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Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song.” Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name.” Santana’s “Smooth.” What do these classic hits all have in common? They’re all built around fantastic guitar riffs.

An earth-shaking guitar riff is as elemental to rock n’ roll as primal 4/4 drumming and androgynous sex-symbol lead singers. Can you write a rock, pop, funk, or country song without a guitar riff? Sure, but a well-crafted, well-placed guitar riff can turn a good song into a timeless one.