What happens if you play the forbidden riff? Does playing the forbidden riff in a guitar store really get you kicked out? If you’re a guitarist, chances are you’ve heard of the forbidden riff. From “Stairway To Heaven” to “Seven Nation Army”, many famously overplayed tunes have been deemed forbidden. But why?
Let’s talk about the origins of the forbidden riff, which songs are on the forbidden list and what really happens if you play it.
- | What Is The Forbidden Riff?
- | Stairway To Heaven
- | Which Songs Are On The Forbidden List?
- | What Happens If You Play A Forbidden Riff In Guitar Stores?
Without further adieu, let’s dive in!
| What Is The Forbidden Riff?
The ‘forbidden riff’ is an in-joke that began at a guitar shop on Denmark Street, London, in 1973. It refers to a collection of guitar riffs that are tremendously overplayed by beginner guitarists around the world. It become known amongst guitar store workers that customers who came in and played these riffs were stereotypically the customers least likely to purchase a guitar. This list was copied from shop to shop and was extended over the years.
“Stairway To Heaven”, “Smoke On The Water” and other similar songs contain riffs that guitarists pick up as beginners, and due to being a beginner, aren’t always the best sounding. Experienced guitarists are more likely to play something interesting and complex and as a result, taken more seriously by guitar shop staff. The forbidden riff is simply a filter guitar shop staff use to weed out the casual browsers from the serious customers.
| Stairway To Heaven
The most notable forbidden riff is the introduction to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”. Not only is the song easy to learn on guitar, it is also one of the most popular tracks ever composed and one of the best-loved rock songs of all time. These three factors make “Stairway To Heaven” incredibly appealing for beginner guitarists to learn. Many people believe that the term “forbidden riff” strictly refers to “Stairway To Heaven” when in reality, there is a large number of tracks that have made the list.
You can listen to the infamous “Stairway To Heaven” riff below:
| Which Songs Are On The Forbidden List?
The forbidden riff is a colloquial term for the world’s most popular guitar riffs, which are known to be overplayed in public settings. Although this list has no official authority, it is generally considered to contain the following:
- “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
- “Wonderwall” by Oasis
- “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple
- “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
- “Back In Black” by AC/DC
- “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC
- “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin
- “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
- “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne
- “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath
- “Enter Sandman” by Metallica
| What Happens If You Play A Forbidden Riff In Guitar Stores?
Contrary to popular belief, playing a forbidden riff in a guitar store is not actually prohibited. Guitar store staff are more concerned about a customers behaviour and buying-intentions than the songs they choose to play when trying out a guitar. In reality, no song is ever off-limits. The staff at these stores are there to sell guitars and are simply looking to spend their time with serious customers, regardless of skill level. However, if you do decide to play a forbidden riff in guitar store, be prepared to get some odd looks from fellow customers and staff.
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