Ultimate Guitar: Sweet Child O'Mine is voted the greatest riff of all time
April 4, 2022
Press Releases

A new nationwide study by music content and software provider Muse Group, creators of Ultimate Guitar, has revealed a list of the most iconic guitar riffs and Slash’s fret work on the 1987 classic Guns N’ Roses song came top with 37 percent of the vote.

The riff on the song - which reached Number 6 on the UK chart in 1989 - actually came from Slash’s warm up exercise before a rehearsal where he started playing a “circus” tune, which he then developed into the full riff.

Second on the list was Survivor’s 1982 Eye of The Tiger (29 percent), which featured in the classic Sylvester Stalone movie; Rocky III.

And in place third came Queen’s legendary 1980 smash Another One Bites The Dust (28 percent). Written by bassist John Deacon, the song was featured on the group's eighth studio album The Game and was a worldwide hit.

The research also delved into people’s attitudes towards classic riffs and found 96 percent agreeing that they can appreciate a good guitar riff, even if they weren’t die hard rock fans. The study found that guitar riffs can be inspirational with 76 percent of people wishing they could play the guitar whenever they hear a favourite anthem.

Fourth on the list was the more modern Kings Of Leon track Sex On Fire (28 percent) from 2008, just ahead of Led Zeppelin’s 1971 epochal song Stairway To Heaven (28 percent) and 1983’s Beat It by Michael Jackson (26 percent).

Rounding out the top 10 riffs were Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana (25 percent), Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd (23 percent), Eric Clapton’s Layla (23 percent) and Money for Nothing by Dire Straits (22 percent). And 39 percent will ALWAYS celebrate one of their favourite riffs by playing air guitar along to it, while a more shy 33 percent say they only air-guitar when they’re on their own.

More generally, 44 percent of Brits say that music is one of their great passions in life and while only a third of us currently play an instrument, 24 percent say that they haven’t played an instrument since school but would love to take one up.According to the data, over half of the people who do play an instrument say practising makes them feel happier and more relaxed.

The study also found that 48 percent of people who regularly play or compose music said they felt it kept their brain lively, and 69 percent said the experience of practising something until they’d perfected it was a great morale boost.

Meanwhile 92 percent of the parents polled would like their children to learn an instrument or how to produce and compose music. The main reasons for this include because they believe playing music is good for the soul (53 percent) and also for mental health (52 percent).It is also seen as a creative outlet (45 percent) while 44 percent believe it is good for children’s brain development.

Jonathan Kehl, of Muse Group, creators of Ultimate Guitar said: “As owners of Ultimate Guitar, we wanted to find out with this research what the nation’s favourite guitar riffs of all time are, and it’s great to see the variety and timelessness of many of the pieces selected. It’s clear that people are genuinely interested in how they can learn these riffs, and why it’s worthwhile picking up an instrument whether it’s for the first time or the 70th time.”

The survey also revealed that 43 percent of people who played music had taken it up again during lockdown. And of those who play, 48 percent of the musicians were self taught, while 45 percent learned at school.


  1. Sweet Child O’Mine - Guns N' Roses 37%
  2. Eye of the Tiger - Survivor 31%
  3. Another One Bites the Dust - Queen 29%
  4. Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon 28%
  5. Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin 28%
  6. Beat It - Michael Jackson 26%
  7. Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd 23%
  8. Layla - Eric Clapton 23%
  9. Money for Nothing - Dire Straits 22%
  10. Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix 21%
  11. The Chain - Fleetwood Mac 20%
  12. Back in Black - AC/DC 20%
  13. The Ace of Spades - Motorhead 20%
  14. Walk the Way - Aerosmith 20%
  15. Smoke on the Water - Deep Purple 20%
  16. You Really Got Me - The Kinks 19%
  17. The Wall - Pink Floyd 19%
  18. Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash 18%
  19. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll - Joan Jett 18%
  20. Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix 18%
  21. Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf 18%
  22. Seven Nation Army - the White Stripes 18%
  23. Satisfaction (I Can’t Get No) - The Rolling Stones 17%
  24. Come as You Are - Nirvana 17%
  25. Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin 17%
  26. I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor - Arctic Monkeys 16%
  27. Message in a Bottle - The Police 16%
  28. All Right Now - Free 16%
  29. Brown Sugar - the Rolling Stones 16%

Research of 1500 UK residents, commissioned by Muse Group and conducted by Perspectus Global in March 2022