Top 5 Praise and Worship Guitar Riffs

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No P&W rig is complete without a cup of coffee.Most of time Praise & Worship guitar is about textures and sound scapes. We try to paint a beautiful sonic hue over a tight song.

But there are some songs that can’t be done without their iconic guitar riff. The riff has become part of the song and to play the song without it would make the song feel incomplete.

Some of these riffs have made it into our collective guitar-playing culture and if you hang around the right guitar shop long enough, you will hear a these riffs used to demo amps, guitars and pedals.

Here are the Top 5 Praise and Worship Guitar Riffs.

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5. Awaken Me-Jesus Culture

This is probably the least sung song on this list, but this song doesn’t get attention because of the lyrics or melody. It gets attention because of the riff.

This is surprising. Jesus Culture usually sticks to the “less is more” maxim. When I first heard this riff I couldn’t believe I was listening to a Jesus Culture song.

This riff makes the list because it zigs when other riffs zag. There really isn’t another riff like it in P&W. I mean, you have to play with a capo; what electric guitar player writes a riff like that?

This guy. Jeffrey Kunde has a great tutorial for this song. Click here to see it.

4. Rain Down-Delirious?

An oldie but a goodie, Delirious? may have single-handedly brought electric guitar to Sunday mornings. Rain Down was a favorite and was incomplete with out the guitar riff.

Because it used an the open D string (sometimes the A too, when you wanted to get a little messy) it couldn’t really be transposed. It was always depressing when the worship leader decided to anyway.

This riff had a way of joyfully rocking out which served the song well. There was something about it that called for a old-school rock-in-roll tone that gave guitar players grins.

3. Take It All-Hillsong United

Whenever I play for a youth conference, I get request for this song. Sure the kid was 9 years old when the song came out but he still wants to worship too it.

This is one of the few worship songs that demands two electric guitars. A nice dotted eighth delay and an in-charge octaves matching the bass, it’s sure to make the guitar players smile when they see it on a set list.

This song has almost become the modern youth version of Trading My Sorrows. Some how every kid knows it, loves it and doesn’t seem to get sick of it.

The longevity of this song alone is enough to put it on this list. Even though 2013 should probably be the last year we ever play these strong guitar riffs, it sure has been a fun ride.

2. I Am Free-Desperation

Written over what is almost the exact chord progression to U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name, I Am Free was a high energy, call-and-response song that simply, yet profoundly conveys our freedom in Christ.

This song taught a lot of guitarist (myself included) voicings for high two-string power chords. Located mostly around the 7th and 10th fret, it didn’t take long for guitarists to realize that these were new ways of playing I, IV, V, VI chords with out sounding like Green Day.

There have been several versions of the song, but something always feels a little off when Eric Todd’s magical riff is giving the song an epic intro.

1. From The Inside Out-Hillsong United

Do you remember the version of this song on the United We Stand album? Do you remember the intro riff? You can probably hum it right now. Do you remember the intro riff of this song from Live In Miami? Neither do I and I just listened to it. The United We Stand version has become the intro riff everyone associates with this song (at least in the states) and the one I’m taking about now.

It’s a beautiful riff that serves the song so well that it is more distracting when it isn’t there than when it is. It’s an excellent example of when a guitar melody can be just as memorable as the actual song.

And to be fair the Live In Miami version does go back to the normal intro after the first verse.

So there you have it, the Top 5 Praise and Worship guitar riffs to date. Agree? Disagree? Let me know what I got right and what I got wrong in the comments below.

Honorable Mentions

My Glorious-This riff rocks. ‘Nuff said.

Your Name-Written by Glenn Packiam and Paul Baloche, the New Life version has a great iconic little riff that brings the song full circle.

Heaven Fall Down-Phil Wickham’s Response album is beautiful and this is a great way to start the album.

What The World Will Never Take-I still hear teenagers play this song in guitar shops. Usually right after they play Crazy Train. Thanks United.

You Are Good-Not the Israel Houghton song, but the Bethel song on Be Lifted High. Simple yet memorable.

I post sporadically. To get the latest on posts, follow the blog on Twitter @WorshipWGuitar. You can find me at @jedidiahsmith.

3 Responses to "Top 5 Praise and Worship Guitar Riffs"
  1. J-Satt says:

    “Break Free” by Hillsong United
    “You Are Good” by Planet Shakers
    “Overcome (with This Is My Story)” by New Life
    “Here In Your Presence” by Gateway

  2. J-Satt says:

    …and some oldies:
    “Salvation Is Here” by Hillsong United
    “King of Majesty” by Hillsong

    …and of course “Romans 16:19 Says” aka Wild Thang 😉

  3. Jed says:

    I totally forgot about “Romans 16:19 Says.” That’s the new number 1.

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