PERFECT & EASY Way to Modify Your Guitar Riffs

In this lesson, we’re talking about the perfect riff modification exercise. It's fun to work on learning guitar riffs. We all love it. But, what if we pushed ourselves a step further. This means getting creative with the riffs we learn, altering them and making them even better than when we first tried them...

We'll start with what we’ll call a "primary" riff idea, and train-up on that one first, (learn it so it is thoroughly memorized and well-rehearsed). Then, what we’re going to do after that, is work out creating a series of variations from off of our primary riff.


NOTE: To help break this idea down for you, we’re going to use a variation of the riff from Tom Petty’s song “Nightwatchman.” If you’ve never learned that riff, then for sure go check it out it’s a great riff to invest some practice time on.

STEP #1).

STEP #2).

Changing the riff. What we’re after here is to be able to make a few initial changes to our riff in a creative way. We’re going to focus on keeping the rhythm of the riff the same, but at the same time we also want to change the notes, as well as, the note locations.

This exercise routine requires you to re-invent the way that the riff is performed. And, the long term result will be that you’ll be able to take any riff that you learn and re-shape it so that it becomes something unique – and that way it could be re-developed as an original idea – something that you could perhaps even write into your next song!

So, let’s re-shape the primary riff into something different. Here’s my "New Modified Riff," that I created off of our first one…

Our re-organized /modified riff has moved the “D” open string over to the 5th-string / “5th” fret, and the upper tones of “A and D” moved from the 3rd and 2nd strings over to - the 4th and 3rd strings at the 7th fret.

And, if you analyze this thing even further you’re going to start to tell that doing this sort of exercise is a great way to re-locate segments of a riff elsewhere on the neck and it also opens up the possibility for new sounds.

One of the unique things about this, "Riff Modification Exercise," is how the phrasing gets you focusing on new scale tones... Let’s make up another riff variation and try changing a few more parts. Here’s another version of the riff for you to try.

STEP #3).

The second riff modification took our “A and C#” tones over to the 5th and 4th strings. Plus, I also made a few subtle variations to the ending phrase as well. Those are only a couple of simple options, but they did allow for some new sounds compared to our last example…

STEP #4).

Let’s do one more variation to this riff. Next, I’m going to focus a lot more on the use of 2-note chord ideas, plus I’m going to build this new version so that it remains more in position.

This also means that the intervals of the riff will use more repetition of one overall shape across the strings. So, here’s how this version sounds…

In wrapping up, the main thing I want to leave you with is that you never want to get into the habit of just leaving a riff alone and not expanding upon it. 

This is important because when you practice re-organizing the notes of a riff that you learn, (as well as, work out placing the riff into other locations of the neck), you’re going to notice new possibilities for the riff...

Most notably, you’ll discover new ways of playing the riff and that will in turn lead you to come up with new parts and to add (or even replace) entire sections of the riff with new ones. 

When you study an exercise like the one I’ve discussed here, you’ll slowly start to make it a habit to try altering every riff that you play. You’ll expand your neck awareness and most importantly, you’ll expand your sense of creativity at the same time…

As always, thanks for joining me, if you liked this lesson, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe for more on YouTube, (and remember to hit that bell when you subscribe so that you’ll never miss any of my lesson uploads)…

I also want to let you know about the guitar courses I have over on my website at

I’ve got step-by-step; Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced courses that work alongside of in-depth elective programs to form the best guitar courses available.

My courses work fantastic to help you learn to identify what's required to get you up to that next level of guitar playing, in a very organized step-by-step way, that totally makes sense. So, I look forward to helping you further at my website;

Until next time, take care and we'll catch up again on the next lesson. Bye for now!



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