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The Good Riff

Some Sounds In The Skipton Sound Bar

By Mike Singleton - MikeydredPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
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Yesterday I was in The Skipton Sound Bar and their playlist had, as always, some excellent songs on it. You can read about my visit here.

The song "Seven Nation Army" came on and that has an archetypal great riff, once heard it is in your head forever. After that, these are some observations on other riffs that were broadcast and a few more that I both like and find tedious, often for no good reason.

That was followed by "The Riverboat Song" by Ocean Colour Scene, which to me sounds just contrived and really bores me. It sounds like the riff was put together but not really matched with the song around it. Remember this is my opinion, but many people do love this song, but it would be very boring if we all liked the same things.

The song was influenced by "Four Sticks" from Led Zeppelin's untitled album which is a song I don't mind but it did not need developing a la Ocean Colour Scene.

Both songs have relentlessness to them and the thing that sticks in your mind is that riff, though I like the interlude in "Four Sticks".

Next up was "My Favourite Game" by The Cardigans and that hardly has a riff but that two-note guitar bit sticks in your mind. This is one that I feel I shouldn't like but I do. The video is quite disturbing but the song is brilliant and again the riff becomes relentless.

Riff: NOUN

a short repeated phrase in popular music and jazz, typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song:

Often the riff steals the song, for better or for worse, you will hear the song and it is the riff that sticks. Sometimes the riff is the frame on which the song is hung like "Smoke On The Water" or "Sunshine Of Your Love" and sometimes it is an introduction like Chuck Berry's signature that he stole from Louis Jordan, which you can hear in this story of mine

Also riffs like "Smoke on the Water" are often banned from guitar shops. It is a great riff, it is easy to play but when everyone is playing it, it can get tedious.

If you think of "Layla" it's the intro that sticks with you and with Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" it is the saxophone break. These are examples of the riff stealing the song.

I don't know if that is necessarily a bad thing because the riff needs the song to actually support it and give it a home. If there is no song, the riff will shrivel and die.

Most songs are melody-driven but a killer riff can change all that, although the melody is still an important part of the construction of the song the riff can still steal it.

In a lot of the songs, the melody dominates because the riffs are not meant to take the attention away from the melody. Take Beatles songs like "The Ballad of John and Yoko" and "Taxman", the songs do contain riffs but the melody dominates.


I know it's unusual that I have not shared all the songs that I have mentioned but you can find them on YouTube.

I would also love you to share some of your favourite riffs in the comments.

The songs I have shared have given you some great examples of riffs good and, in my opinion, not so good, but you may completely disagree with me, and that is a good thing because it stimulates thought and debate.

Thank you so much for reading, I really appreciate it.

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About the Creator

Mike Singleton - Mikeydred

Weaver of Tales, Poems, Music & Love

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Comments (3)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran3 months ago

    I was today years old when I learned what riff is. I'm so glad you taught me that!

  • Phil Flannery3 months ago

    Mark Knoffler seemed to be able to knock out a few memorable riffs.

  • "I'm going to Wichita," certainly caught my attention. A mere two & a half hours (166 miles) from where we live, home of the Shockers where one of our youth members played basketball when they made the final four! That is one disturbing video.

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