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Some of my favorite songs ever put out into the world are also songs that have incredible synthesizer riffs. This comes as no surprise as I am a huge synth enthusiast.
Synthesizer riffs have the power to awaken stadium crowds and they also have the power to bring you some serious nostalgia. If you came here wanting to find some or be reminded of some crazy cool synth riffs, you came to the right place.
Best Synth Riffs/Licks Of All Time
While I know that this list is completely subjective, I am confident that you will also find these riffs to be great as well. Keep in mind, these are only my opinion and it’s important to always grow and find new songs/inspiration.
1) Sleepyhead – Passion Pit
“Sleepyhead” may not be as well known overall as a lot of these songs, however, this song relies on this synth riff. This riff sounds great on piano as well.
I can remember the first time hearing this synth lick and thinking to myself, wow, I have to learn this immediately. When you play it, it just feels like a hit.
2) It’s A Sin – Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys are one of the most iconic synth bands of all time. The synth lead in this song is extremely well written and it carries the whole song.
This is the type of lead that you would want to learn to play the synthesizer for. If you haven’t heard this song, you’re in for a treat.
3) Midnight City – M83
The synth riff in “Midnight City” is one of the most catchy synth parts in the last 10 years. In fact, the chorus is the synth part. The synth design on this song overall is incredibly impressive & it’s no wonder why Anthony Gonzalez has been so successful over the years.
4) The Final Countdown – Europe
The lead synth in The Final Countdown is quite possibly the most iconic synthesizer riff of all time. I say this in the sense of how many people would instantly recognize it.
If you gone to a sporting event, chances are that you have heard and rocked out to this song. What’s great about this riff is that it was so strong that it carries the song basically through its entirety.
5) Smile Like You Mean It – The Killers
This specific track features an incredibly simple, yet beautiful synth lick that is performed on the Micro Korg. A fun fact about this album is that the Micro Korg was featured on most of the tracks.
6) Kids – MGMT
The synth work on this entire album from MGMT was absolutely out of this world. “Kids” became a hit due to its fantastic synthesizer work.
The lead in this song is one of the catchiest synth parts of all time, despite its simplicity. This is the type of song that you hear and it instantly puts you into a good mood.
When you hear MGMT play this live, the entire crowd sings the synth part. This shows you just how great of a part it truly is. The synthesizers used for this song are also iconic in their own right.
7) Light My Fire – The Doors
Ray Manzarek is no stranger to writing psychedelic yet melodic hooks. “Light My Fire” features a crazy cool synth lead that can be heard in numerous ending credits of movies.
I’ve long been a fan of Ray Manzarek and he is one of the most sought after keyboardists in rock bands to ever live. Following the synth lead in the intro, Manzarek breaks down into some cool chords to drive the verses.
8) Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
This song just screams 80s to me. The raw & driving feel that the synth brings to the table in this song is incredible.
While the lead vocals in this song have this dark & melancholic feel, the synth lead counters it with a hopeful feeling that keeps moving the song forward.
Joy Division greatly influenced huge synth bands including bands like The Killers.
9) Separate Ways – Journey
Johnathon Cain strikes gold with one of the most iconic synth hooks of all time. The Sawtooth shines brightly in this epic 80s hit. From the first notes of this song, you know that you’re in for a treat.
While this is a simple part to play, it is extremely well written and makes the song open up so well later on. The synth lead provides you with this uneasy on the edge feeling, only for an epic chorus to drop shortly after.
If you’re wanting to learn some really cool synth hooks, this has got to be on your list.
10) Jump – Van Halen
While Van Halen isn’t always known for their keyboard riffs, “Jump” is easily one of the most learned keyboard parts of all time. This heavily major chord progression knocks it out of the water and remains to be a keyboard part that you hear in your nearest Guitar Center.
11) Take On Me – Aha
“Take On Me” features an incredible synthesizer riff that has you dancing from the very start of it. The staccato driven lick is something you can instantly point your finger at when you hear it.
I think the fact that is such a fast & staccato part, it makes it really unique in that sense.
12) Fanfare Of The Common Man – ELP
Keith Emerson is no stranger when it comes to knockout synth riffs. Emerson is one of the most talented keyboard players on this list and he is also in our list of the best keyboard players of all time.
13) Young Blood – The Naked & Famous
If you’re noticing a theme in that I am listing some very recent bands, that is definitely the case. The Naked & Famous absolutely killed it with this synth lick & it greatly influenced many synth bands after them.
Not only is the synth lead impressive, but the ridiculously fat synth bass in this song is also crazy cool.
14 ) Baba O’ Riley – The Who
“Baba O’ Riley” is another song that has became extremely iconic. The layered synth work in this track is absolutely perfect and this was a song that I felt I needed to learn many years ago.
This is one of those synth leads that feels so right & also so unique.
15) Tom Sawyer – Rush
Having a list on synth licks without Rush would be a crime. Geddy Lee tapped into some serious energy when coming up with this riff.
What’s cool is that this synth is not in 4/4, instead it is in 7. I actually included this song in my roundup of popular songs in 7.