Rock Blues Groove (Riffs Lesson)

March 31, 2017:
Rock Blues Groove (Riffs Lesson)

PART ONE:  In the first part of the lesson we start out with some practice on the Shuffle /Boogie rhythm in example one. This feel is one of the most common Blues-Rock ideas and is applied in literally hundreds of Blues and Rock songs. Our example is similar to the types of riffs found in tunes by bands like CCR or the Black Keys. In example 1a, the foundation riff is demonstrated off of the I-chord in the key of "E Minor." However, a follow-up riff is also provided in example 1b, for the key's "IV-chord," (off of an "A" root note).

Example two shifts our rhythmic focus over to the straight-time feel. A straight 8th's Blues-Rock riff (based over a "Rock Boogie" groove in the key of "D"), opens up the opportunity for a harder edged Rock format in example 2a. Similar to how we had studied the part from example one, our riff for example two also includes a follow-up groove (see example 2b). In this sections follow up groove, rather than directly copy over the initial riff to our IV-chord, our supplemental version introduces the IV-chord using a more complimentary approach.

PART TWO: In part two, we begin in example three with a "Triplet /Shuffle" feel. This "Canned Heat" style riff explores ideas reminiscent of their classic Blues Rock hit, "On the Road Again." Combinations of triplet riffs and connecting licks work together to create a fun to learn riff based in the key of "E."

In example four, we shift gears into a heavier rock feel and cross over to a less common key signature. Our heavy rock straight time riff is based within "Ab Minor." It provides a style reminiscent of groups like "Ten Years After," or "Bad Company." This harder edge groove also adds in a number of interesting filler licks with additional two-note chord concepts.

Paid members can download the handout along with the MP3 jamtrack in the members area at:



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Guitar Lick /Guitar Riff - What's the Difference?

Guitar Riff, Guitar Lick, the two terms are used  interchangeably. But, what exactly is a Guitar Riff? And, what is it that makes a, "Guitar Lick" different from a "Riff?"

A riff is thematic. It generally serves as the main musical idea for a (section of a) song. Riffs are often repeated and are also developed further in a piece, sometimes with variations, sometimes in different keys, but always recognizable as the same main musical idea.

Because a guitar riff is a main theme for a song, it often becomes inextricably associated with that song --- if you heard the riff out of context (say, someone trying out guitars in Guitar Center), you'd associate it with the song.

Think of songs like; "Kashmir", "Smoke On The Water", "Crazy Train," or "Smells Like Teen Spirit". If the song is a hit, the riff becomes quotable, and anyone else who plays the riff is making an allusion to the original song.


 Crazy Train:

A guitar lick is musical idea, just like a riff in many ways, but often guitar licks are incomplete. A lick might be just a fragment of a guitar solo, or only a small portion of a riff. By itself, a guitar lick doesn't usually become thematic.

A guitar lick that forms a theme within a piece of music essentially becomes a riff within that piece. A guitar lick will also tend to combine itself with other licks to form more complete musical ideas and thus giving us a "Guitar Solo."

Because a guitar lick isn't the main theme of a piece, it doesn't have that same association with the song, and so it's very often transferable: it can be used in other songs without necessarily having to allude to the original song's idea of usage.

For example, the blues is full of standard licks. Take, for example, the first lick played by Stevie Ray Vaughan in "The Sky Is Crying" and compare it to the lick Hendrix plays in "Red House" (@ 2:14). It's practically the same, but because it's not thematic, it's more an indicator of style than a direct musical quote.

The Sky is Crying (opening lick):

You can play this lick whenever you want and no one will think you're quoting Hendrix. At most, they'll think you've listened to a lot of Albert King.

"This Charming Man" by The Smiths opens with a lick that, because it forms the main musical idea of the song, is also a riff. If you play this riff, people will assume you're quoting Johnny Marr.

This Charming Man (opening lick)

The beginning of Clapton's solo in "Sunshine of Your Love" (@ 2:02) is a lick, but because it's also recognizably the riff from "Blue Moon", it becomes a quote.

Overall, the point is that the difference between a riff and a lick has more to do with the roles they each play in the song than whether or not they involve chords - scales - or both.



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Amazing Effects Background Music Has On Sales...

Is there any point to the background music you hear at the supermarket? There certainly is. In fact, it is selected on a detailed scientific basis to make you spend your money...

While some stores play or don't play music without a second thought, the significant effects of music have been identified in dozens of academic studies.

We'll break out the coolest findings as summarized in a paper by Nicolas Guéguen, Céline Jacob, Marcel Lourel and Hélène Le Guellec.

If you find yourself splashing out an extra portion of chips next time you're in McDonalds, you might have the restaurant's music to blame.

