More often than not, a great song will have an iconic intro that makes the song instantly recognizable. If you’re a fan of the guitar, you probably have an acquired taste for intros that feature the guitar.
Be sure to check out the following songs, all of which feature the guitar prominently in the intro. There are probably some songs you’ve heard before, but you might just discover something that you haven’t heard before, too.
“For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)” by AC/DC
Say what you will about AC/DC. If you’re a musician, you probably either completely love or absolutely loathe this band’s music.
To be honest, I’m actually in the latter camp, as the band isn’t one I would willingly listen to. With that being said, you can’t deny that the intro to For Those About To Rock is amazingly epic.
It builds the song’s energy from nothing, interweaving multiple guitar parts working as layers.
“Crazy On You” by Heart
Heart’s hit song Crazy On You received a renewed interest as a result of the Guitar Hero video game. In the early 2000s, Crazy On You became an obvious choice for someone to learn to display their prowess.
And, really, who can blame these people? Crazy On You has an exquisitely tasteful intro reminiscent of a rich classical guitar piece before erupting into electric rock.
“Drive My Car” by The Beatles
Early in their career, The Beatles were incredibly buttoned-up in terms of their image. Gradually, the band began to grow into itself, and its music began to evolve alongside this.
Drive My Car opens the Rubber Soul album, and for many, signals a departure from their past. The song immediately sets the tone for the entire album to follow, which is undoubtedly one of their best.
There isn’t anything overly spectacular about the lead guitar intro. But it’s short, snappy, and precise enough to convey its embedded information.
“Fire And Rain” by James Taylor
James Taylor is one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. Countless words have been written about his careful crafting of words that convey so much meaning within.
Another thing that makes James so excellent is that he has some very signature opening guitar lines. The intro to Fire And Rain is one of his most famous examples.
As soon as you hear 1 or 2 seconds worth, you immediately recognize the song.
“I’m The Man Who Loves You” by Wilco
Wilco has had quite an astonishing career since the mid-1990s. The band has covered quite a bit of ground, ranging from alt-country to folk and rock.
Their track, I’m The Man Who Loves You, embraces an edgy obtuseness to help portray the song’s insight. Some things in life are perfectly imperfect, and Jeff Tweedy’s guitar intro here is just that.
The song reprises this janky sense of playing, but it only adds to the song's addictiveness.
“Over The Hills And Far Away” by Led Zeppelin
Let’s be honest, about 70% of Led Zeppelin’s catalog could be listed in this article. Jimmy Page was a true master of the guitar riff, as well as layering guitars during album productions.
One of the most iconic Zeppelin intros can be heard on Over The Hills And Far Away. This one song has probably taught hammer-ons and pull-offs to more guitarists than any other song in history.
“Seek And Destroy” by Metallica
Early Metallica has this edge where it seems as if satisfying the commercial record label wasn’t an agenda. That’s not to say that their later music is inferior (well, okay, some of it is).
But when you listen to tracks like Seek And Destroy, there’s a sense of liveliness that can be heard. During this guitar intro, it sounds like the guys in the band are actually having fun.
“Raining Blood” by Slayer
Raining Blood is a bit of a unique song with regard to its guitar intro. The entire intro is all atmosphere, provided by soaring guitar feedback whining in the background.
Some pulsing drums build intensity until the song’s signature guitar riff. After this, the song is pure mayhem captured on tape, delivering chaos that rides down from the sky like lightning.
“Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
Again, I will reiterate the fact that I’m not the biggest AC/DC fan by any stretch of the imagination. But it would be a crime if Thunderstruck was left off of this list.
Thunderstruck is perhaps the most rock and roll guitar intro ever written. Learning this has become a rite of passage for any budding guitarist looking to play a few tricks.
“Eruption/You Really Got Me” by Van Halen
How do you change the music world forever with one song? If you’re Eddie Van Halen, you compose something like the Eruption solo.
Sure, you could probably say that Eruption is actually just the solo itself. However, in terms of semantics, it serves as the intro to the song, You Really Got Me.
Eruption defined an entire decade of guitarists and changed the way the guitar was played forever. This is definitely a serious piece of work.
“Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Have you ever seen the film, Dazed And Confused? The film features Lynyrd Skynyrd throughout its soundtrack, with Tuesday’s Gone being one of the songs.
