LEAD GUITAR INTERMEDIATES

Welcome to our course on mastering riffs! We have done some work in the past on riffs, but have focused mainly on soloing and improvising. Being able to play riffs is equally as challenging as soloing as your consistency and rhythm have to be perfect! The term riff often gets used to describe rock, but is equally as important in blues, funk, indie and many other genres. We will be looking over typical rock, blues, funk and indie riffs to give you a solid idea as to how each genre uses the riff. Have fun!

Summary: What makes a riff?

A riff is a repetitive musical phrase. This is the simple definition but the best way to really understand what a riff is, is to listen to, analyse and learn some riffs! We will be looking at rock, blues, funk and indie riffs to show you the difference between them. Here are some classic riffs and what defines them in each genre:

Rock riff: Whole Lotta Love

This Led Zeppelin riff is one of the most instantly recognisable riffs ever... and it’s so simple! As you can hear, it mainly consists of just two chords, a few pentatonic notes and great rhythm! The use of palm muting and dynamics really brings the riff to life.

Blues riff: Mannish Boy

This Muddy Waters riff is simple but incredibly powerful. The riff is made up of just 3 or 4 notes but is brought to life with the rhythm! Combine that with the amazing vocals of Muddy Waters, a solid drum beat and the occasional guitar fill and you have a truly classic track!

Funk riff: Le Freak

Nile Rogers is the master of funk guitar riffs, and this particular song is probably the most famous of them all! Le Freak utilises the the scale notes underneath a basic A minor chord and is played by strumming the notes rather than just picking. The strummed element adds to the groove and gives the songs it’s character and sound.

Indie riff: The Sun Goes Down

Like this awesome Arctic Monkeys tune, a lot of indie riffs are written with a combination of chords and lead parts. As is often the case with indie, the attitude is as important as the technique! This riff oozes indie rhythm as it is straight, aggressive and edgy!

Tutorial: Rock riff

Summary: Rock Riff part 1

Let’s begin by tackling a rock riff! Rock is all about solid rhythms, big distortion and energy! This riff demonstrates how using your pentatonic notes, the odd powerchord, and some heavy distortion can really bring life to the simplest of ideas. Make sure you can also visualise the pentatonic shapes you are using... in this case it is mainly the Pentatonic Shape 3, as shown below.

Materials: Rock Riff tab

Here is the tab for the entire song. Remember to only go over the licks we have covered in this video. Use the looping function and the slow down function to make sure you have it correct before moving on.

Summary: Rock riff part 2

We will now look at the second part of this riff where we are playing palm muted power chords. This technique can be tricky at first as you have to adjust your right hand to play it properly. However, once you get the palm muting together, this second section shouldn't challenge you too much! In terms of the structure of the tune, it is as follows:

  • 1. Chorus Riff
  • 2. Verse Riff
  • 3. Chorus Riff
  • 4. Verse Riff
  • 5. Chorus Riff
  • 6. Verse Riff
  • 7. Chorus Riff

Materials: Rock Riff tab

Here is the tab for the entire song. You can now look to play the entire song and piece it all together. Once agin, use the slow down function to learn the riff properly.

Audio: Backing Track

Here is the song backing track and full audio file. Remember that you can use the tab above to play along if you prefer, as well as the performance video of this lesson. This is at full speed, so be sure to put the practice in before you attempt this.

Tutorial: Blues riff

Summary: Blues Riff

This blues riff is an idea borrowed from great players such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. The riff is a groove based only around E7 and uses the E minor pentatonic scale (with the odd extra note that really adds a bluesy edge). Again, as with all riffs, the main focus is the groove and timing. You need to get your foot tapping on the floor whilst you play this riff as I show you in the video! Here is the E minor pentatonic scale position 1 and 2 so you can clearly see where the riff is based:

Materials: Blues Riff tab

Here is the tab for the entire song. Remember to only go over the licks we have covered in this video. Use the looping function and the slow down function to make sure you have it correct before moving on.

Materials: Blues Riff tab

Here is the tab for the entire song. You can now go through the whole tab as we have covered every lick. Use the looping function and the slow down function to make sure you have it correct before moving on.

Audio: Backing Track

Here is the song backing track and full audio file. Remember that you can use the tab above to play along if you prefer, as well as the performance video of this lesson. This is at full speed, so be sure to put the practice in before you attempt this.

Ready to move on? Remember to check out every lesson in this unit first – then try the next unit...

Mastering The Riff Part 2

In this course we will be taking a look at funk and indie riffs, inspired by Nile Rodgers and Arctic Monkeys! We will need to learn 16th note patterns and master dynamics to get these sounding good.