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McSeven

Zeppelin Riffs

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What makes a Zeppelin riff different from other bands like The Stones/Who/AcDc/Whitesnake/Def Leppard/Deep Purple/BSabbath?

I always hear music critics use adjectives as Zeppelin like Zeppelinish,Zeppelinesque to discribe other bands music at times.

Is that the riffs are Zep knockoffs of IS/NQ/WLL or is it the structure of the LZ riffs in general?

Mc7

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A musicologist could give you a theoretical reason, in terms of note selection, time signatures, rhythm, modes/scales and all sorts of technical considerations.

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What makes a Zeppelin riff different from other bands like The Stones/Who/AcDc/Whitesnake/Def Leppard/Deep Purple/BSabbath?

I always hear music critics use adjectives as Zeppelin like Zeppelinish,Zeppelinesque to discribe other bands music at times.

Is that the riffs are Zep knockoffs of IS/NQ/WLL or is it the structure of the LZ riffs in general?

Mc7

Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.

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Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.

So true. I'm not a musician and don't pretend to be (so I hope the pros won't bash me), but to the ears of this avid music lover, no one writes or plays guitar riffs quite like Jimmy Page.

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I always hear music critics use adjectives as Zeppelin like Zeppelinish,Zeppelinesque to discribe other bands music at times.

I usually find that when they say Zeppelinesque, the music involved has a Kashmir feel to it, sort of eastern sounding, I know their will be others but this song above all others inspired alot of groups..even Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow was inspired to write Stargazer just 2 yrs later..again Zeppelinesque

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What makes a Zeppelin riff different from other bands like The Stones/Who/AcDc/Whitesnake/Def Leppard/Deep Purple/BSabbath?

I always hear music critics use adjectives as Zeppelin like Zeppelinish,Zeppelinesque to discribe other bands music at times.

Is that the riffs are Zep knockoffs of IS/NQ/WLL or is it the structure of the LZ riffs in general?

Mc7

led zeppelin's tone is what makes them different. it's classical and sometimes heavy. they're awesome

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The famous riff in Black Dog was an idea Jonesy got on the train on his way to Headley Grange, as he remembers; the inspiration came from a 1968 Muddy Waters album. But that was an exception; Jimmy wrote most of Led Zeppelin's riffs. The ideas for them would of course to him in all sorts of different ways. Out On The Tiles was a riff that was designed after a little ditty that Bonzo would sometimes sing.

But exceptions aside, the question basically boils down to a dissection of Jimmy's particular style of playing and writing. There are many influences detectable in there, but the most basic one is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the sort of music that fascinated him to begin with – the music that made him want to play, e.g. rockabilly and early American Rock & Roll. Even when Jimmy is not playing in that style, strictly speaking, that type of sensibility just comes through on some other level; and often enough his riffs are very much derivative from that style, as for instance in Celebration Day and Rock and Roll. The latter song is a good example, as the song was born very spontaneously: Bonzo started playing the rhythm of Little Richard's Keep a-Knockin', and the riff just came there and then. That kind of thing is just second nature to Jimmy. The medley they used to do in Whole Lotta Love live shows exactly where he comes from. For that kind of thing you need a drummer that swings, and Bonzo, for all his power, had that in abundance.

This kind of sensibility is absolutely basic to Jimmy's style: his notion of "rocking out" really comes from there, straight from the fifties (think of Over The Hills, for instance, the part before the song is concluded in the same way it started). Now, by way of comparison, Blackmore wrote some of the most memorable riffs in rock history, but they derive from completely different musical sources. You get pretty close to the quintessential Blackmore feel in songs like Smoke on the Water, Burn and Kill the King (which he did with Rainbow), and there is a classical inspiration underlying them, completely absent from Jimmy's riffs, and Blackmore has often said as much. You don't get that swingin' rockabilly feel in Purple, nor Sabbath, let alone Uriah Heep, etc.

Now, if the influence of people like Scotty Moore, Gene Vincent etc. constitutes much of the basic sensibility of Jimmy's style, some important elements are still missing. I'll take up two of them: the blues, and acoustic folk.

The blues influence is certainly very, very important, but two things have to be kept in mind here. Firstly, Pagey has never been a blues purist, and that influence came later than the original rockabilly impetus. What he got from the blues is also not as distinctive as the rockabilly roots, especially when you're talking about riffs, as the blues legacy affected his soloing more than his riffing, at least arguably. Even if he did use many different scales in his solos, the blues style is nearly always at the heart of them; and as for the blues derived songs and riffs, they often tend to sound less distinctive (yep, Since I've Been Loving You is certainly an exception, and Tea For One is really a revisiting of that earlier song). What you can trace back to the blues in Jimmy basically is the emotional expressiveness of his solos more than anything else, but it also contributes some of that to his music in general.

There is also the Bert Jansch influence. This initially, and famously, meant playing acoustic in alternate tunings. The distinctive thing about Jimmy's take on this was his idea of a combination of Celtic, Indian and Arabic feel (CIA, as he calls it). While the idea can be partly traced back to Davy Graham, Jimmy took it quite a bit further. Thus Black Mountain Side on LZ's first album was a sort of marriage of Celtic and Indian music. Kashmir comes from his experiments with the DADGAD tuning. I've been playing it on my guitar in the last few days, and it's just such an incredibly massive riff - nothing quite like it, and a real pleasure to play. It has an exotic fury and sheer massive force that is perhaps less in evidence on the album than in live versions. Other bands would later try to capture a similar feel, but never really came close.

That is not exhaustive, I know, and you also have a hodge-podge of all kinds of different things he picked up in his session years (his apprenticeship, as he has called it), certainly also important in some ways, but hardly a defining element of his style as such, just lots of different styles and things that from time to time will surface in his playing.