Major restaurant chains, including McDonalds and TGI Fridays are installing specially-designed sound systems that make customers spend as much as 10 per cent more.

The system, called Soundtrack Your Brand, plays music that reflects a brand's values, evoking a range of positive emotions in customers and increasing guest satisfaction.

Researchers from HUI Research, a research-based consulting firm in Stockholm, conducted the largest ever academic study of background music, to design the sound system.

Professor Sven-Olov Daunfeldt, who led the study, said: 'This is without doubt the largest field study on the influence of music in restaurants to date, and we've analyzed an enormous pool of data.

'When done right, music has a major positive effect on sales, largely stemming from guests purchasing more items such as desserts and sides.'

'Play the wrong music, and you just might find that you're alienating that very same customer and selling significantly less.'

While most restaurants play music in an attempt to shape their customers' experience, they choose their songs casually and without much thought.

But the researchers believed that the right music could have a huge return for restaurants.

Over the course of five months, across 16 McDonalds restaurants in Sweden, the researchers analyzed a pool of nearly two million unique transactions.

The researchers compared the sales impact of playing a carefully selected choice of music that fit the chain's brand, with playing random popular music.

The results showed that the difference was 9.1 per cent over the period of the study.

Music that fit the brand made customers more likely to buy additional items than if the restaurant played random popular music.

The formula for success appeared to be a mix of popular and less known songs that still had a good brand fit.

Ola Sars, CEO of Soundtrack Your Brand, told MailOnline: 'The Soundtrack Your Brand technology takes into account factors such as the time of day and the type of people likely to be in a certain location, creating a tailored atmosphere for both the brand and consumer.

For example, breakfast music in the center of a city sounds very different to that played over a romantic evening in the countryside.

'The complexity of consumer listening patterns means that the technology needs to be flexible to lots of different situations, and that’s what makes it so exciting.'

'Within the restaurant space in particular, many chains target a millennial audience and are therefore looking for music that reflects a brand identity that is "welcoming", "modern", and "expressive".

'Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" is like a warm hug as you walk into a restaurant.

In particular, sales of desserts and sides rose by more than 11 per cent, while the sales of smoothies and milkshakes increased by 15 per cent.

Conversely, playing the wrong music had a huge impact on sales.

Professor Daunfeldt said: 'Based on these results, I'd advise anyone who has a restaurant to be very mindful about the choice of music.

'Unless you think hard about the music you play, you might be better off to refrain from playing background music altogether.'

A separate survey of over 2,000 restaurant guests showed the impact of brand-fit music versus random popular music on emotion and satisfaction.

The results showed that guests' well-being and mood dramatically improved when listening to brand-fit music.

Mr Sars added: 'I've always known intuitively that bad background music hurts businesses.

'And conversely that carefully selected music can increase sales and improve experiences.

'It's thrilling to find that science backs this hunch.'

Fancy a little more heat in your curry? Then reach for the Red Hot Chili Peppers – or even the Spice Girls.

Scientists have found that listening to fast-paced, energetic music can increase the perceived spiciness of food by up to ten per cent.

And the experts, based at the University of Oxford, have even christened the bizarre phenomenon ‘sonic seasoning’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, traditional Indian music – featuring shrill sitar notes, a fast drum beat and high pitched singing – has one of the strongest sonic seasoning effects.

But uptempo songs from bands such as the Spice Girls and Chili Peppers can also affected the taste buds.

The researchers asked volunteers to pick music that they thought would be associated with spicy food.

They then asked 180 volunteers to eat spicy food while listening to short clips of the music, white noise or silence.

They found those listening to music with a faster tempo, higher pitch and distorted sounds said the food was spicier and had more intense flavors.



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20 Scales Musicians Need to Know...

20 Scales and 20 Emotions...

So maybe you want to write a song or an instrumental in a particular mood or style, and you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the scale possibilities. Have no fear, your songwriting solution is here...

Here’s a handy guide to the commonly used scales in Western pop, rock, jazz, blues and so on.

Click the image below to play any one of the scales listed below right in your browser with the aQWERTYon music maker. 

These scales have a major third (E in the key of C), which makes them feel happy or bright.

Major scale
C major scale = C  D  E  F  G  A   B  C
Happy; can be majestic or sentimental when slow. The white keys on the piano. Examples: “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Mixolydian mode
C Mixolydian mode = C  D  E  F  G  A  Bb  C
Bluesy, rock; can also be exotic/modal. Play over C7 chord. Same pitches as F major. Example: “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles.