In a way, that film got it right with this song. Tuesday’s Gone is the perfect personification of the 1970s in all of its messy, carefree glory.
The intro starts out gently with a signature melody before an additional guitar rips a soaring solo over top. It’s hard to not feel a little nostalgic with this track.
“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd’s entire discography is filled to the brim with signature guitar parts. As far as intros go, Wish You Were Here is one of the most famous examples.
The intro is actually rather simple to play on the guitar, utilizing basic open chords. It’s the signature pickup notes before the chord strums that give the song its distinctive sound.
Wish You Were Here is another one of those songs that only takes a couple of seconds to recognize.
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” by The Beatles
Remember our earlier mention of Rubber Soul? Drive My Car isn't the only song that has a signature guitar intro.
One of the most enduring melodies from the band’s catalog comes from the song, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). The melody inherent in the intro has an Indian influence that provides its unmistakably recognizable quality.
In some ways, this track personifies the pop culture of the mid-1960s. It’s one of the hippest songs the band ever recorded in their earlier career.
“Grounded” by Pavement
Unless you’re familiar with 90s indie rock, you might not be familiar with Pavement. The band has a sort of slacker reputation, which can be heard in much of its music.
Pavement actually took great care to craft their songs, but it comes off like they don’t care. Listen to the obtuseness of the guitar intro in Grounded, which features guitars barely in unison.
This intro is simple but you can’t deny that it both elevates and projects emotion at the same time. The intro imbues a melodramatic feeling, as if in a movie.
“Baby C’Mon” by Stephen Malkmus
After Pavement indefinitely hung it up as a band, Stephen Malkmus embarked on a solo career to great success. Much of his catalog exclusively features some amazing guitar work.
There’s plenty of evidence to prove this, especially with the song, Baby C’Mon. The intro has a sort of whimsical nature as if you’re in a parachute among the rays of sunshine.
It’s a relatively short song, but it’s sure to elevate your day and reinvigorate you with optimism.
“Dear Prudence” by The Beatles
If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of the infectiousness inherent in a descending musical line. One of the most famous descending lines ever written can be heard in the song, Dear Prudence.
This song has so much power, and part of that has to do with the cyclical nature of the guitar. It’s another one of those instantly-recognizable tracks that will forever remain a song cherished for its timelessness.
“Broken Chairs” by Built To Spill
Built To Spill is known for having massive layers of guitar within its recorded catalog. If you’re not familiar with this band, the song Broken Chairs makes for a good entry.
This track opens up with some simple wah-effected guitar before exploding in intensity. Some tastefully composed call-and-response is evident here between some classic riffs and soaring whines.
“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry
Any list covering classic guitar intros would be incomplete without mentioning the song, Johnny B. Goode. In this short intro, Chuck Berry pioneered a completely new genre for its time.
This song is a must-learn for any guitar nut looking to add some classic material to their repertoire. As soon as you play those opening double-stops, the audience’s ear can make no mistake about what you’re playing.
“Can You Get To That” by Funkadelic
The Funkadelic album, Maggot Brain, is most notable for the title track, with Eddie Hazel soloing for 10 minutes. However, the album is home to a number of tracks that are too funky for their own good.
Can You Get To That is especially funky and opens with a signature acoustic guitar line in the intro. The band builds the intensity underneath until the groove becomes too tangible to deny.
“Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones
Keith Richards is perhaps one of the kings of simple guitar lines that are extremely tasteful. Take the song, Start Me Up, for instance.
This track opens with an isolated guitar riff playing a distinct rhythm. Hopefully, you are keeping track of the number of signature and unmistakable riffs, because this needs adding to that list.
As soon as the song begins, it’s a calling card that the rest of the song is about to ensue. That is the intended purpose of a great intro.
“Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones had quite a few recognizable guitar intros, but Gimme Shelter is an astonishing example. This track came out during a tumultuous time in history, where war co-existed with movements to promote love and peace.
Gimme Shelter starts out with a guitar that rises from the speakers like the gentle smoke from a smoke bomb. This track manages to capture that hazy sort of mentality that was coloring much of society during its release.
“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne
Okay, so technically, Crazy Train doesn’t exactly start out with only a guitar. However, the signature guitar riff is commonly associated with the song’s actual intro.