Edited by Otto Masson

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The famous riff in Black Dog was an idea Jonesy got on the train on his way to Headley Grange, as he remembers; the inspiration came from a 1968 Muddy Waters album. But that was an exception; Jimmy wrote most of Led Zeppelin's riffs. The ideas for them would of course to him in all sorts of different ways. Out On The Tiles was a riff that was designed after a little ditty that Bonzo would sometimes sing.

But exceptions aside, the question basically boils down to a dissection of Jimmy's particular style of playing and writing. There are many influences detectable in there, but the most basic one is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the sort of music that fascinated him to begin with – the music that made him want to play, e.g. rockabilly and early American Rock & Roll. Even when Jimmy is not playing in that style, strictly speaking, that type of sensibility just comes through on some other level; and often enough his riffs are very much derivative from that style, as for instance in Celebration Day and Rock and Roll. The latter song is a good example, as the song was born very spontaneously: Bonzo started playing the rhythm of Little Richard's Keep a-Knockin', and the riff just came there and then. That kind of thing is just second nature to Jimmy. The medley they used to do in Whole Lotta Love live shows exactly where he comes from. For that kind of thing you need a drummer that swings, and Bonzo, for all his power, had that in abundance.

This kind of sensibility is absolutely basic to Jimmy's style: his notion of "rocking out" really comes from there, straight from the fifties (think of Over The Hills, for instance, the part before the song is concluded in the same way it started). Now, by way of comparison, Blackmore wrote some of the most memorable riffs in rock history, but they derive from completely different musical sources. You get pretty close to the quintessential Blackmore feel in songs like Smoke on the Water, Burn and Kill the King (which he did with Rainbow), and there is a classical inspiration underlying them, completely absent from Jimmy's riffs, and Blackmore has often said as much. You don't get that swingin' rockabilly feel in Purple, nor Sabbath, let alone Uriah Heep, etc.

Now, if the influence of people like Scotty Moore, Gene Vincent etc. constitutes much of the basic sensibility of Jimmy's style, some important elements are still missing. I'll take up two of them: the blues, and acoustic folk.

The blues influence is certainly very, very important, but two things have to be kept in mind here. Firstly, Pagey has never been a blues purist, and that influence came later than the original rockabilly impetus. What he got from the blues is also not as distinctive as the rockabilly roots, especially when you're talking about riffs, as the blues legacy affected his soloing more than his riffing, at least arguably. Even if he did use many different scales in his solos, the blues style is nearly always at the heart of them; and as for the blues derived songs and riffs, they often tend to sound less distinctive (yep, Since I've Been Loving You is certainly an exception, and Tea For One is really a revisiting of that earlier song). What you can trace back to the blues in Jimmy basically is the emotional expressiveness of his solos more than anything else, but it also contributes some of that to his music in general.

There is also the Bert Jansch influence. This initially, and famously, meant playing acoustic in alternate tunings. The distinctive thing about Jimmy's take on this was his idea of a combination of Celtic, Indian and Arabic feel (CIA, as he calls it). While the idea can be partly traced back to Davy Graham, Jimmy took it quite a bit further. Thus Black Mountain Side on LZ's first album was a sort of marriage of Celtic and Indian music. Kashmir comes from his experiments with the DADGAD tuning. I've been playing it on my guitar in the last few days, and it's just such an incredibly massive riff - nothing quite like it, and a real pleasure to play. It has an exotic fury and sheer massive force that is perhaps less in evidence on the album than in live versions. Other bands would later try to capture a similar feel, but never really came close.

That is not exhaustive, I know, and you also have a hodge-podge of all kinds of different things he picked up in his session years (his apprenticeship, as he has called it), certainly also important in some ways, but hardly a defining element of his style as such, just lots of different styles and things that from time to time will surface in his playing.

Lovely post Otto, very informative and factual and very interesting for us guitar novices, i call my self a novice and i have 35 years experiance.

And dont forget the inpact JPJ had on the band. If he is credited on a track and there is no organ/piano piece on it then he probably wrote the rift, JPJ and JB were as esential to the bands overall sound as were JP and RP, IMHO.

The music and performances were bigger and better when all band members were in the same room, both in the studio or on tour. Led Zeppelin were bigger and better than any of the boys indivdual work, even when you put all their solo work together Led Zeppelin still come out on top by a country mile. And all the boys individual work is still awesome.

Regards, Danny

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Lovely post Otto, very informative and factual and very interesting for us guitar novices, i call my self a novice and i have 35 years experiance.

And dont forget the inpact JPJ had on the band. If he is credited on a track and there is no organ/piano piece on it then he probably wrote the rift, JPJ and JB were as esential to the bands overall sound as were JP and RP, IMHO.

The music and performances were bigger and better when all band members were in the same room, both in the studio or on tour. Led Zeppelin were bigger and better than any of the boys indivdual work, even when you put all their solo work together Led Zeppelin still come out on top by a country mile. And all the boys individual work is still awesome.

Regards, Danny

Thanks Danny. :beer: I consider myself a novice too.

When I saw your quote I spotted a mistake in my post that I can no longer edit out: the reference to OTHAFA should be omitted. It was the concluding section of The Ocean I had in mind.

And I agree with what you say. Led Zeppelin was bigger than the individual members, and all of them had important roles to play. Riffs aside, I understand Jonesy sometimes would work out complex time signature changes, as did Bonzo. Jonesy is a great arranger of songs, and also played all these different instruments. As for Jonesy's bass playing it was simply masterly - that in itself was an immense contribution to the band's sound. He can play really difficult stuff, but he's not about showing off. He stays focused on the song, and it's like he instantly knows how to make the song as effective or powerful or whatever as possible. Part of that is a form of modesty, because he had Bonzo on the drums, and Jonesy knew when to just let the drums come through, things like that.

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