Lydian mode
C Lydian mode = C  D  E  F#  G  A  B  C
Ethereal, dreamy, futuristic. Same pitches as G major. Example: “Possibly Maybe” by Björk (from the line “As much as I definitely enjoy solitude…”)

Lydian dominant mode
C Lydian dominant mode =  C  D  E  F#  G  A  Bb  C
Also known as the overtone scale or acoustic scale, because it is close to the first seven pitches in the natural overtone series. Same pitches as the G melodic minor scale and the F-sharp/G-flat altered scale.

Phrygian dominant mode
C Phrygian dominant mode = C  Db  E  F  G  Ab  Bb  C
Exotic, Middle Eastern, Jewish. Same pitches as F harmonic minor. Example: “Hava Nagila.”

Harmonic major scale
C harmonic major scale = C  D  E  F  G  Ab  B  C
Majestic, mysterious. “Lord Of The Rings” feeling.

These scales have a flat third (E-flat in the key of C), which gives them a darker and more tragic feel.

Natural minor scale (Aeolian mode)
C natural minor scale = C  D  Eb  F  G  Ab  Bb  C
Sentimental, tragic. Same pitches as E-flat major.

Dorian mode
C Dorian mode = C  D  Eb  F  G  A  Bb  C
Hip, sophisticated, jazzy. Same pitches as B-flat major. Example: “So What” by Miles Davis.

Harmonic minor scale
C harmonic minor = C  D  Eb  F  G  Ab  B  C
Tragic, exotic, Middle Eastern.

Melodic minor scale
C melodic minor scale = C  D  Eb  F  G  A  B  C
Mysterious, jazzy, very dark. Example: sixties Coltrane. See a blog post about melodic minor.

Phrygian mode
C Phrygian mode = C  Db  Eb  F  G  Ab  Bb  C
Spanish/Flamenco. Same pitches as A-flat major.

Locrian mode
C Locrian mode = C  Db  Eb  F  Gb  Ab  Bb  C
Very dark and unstable. Use over C half-diminished chords. Same pitches as C-sharp/D-flat major and B-flat natural minor.


Blues scale
C blues scale = C  Eb  F  Gb  G  Bb
Bluesy, obviously. Works great over major and minor chords. C minor pentatonic with sharp fourth/flat fifth added.

Altered scale
C altered scale = C  Db  Eb  E  F  Gb  Ab  Bb  C
Use over a C7 chord to make it sound very intellectual and jazzy. Same pitches as C-sharp/D-flat melodic minor.


Pentatonic scales have five notes. The blues scale is the minor pentatonic plus the flat fifth.

Major pentatonic scale
C major pentatonic scale = C  D  E  G  A  C
Joyful; widely used in world and folk music. Major scale with 4th and 7th removed. Same pitches as A minor pentatonic. Here’s a blog post about playing pentatonics on guitar.

Minor pentatonic scale
C minor pentatonic scale = C  Eb  F  G  Bb  C
Widely used in rock, world and folk music. Minor scale with 2nd and 6th removed. Same pitches as E-flat major pentatonic. 

Here’s a free lesson on the Creative Guitar Studio website about playing pentatonics on guitar, "Using Major and Minor Pentatonics"


These scales are based on regular, symmetric patterns.

Chromatic scale
C chromatic scale = 
C  Db  D  Eb  E  F  Gb  G  Ab  A  Bb  B  C
All of the piano keys. Freefalling, anxiety-producing.

Whole tone scale
C whole tone scale = C  D  E  F#  Ab  Bb
Dreamy, underwater. Every alternating key on the piano. Same pitches as D, E, F-sharp, G-sharp and A-sharp whole tone scales. Example: Background parts in the Simpsons theme song.

Octatonic scale
C octatonic scale = C  D  Eb  F  F#  Ab  A  B  C
Dark, mysterious. Same pitches as E-flat, G-flat and A octatonic scales. Examples: movies about Dracula.

Hexatonic scale
C hexatonic scale = C  Eb  E  G  Ab  B  C
Alternating minor third, half step. Wonderfully exotic.



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C@@L Check Out the New Iron-loop Pedal...

Joyo Audio has unveiled the Iron-loop looper pedal. 

As a new member of the Iron-man pedal series, this mini-size Iron-loop is equipped with a unique "knob guard" to protect the parameter settings...

This new digital phrase looper offers a very intuitive user interface, the ring on the pedal shows the length of your recorded loop, which makes overdubbing a lot easier because you can see where your loop begins and ends.

It uses 44.1 KHz/16bit sampling for CD quality recording of your guitar signal. When it is not being used, a true bypass circuit minimizes any signal loss.

