Rhythm Guitar Riff Basics (Rock, Funk, Country, Blues)

GuitarBlog: Rhythm Guitar Riff Basics

Learn how riffs are created in the styles of Rock, Funk, Country and Blues. 

Gain the skills necessary for expanding upon your riffs and understand more about how they can be stretched further to cover other chords in the progressions you perform...

Riffs are one of the most popular ideas studied on the guitar. Whether you're working on Ozzy's, "Crazy Train," or the Beatles, "Day Tripper," riffs are fun to learn and even more fun to play. 

What makes a riff interesting? And, what can a guitarist do to start building their own cool sounding riffs? In this two-part episode of the GuitarBlog, I'm going to discuss a few different riffs from popular styles like; Rock, Country, Blues and Funk. 

We're not just going to learn riffs in these styles, we're going to understand where their notes come from and how the riffs are established to create the character of their style and sound.

PART ONE: Example one focuses on an open-string "Rock Riff" in the key of "E." The riff is built off of the 6th string and applies ghost notes, scale lines, double-stops, hammer-on's and pull-off's. The turnaround for the riff also includes a "Hendrix influenced" Dominant 7th (#9) altered chord.

Example two uses a "Funky" 16th-note feel to generate a groove that moves across a, "V7-IV7-I7" progression in the key of "G Blues."
The dominant chords are connected by way of funky single-note line phrases formed from a combination of both the "G Major" and the "G Minor" Pentatonic scales.

PART TWO: Example three moves into a triplet-based "Country" feel with a riff in the key of "E." The riff relies on open strings to act as passing tones in covering the "E" chord in measure one. The second half of the riff focuses on the keys "IV-chord," of "A." Here we move up the neck through a double-stop riff that takes us into the 7th position. The "E Minor" Pentatonic is used to wrap-up the phrase.

Example four heads into the "Blues" style with a riff that covers the tonic chord of this key of "A Blues" progression, "A7." The riff uses a swing feel that picks up into the first measure with a triplet phrase. A popular "major /minor 3rd" blues chord tone idea is applied on the first half of the phrase. The second half of the riff shifts position up a whole step working through another voicing of the "A7" chord.

The riffs in this lesson can be extended and modified to work over other chords in these progressions. Because the majority of riffs across styles tend to so often involve the "I-IV-V" chord changes, the "I-IV-V" chords can be an excellent format to begin study of how to shift riffs to other chords within a progression. Enjoy the lesson!

Rhythm Guitar Riff Basics

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