Top 10 Adam Jones Innovative Guitar Passages

We are anxiously awaiting a new Tool album and have no doubt that the new record will be everything that we hope it to be. In anticipation of that monumental moment, I have come up with some of the most innovative Adam Jones riffs from Tool’s catalog.

Let me preface the list. Here are ten songs with particular references that really grab my attention. Any band with one guitarist forces that player to be multi-talented and capable. Adam is able to rise to the occasion and that makes him one of the most innovative players of this day, not to mention EVER!

Third Eye

The slide riff in the beginning of the song is definitely one of the standout parts of this epic track, even though it’s overall a tough choice to zero in on the one single standout part of this song. After some tough deliberation, I would have to pick the final solo before the outro at 12:15 of the song. It starts with a clean, cavernous guitar part (largely effected of course, as Jones so notably does) and then builds to an arena rock, lead-style bridge and then into the outro of the song where Maynard screams the phrase, “Prying open my third eye.” The entire part is in a 6/8 time signature, as many Tool songs are.


The Song starts off with a simple and repetitive pull-off riff that fluctuates through different versions and renditions. Jones’ subtle addition of flanger and echo (delay) are mostly noted when he drops out on the verses. The bass then emulates the beginning riff of the song and the single-note melody eventually becomes power chords. Simple dynamics, but they fuel the intensity and the gradual build.


The epic chorus riff that appears at 1:16 of the track is probably the catchiest riff the band has. Again, it comes out of nowhere and just elates the listener. I mean, these guys are just phenomenal musicians and songwriters—which is a rare feat as usually it’s one or the other: songwriting or musicianship. When technical prowess and talent in composition combine, it’s the perfect storm for creativity. There are no boundaries at that pont. At the same time, the ability to write what’s best for the song is a tough pill for some musicians to swallow. This is probably the riff that is in my head most.


Easy one here, the beginning riff is the closest thing that Tool will get to to sound like Meshuggah, or for Meshuggah to sound like Tool—depending on your viewpoint. The riff has an interesting incorporation of 16th note triplets and is by far one of the most challenging riffs to play. The riff, like many in the band’s repertoire becomes a reoccurring motif in the song. As it appears in the beginning as a rhythmically hypnotizing line, it builds to fuller power chords changing the dynamics. This song has some of the heaviest parts of any Tool record-full on metal horns!


One of the simplest and most powerful riffs comes after the percussive intro. The “tension and release” of this intro gets to the point. Tool once again bases the song on a lot of renditions of the main part. It just keeps building and building. Definitely a staple live song for the set — it simply crushes!

Rosetta Stoned

This is probably my current favorite track by Tool. Themed around some kind of alien abduction, the opening lead starts off slow and very droned out. It literally sounds like music created for the The Mothman Prophecies. It is so unsettling, hard to listen to and disturbing. In regards to his playing; Adam bends notes slowly while using an E-Bow to raise or lower the pitch and give it that unlimited wailing sustain. I envision a nightmare of being trapped in an empty field in the presence of something not of this world when I hear this — bravo.


This riff appears around 1:40 mark. Similar to Stinkfist, the song has a build to the ultimate pay off riff. The chorus explodes in a bouncy, syncopated fashion and the riff sets the groove for the rest of the track.

Hooker With A Penis

Yes, probably the best song title even devoid of the brilliance that is in this track. It’s got a trashier, dirtier guitar tone in the fashion of Soundgarden, Fu-Manchu, and Kyuss. Very open and grimy sounding chords and again the chorus riff that first pops up around 1:20 is what speaks to me the most part. I cannot forget to mention the amazing lyrics encompassing the phrase, “I’m the man and you’re the man and he’s the man as well…” The rest of the song aptly builds and leaves the listener with one of the most triumphant “And F-U as well.”

The Flood

Definitely one of the “doomier” types of track, it almost reminds me of something that Neurosis would put out – just fucking heavy and dark. The intro grooves à la “stoner rock frenzy” while a chant in the style of a cavern full of Gregorian monks rings through the background. Right when the song starts to climax, the bass introduces the main verse riff, then followed by guitar and vocals – almost five minutes into the song. It’s the guitar crushing this riff that really stands out to me. The little inflections that Adam places in his playing. Believe me, it’s harder to get the riff sounding correct than one would think! Tool are very reminiscent of Rush to me as they have a tendency to take songs in various directions, without any warning sometimes.


The opening riff is the one here. It sounds like a bass player who picked a guitar up and started picking away. Every musician in the band plays a huge role in the percussive nature of the music. This song sounds like a huge drum circle with everyone bashing away. I had a hard time choosing which exact part I was listening to. One of my favorite Adam lead guitar parts occurs at 3:45 – so for this song I would say I have to list both these parts.

What’s your favorite Adam Jones riff, lead or part?