You hear them on the radio, you hear them in movies, and you hear them sung by your local cover band at the bar. You know, the songs you immediately know just from the guitar intro! And even if you don’t know the song title or the artist, the guitar riff is ingrained in your memory.
But what makes the intro so memorable that even a song over fifty years old is recognized instantly?
We’ve compiled a list of four different guitar intros and what makes them so famous. This lesson includes the full tab sheet you can download and play along with.
Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry Maybe you remember this song from Back To The Future or you’re a huge classic rock fan. Either way, you’ve heard it numerous times. The song also sticks in your memory because it’s an expert in mixing the major and minor pentatonic sound. Since its release, a lot of songs have replicated that style, but still, your mind goes straight to Johnny B. Goode.
Thrill is Gone - B.B. King B.B. King was known for putting a lot of feeling into his guitar playing, even in the simplest riffs. He uses techniques like vibrato and pays attention to phrasing and dynamics which can turn an already good guitar solo into a better solo. Thrill Is Gone is no exception. Its simple B Minor pentatonic guitar intro is known and loved by many.
Soulshine - The Allman Brothers This iconic intro plays major pentatonic throughout creating a classic ‘jam band’ sound. The opening line of the song is repeated but raised an octave to increase the emotion and build of the song. It’s so good you want to hear it again -- which makes sense why it’s always stuck in your head.
Black Magic Woman - Santana The last legendary intro brings us into a more flavorful minor atmosphere. Even though it’s a cover, Santana’s version is so iconic, people thought they wrote the song. They added a lot of Latin flavor to the groove and note choices. By combining blues and early rock elements with the Latin flavor, it was new and not something people were used to hearing at the time. Still, it’s one of those songs you know and love the second you hear the intro.
If we had to narrow down all four of these songs having one thing in common, it would be how the artists played these riffs- the feeling and soul that goes into each note. These intros are simple, but anyone anywhere can feel moved by them. And that's all it can take to have an iconic song.