coldplay later used it in "Talk".
  • Front 242: "Until Death (Do Us Part)", "Agony (Until Death)", and the synth bassline of "Headhunter".
  • Midnight Oil: The horn riff of "Beds Are Burning".
  • Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" has an epic synthesizer riff, while "Head Over Heels" has an epic piano riff.
  • Neil Young's "Southern Man" (piano, though it later adds guitar).
  • Jethro Tull's "Cross-Eyed Mary", "Bungle in the Jungle", and "Living in the Past" have epic flute riffs!
  • Kansas' "Point of Know Return" (violin).
  • Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" (synth bass).
  • Eagles' "Desperado" (piano), "I Can't Tell You Why" (Rhodes piano).
  • Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey" (synthesizer)
  • Elton John has a lot of these on piano or related instruments: "Tiny Dancer", "Levon", "Someone Saved My Life Tonight", "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues", "Burn Down the Mission", "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word", "Candle in the Wind", "Your Song", "Rocket Man", "Crocodile Rock" (organ), "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" (also includes synthesizer and guitar), "Bennie and the Jets"...
  • Almost anyone who's played videogames in the past 16 years will recognize the Halo theme from the first 2 to 3 notes of the vocal chorus intro.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EpicRiff