This is definitely one of the most iconic guitar lines to ever come out of the 1980s. It’s usually one of the first riffs that beginner guitarists learn, partially because it’s so cool.
The rest of the song isn’t as epic as the intro, so you’re forgiven for not learning the whole thing.
“More Than A Feeling” by Boston
There’s no denying that Boston’s self-titled album is an absolute masterpiece in the musical art form. The album essentially created a new sound that even Boston couldn’t replicate with later releases.
This album opens with a song called More Than A Feeling. A circular 12-string guitar riff fades in from nowhere to quickly grab your attention with its ethereal quality.
If you’ve never heard this song before, you owe it to yourself to listen. It is a track of epic proportions, even if it hasn’t exactly aged well.
“Lonely Stranger” by Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton’s MTV Unplugged album was a surprise hit, selling more albums than initially anticipated. The album’s stripped-down nature presents Clapton in an intensely intimate manner as he pays homage and bears his feelings.
Lonely Stranger is but one of the many amazing songs to come from this album’s tracklist. It has a meandering solo intro before breaking into a foot-tapping guitar part that is instantly memorable.
“The Width Of A Circle” by David Bowie
David Bowie is known for a lot of things. Epic guitar intros might not always be what comes to mind.
However, you’d be mistaken if you didn’t think that Bowie had some classic guitar intros in his catalog.
The Width Of A Circle begins with a guitar veering on the edge of feedback and playing a melodic line. This then gets harmonized, and in a way, plants the seed for the stoner rock of decades later to follow.
“You Just Can’t Quit” by Ricky Nelson
Rock music isn’t the only genre that is full of amazing guitar intros. Country music actually has had some of the greatest guitar players to ever pick up the instrument.
Ricky Nelson’s song, You Just Can’t Quit, features the amazing James Burton on lead guitar. Burton plays the signature intro utilizing intervals of sixths, which he uses throughout the track.
“Black Grease” by The Black Angels
The Black Angels have been one of the banner-waving bands of the psychedelic music revival of the 2000s. Much of their sound is heavily influenced by 60s psychedelia with a modern edge.
Their track, Black Grease, opens up with a guitar that has a massively thick tone. There’s no doubt that this guitar in the intro has a fuzz pedal on to provide such a huge sound.
This intro riff is quite infectious and has a groove of its own. In a way, it provides the platform for the rest of the song’s layering.
“Dust In The Wind” by Kansas
Kansas had some major hits back in the day, but Dust In The Wind is by far the most successful. Fans could not get enough of this sentimental song, partially because every human has to face death.
But the song isn’t necessarily mopey about it, nor is it exactly super overjoyed in its delivery, either. Instead, the song remains incredibly serene, with layering that hits the soul just right.
Dust In The Wind has some signature fingerpicking acoustic guitar parts throughout the song. The track actually opens with this, making it easy to identify.
“For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Metallica
Okay, so technically, For Whom The Bell Tolls doesn’t exactly begin with the guitar. If you want to be semantic, that credit would have to go to the bells.
But it’s not the bells that alert the listener that this song is about to take over the stereo. AC/DC’s Hells Bells could be (and often is) mistaken for this track, and vice versa.
Instead, it’s the pummeling guitar intro that gives the song its identifying tag. Rhythm is accentuated, with some soaring lines to respond, over and over again.
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
There’s a good chance that, if you play guitar, you’ve learned the intro to Sweet Child O’ Mine. It is yet another one of those guitar parts that has become a rite of passage for learning guitarists.
The intro itself has a semi-static part that plays throughout, helping to grab the listener’s attention. But, it’s the 2nd guitar part that elevates the song into the stratosphere.
“Something” by The Beatles
By now, you’ve already seen a few instances of The Beatles having an excellent guitar intro. However, any discussion on guitar intros in The Beatles catalog is incomplete without mentioning Something.
With a simple bend and an intervallic walk upwards, the guitar intro to this song is pure perfection. It gently sets the mood for one of the greatest love songs ever written.
Best Songs With A Guitar Intro, Final Thoughts
The reality is that musical taste is subjective to the listener. And, you might not consider some of these songs to be the most ideal for your tastes.
However, you don’t necessarily need to like the songs to be able to appreciate the intros for what they are. In fact, keeping an open mind like this is the best thing a musician can do for themselves.
If you didn’t see your favorite guitar solos mentioned here, which ones would make your list?
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!