10 Overplayed Guitar Store Riffs

When you enter a guitar store, you often hear the same riffs played. When trying out a new guitar, a new amp, or a pedal, there are some “go-to” riffs most beginner guitarists play. These are called “forbidden riffs” as a joke, as the guitar store employees are quite tired of hearing them.

Thanks to their popularity, ease of play, and amazingly fun playing experience, some riffs are truly overplayed in guitar stores. Listening to those riffs repeatedly every single day makes working in a guitar store a big challenge for most employees, which is why these overplayed riffs are also called “forbidden riffs in guitar stores.”

From Stairway To Heaven to Seven Nation Army, there are many songs that can be a part of this list. So, here are 10 of the most popular ones.

1. Enter Sandman – Metallica

“Enter Sandman” is one of the most popular songs of the legendary thrash metal band Metallica. The song’s killer riff starts with a clean tone in the intro and gets to the high-gain regions a few repeats after. It is quite a short riff and is highly easy to play, which makes it beginner-classic.

Almost every guitar player plays the “Enter Sandman” riff at some point after they take the guitar in their hands. It is a plain, simple, and rock-solid metal riff with a great tone in the recording. So, it is no surprise that the guitar stores are full of players demoing their gear with this Metallica riff.

2. Iron Man – Black Sabbath

One of the first and greatest metal riffs is “Iron Man” from the metal pioneers Black Sabbath. With rock-solid power chords and plenty of overdrive, the iconic riff is a guitar shop regular. It is a very cool riff to play, making you feel like a rock star when you are a beginner.

This 70s metal riff probably has been played by every rock-lover when they first started playing guitar. It features power chords, slides, hammer-ons, and, most important of all, so much gain that gives you the utmost satisfaction when you are a movie player. But, on the other side, it became a sonic torture for guitar store employees as it is highly overplayed.

3. Back In Black – AC/DC

When talking about legendary rock riffs, AC/DC is one of the first bands to mention. The famous “Back In Black” is another beginner classic that is a go-to song in almost every guitar shop. The overdriven chords and amazing embellishments make the riff highly fun to play but maybe too much.

It is not just the “Back In Black” riff, but the same also goes for another AC/DC classic, “Highway To Hell.” Another problem for most guitar shop employees is that the embellishments with pull-offs in between the chords are not super beginner-friendly and are not played properly, making it even harder to stand.

4. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

The White Stripes classic “Seven Nation Army” can be heard anywhere from stadiums and commercials to bars and, of course, music stores. The basic riff the song is built around is super beginner-friendly, with walking on the lower strings, either with single notes or power chords.

As it is one of the most famous and greatest rock riffs ever with a very straightforward notation, it is the first rock riff ever played by many guitarists. So, it became a “forbidden riff” in the guitar shops due to overplay, especially when trying out octave or pitch shifter pedals, as Jack White created his tone in the recording that way.

5. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

The grunge pioneer Nirvana’s breakthrough song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is another amazing rock anthem that probably every guitarist played at some point. The main riff, with four power chords and the percussive muting, is a beginner’s dream to learn.

Not only the song’s main riff but also its solo is also a guitar shop regular, as it is one of the easiest rock guitar solos to play. With a moderate tempo and quite cool techniques like bends, vibratos, and pull-offs, along with a simple pattern, the solo is a beginner treat. But, be careful when playing it in a guitar shop as you may have some judging eyes on you.

6. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses

The main riff of “Sweet Child O’Mine” was actually Slash’s warm-up pattern before becoming one of the most iconic guitar licks of rock history. As it has many string skips, it is not a super easy riff. So, it is a riff that music store employees hate to hear as it is often played very badly.

While the riff is simple in rhythm and structure, it needs some practice to play properly. But that doesn’t stop most guitarists from going to a store, picking up a guitar, and trying to play it, making many mistakes, which leads to eye-rolls from store employees.

7. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple

The hard rock giants Deep Purple’s classic rock staple “Smoke On The Water” features one of the most iconic, recognizable, and easiest-to-play rock riffs ever written. After starting their learning journey, most new players can play the power chord riff in a week or two.

As an easy killer rock riff, it is one of the riffs played the most in music stores. When composing the song, Ritchie Blackmore was inspired by Beethoven’s 5th symphony and created a simple riff with only 4 power chords. Although it is a classic that I never get bored of listening to, it is not the same for guitar store workers.

8. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

Some of the most iconic riffs of hard rock history were created by Led Zeppelin, and “Whole Lotta Love” is one of the top ones on the list. Although it is a bit harder to play with the fast picking pattern and bends, it is a guitar store regular, often played very poorly.

The iconic rock riff with a good amount of overdrive and palm mutings makes you feel like a rock god when played properly. However, it has many techniques, making it difficult to play and a sonic torture for guitar store employees to listen to beginners trying to play the riff.

9. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne

The rock god Ozzy Osbourne’s first-ever solo single, “Crazy Train”, is another guitar store regular. With the gain cranked up, the riff is impressively fun to play and quite easy for most beginners. But, of course, this makes the intro and main riffs quite irritating to hear every day in guitar stores.

With palm mutes on the low E string and single notes creating the melody on the A string, the riff is not super easy but can be achieved in a few weeks with good practice for beginners. Playing it slowly and building up the speed later is the key. However, remember to add plenty of distortion to your tone and try to avoid playing it in music shops for the sake of employees.

10. Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin

The most overplayed song ever in guitar stores is the legendary song, the hard rock classic “Stairway To Heaven” by the great Led Zeppelin. From the clean intro and main riff to the epic killer, power-chorded song’s final, every part has been played in stores more than a million times.

Even in the rock movie “Wayne’s World,” when Wayne goes to a guitar shop to try some guitars and plays the iconic riff, the employee immediately comes and says, “No Stairway To Heaven.” 

But the song is so beautiful in every part; it should be in every guitarist’s repertoire. You should definitely learn the song from the fingerpicked, clean arpeggios at the beginning to the epic guitar solo and rock-solid power-chord riffs. Just try not to play it in music stores.


Although these riffs are called overplayed riffs or forbidden riffs, there is a reason everybody is playing these songs and melodies. It is because they are some of the most iconic, rock-solid, and amazing riffs of rock history. So, you should pick up your guitar and learn some just to have fun and feel the rock. 

But, the main point is to try to avoid playing these ones in guitar stores as the store employees probably had enough of them.

Berk Oztuna

Berk Oztuna

Berk Öztuna is a handpan player, percussionist, and guitarist. He has been playing multiple instruments over the last 10 years. He started his music career as a guitarist, playing with several bands before putting his main focus into playing the handpan.

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