The Top Eleven Jeff Beck Riffs Of All Time

Jeff Beck’s stunning sound comprises many elements. For one thing, his signature-model Fender Stratocasters sport huge, chunky necks and floating tremolo bridges that are set up to raise the G string approximately three half-steps. He has also taken to tuning down one half-step from concert pitch in recent years, and has rarely played with a pick since the late ’80s. Beck’s tone has always been to die for, and legend has it that he acquired a very special prototype Marshall JCM2000 DSL50 head back in 1999, and has used it ever since. But hey, who am I kidding? Guitarists covet his gear and copy his techniques, but deep down we know the truth about that glorious Beck sound: It’s in his hands. And it’s more than just the tone—it’s the spontaneous note choices from raucous to romantic, unspeakable rhythmic acrobatics, frightening command of dynamics, and absurdist sense of humor all smeared with inimitable finger grease that make Jeff Beck so special.
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“Where Were You,” Beck’s achingly beautiful instrumental inspired by a Bulgarian women’s choir—transcribed in its entirety in the Feb. ’90 GP—is our Lick Library Hall of Fame inductee of the month. If your favorites are missing in the following list, don’t worry, there’s enough classic and modern-day Beck material here to keep you stoked for a long time. My option anxiety was so great I decided to cull titles only from the set lists of Beck’s career-retrospective shows from 2002 to 2006. (You can check out live versions of most of these songs on Jeff Beck Live at B.B. King’s Blues Club, a rare and intimate club date recorded in 2003 with Guitar Shop mates Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas.) And, in lieu of the usual top ten, this list of historic Beck riffs goes to 11!