Some grew up with parents that either played in bands or at very least made sure there was always a healthy amount of great riffs around the house. I am going to go over a few different types of DAD APPROVED lists and this one is dedicated to 10 Classic Rock or sometimes known as “Dad Rock” riffs / songs that I really enjoy. I’ll also offer a couple plugin suggestions to get near the tones involved!
CHALLENGE: I challenge all guitarists in any genre to learn these riffs. Some of these are damn difficult but they’ll build character.
(in no order)
KANSAS – “Carry On Wayward Son” – Riff: 2:48 – the end of the song
This is just an unreal song from start to finish and there’s not even one bad riff in it. Sure it’s overplayed and it might be in a million movies but the riffs are powerful. Over the years, I have seen a lot of players pull a few riffs in this song out during jams but it’s never this one or the solo. Every player in this band is a monster and the band is locked in. Plugins: Nembrini Audio MRH810, Mercuriall Audio Spark, Scuffham S-Gear or Kuassa’s Amplifikation Caliburn.
RAM JAM – “Black Betty” – Riff: 1:27 and onwards
Cover bands aren’t really my thing but there are some songs that separate a bunch of hacks stringing together easy money crap and talented musicians having fun. This is one of the songs that whenever I have heard a cover band attempt it, I always stop to take note. When this part comes, bands will a) Trainwreck b) Fade the last note before the part, avoid it and go into another song in the same key and very rarely… c) Absolutely slay it. It’s a tough song for a full band to pull off. I still like this song and it’s always good for a jam or two even if I usually take options a) or b) when I jam it. Plugins: Nembrini Audio MRH810, Mercuriall Audio Spark, Scuffham S-Gear or Kuassa’s Amplifikation Caliburn
TRIUMPH – “Lay It On The Line” – Riff: Intro and solo
Rik Emmett was an absolute beast in this era of the band. To be able to sing and shred like this has always really taken an upper scale musician and this band was locked in on this album. The whole song is a lot of fun to play and I actually had a go at recreating the song in metal form. Plugins: Once again Nembrini Audio MRH810, Mercuriall Audio Spark , Scuffham S-Gear or Kuassa’s Amplifikation Caliburn.
DIRE STRAITS – “Sultans of swing” – Riff: The whole damn song
To use a term from the Gone In 60 Seconds movie, this song right here is my “Elanor” or “Unicorn”. I use this term to describe songs that no many how many times I sit down to try to learn, just end up causing me to want to throw my guitar out the window onto the street. The problem is Mark Knopfler’s picking style, it’s IMPOSSIBLE for me. In this particular live version, he riffs out and absolutely shreds through the whole song. This is also one of the tightest and most dynamic live performances I have ever heard. 6:20 and onwards is a simply breathtaking jam. Plugins: Brainworx Bassdude, Sknote TwinR, Fuse Audio Labs F59, Sknote Deluxe1, Nembrini Audio BST100
DEEP PURPLE – “Highway Star” – Riff: Solo
Every note of every instrument in this song is impeccably written and performed in my opinion. It’s a timeless rock song but it will always be overshadowed by “Smoke on the water”. Guitar-wise, it’s not real tough until the solo but it’s solos like this one that inspired Yngwie Malmsteen and eventually creating power-metal. Richie Blackmore’s style is quite difficult to emulate and his note choices can be tough to wrap your mind around. Have fun! Plugins: Nembrini Audio MRH810, Mercuriall Audio Spark , Scuffham S-Gear or Kuassa’s Amplifikation Caliburn.
AC/DC – “Fire your guns” – Riff: Main riff
What would a “Dad Approved” list be without AC/DC? This band’s simple and powerful rock have been packing arenas for decades and it’s not by chance. The “Razor’s edge” album came out when I was just starting to really get into guitar and this was the first song on it. To this day, this song gets me “fired” up.. (ugh..what?). Like many AC/DC songs, it’s a simple riff but it’s a damn fun one to play. Plugins: Nembrini Audio MRH810, Mercuriall Audio Spark , Scuffham S-Gear or Kuassa’s Amplifikation Caliburn.
FOCUS – “Hocus Pocus” – Riff: Intro riff and solos
While not on every Dad’s Top-10, it was played around my Dad’s house from time to time and it always made me laugh as a kid. This song is.. well, straight up fucking insane but, the musicianship on display is the definition of jaw-dropping. The regular recorded version is painfully slow and doesn’t capture the real vibe of the song but they used to hit the gas when playing it up live. The singer is one of the more bizarre individuals you will ever see but I think he’s a blast. Plugins: Nembrini Audio MRH810, Mercuriall Audio Spark , Scuffham S-Gear or Kuassa’s Amplifikation Caliburn (this guy used a pile of gear, these are suggestions).
LYNYRD SKYNYRD – “Freebird” – Riff: Solos
You had to know this one was going to show up and it’s earned its spot on the list. When I listen to this song it’s tough to believe that these guys were shredding that hard with almost no gain or compression to help out. A driven clean through a cheap Peavey 212 amp and what sounds like a strat with the switch in the bridge/middle position. Nothing to hide behind, no delay or high output humbuckers, just skill. The slide solos are also as precise as it gets and overall, the performances are just so damn good. There’s no sim that exists for the main amp used but adding a tube screamer or overdrive to amps like the Sknote TwinR, Fuse Audio Labs F59, Sknote Deluxe1 or perhaps rolling a lot of drive off of amp sims like the Nembrini Audio MRH810, Mercuriall Audio Spark , Scuffham S-Gear or Kuassa’s Amplifikation Caliburn could get the job done.
EDGAR WINTER – “Free Ride” – Riff: Main riff
I saw Edgar Winter at a local festival about 15 years ago and this guy tore…shit…up (while wearing a cape). I couldn’t believe he still had that kind of fire. The main riff has always baffled me because of how the little slide up to the first note creates an illusion of where the band should come in. This has been a “unicorn” song of mine for decades as I have struggled to learn because of how the riff settles in. All the players on this recording are right in the pocket and it’s a fun song to listen to. Brainworx Bassdude, Sknote TwinR, Fuse Audio Labs F59, Sknote Deluxe1
KISS – “Black Diamond” – Riff: Intro riff after soft part
I remember the first time I heard Kiss so vividly even though I was only in like the 3rd Grade. It had a huge impact on me and they are a band I have never stopped enjoying. I am not a Kiss Army level fan but I have listened to every note (even the awful solo albums) and there’s a wealth of great riffs to choose from. The way the one riff comes thundering in as the soft part fades is awesome as is the harmony solo. There’s nothing about it I don’t like, hell even Peter Criss’ vocal performance is solid. Plugins: Nembrini Audio MRH810, Mercuriall Audio Spark , Scuffham S-Gear or Kuassa’s Amplifikation Caliburn.
NOTE: All of these tones can also be achieved to a reasonable degree with full amp suites like Amplitube, Helix Native, TH-U, Axiom and others but when using the full amp suites, you may need to use your own impulse responses for proper depth and a warming or tube type plugin to get more warmth. Every full suite has one or more Marshall and Fender components that will get you in the ballpark for jamming or playalong purposes. For tracking and higher quality solutions, I would reach for our suggested plugins.