The Companies Demo Video:

It has a simple configuration knob of a playback volume to set how loud you want your loop to be, also different level indicator color presents different looper working status, when you are recording the loops, the indicator is red, it turns to blue when it enters playing mode.

Other features of Iron-loop include:

Maximum recording time: 20 minutes
Sampling frequency: 44.1KHz
Resolution: 16bit

Street price for Iron-loop is $75.00


Open "D" Tuning Explained...

Interested in a fresh new guitar sound? Look no further than the fun musical ideas that can be discovered within the world of "Open D Tuning." 

With a few twists of your tuning pegs you'll reveal amazing new chords and harmonic possibilities...

"Open D" is a common alternate tuning for guitar, and best of all it's easy to move into. As the name implies, this tuning re-organizes the guitar tuning so that when all of the open strings are strummed we achieve an open "D" chord.

As you very likely already know, the traditional or “standard” tuning of the guitar strings is:

E - A - D - G - B - E

The strings of a guitar tuned to "Open D" will be

D - A - D - F# - A - D

As with most open tunings, "Open D" guitar tuning is often played with a slide and is commonly associated with various forms of blues guitar music.

One of the main reasons for applying this tuning is that with it, a full chord can be played without needing to fret the neck of the guitar. While popular with slide guitarists, "Open D" also lends itself well to “fingerpicking.”

The fact that a guitarist can play a full chord without even fretting a string comes in very handy when creating open string finger picked ideas composed in the key of "D."

Even if you are new to open tunings it is easy to see why "Open D" can quickly become a valuable tuning. If you can play a chord with all notes strummed open, you can easily barre your finger straight across any fret and play a chord across any other fret location too.

Then, if you are feeling like really having some fun, stick a slide on your finger and play your heart out with the easy access available to all of the chord possibilities through the use of barre technique in "Open D."

Another very appealing thing about "Open D" is that the lower tuning provides a very rich, deep tone. When you couple that with interesting new chords, "Open D" becomes a great way to overcome any boredom, or inspirational blocks you’ve possibly had while playing /composing music in standard guitar tuning.

The "Open D" guitar tuning has been used on popular songs from the dawn of the blues to more contemporary music including rock and roll. For example, you may not have known that "Open D" tuning was used in Pearl Jam’s big hit from the 1990′s, “Even Flow.”

Pearl Jam - "Even Flow" (Get the TAB here)


Below are a collection of five popular "Open D" chord shapes.

Have fun with the sounds of this unique style of tuning. There are hundreds of possibilities when using "Open D." Re-tune your guitar and start experimenting with the effects generated with this new string tuning. I'm sure you'll be composing a song in no time flat.


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Guitar Challenge: Try Not To Laugh...

Some of these video clips are just too much to take. Can you hold back the laughs? Can you hold back the cringe?

Then again... you may actually enjoy some of the video clips, (a few are simply jokes anyway)! 

Watch the full video below and leave your thoughts in the comments section or on FaceBook. 


Top Two Scales For Minor Tonality...

Over the last few decades popular music has changed it’s course from major to minor keys. Now, it is more important than ever to have serious control over your ability to perform in minor tonality...

A minor key means that the song is composed in a key or mode based upon minor tonality (the third of the key is lowered "b3"). The song generally has a more darker, melancholic or reflects a sad mood.

To be able to improvise over a minor key you need a minor scale. There are a lot different types of minor scales. However, if we were to focus on the top two scales played over a minor key they would be the "Natural Minor," and the "Dorian Mode."

The minor pentatonic scale should also be mentioned, but since it is simply a 5-tone derivative of Natural Minor, (Minor Pentatonic is created by removing a Natural Minor's 2nd and 6th degrees), there is nothing new arriving upon the melodic landscape between these two scales.

In order to use scales we need to understand how to use the chords built from the natural minor scale to play these scales over.

The chord formula for the natural minor scale is:
minor – diminished – major – minor – minor – major – major
Often notated as Roman numerals: i – ii dim – III – iv – v – VI – VII

If we’re going to play chords found in the key of “A” minor, we would begin from the notes of the "A Natural Minor Scale."
"A" natural minor scale: A – B – C – D – E – F – G

The chords of the key of "A Minor" would be:
Am – Bdim – C – Dm – Em – F – G

You can use these chords to build any progression. A popular and common Natural Minor key chord progression is:

 Am, G, F, G, (i – VII – VI – VII)

Example 1). A Natural Minor Progression

In order to use the Dorian mode we need to understand how to use the chords that are built from the Dorian mode.

The chord formula for the Dorian mode scale is:
minor – minor – major – major – minor – diminished – major
Often notated as Roman numerals: i – ii – III – IV – v – vi dim – VII

If we’re going to play chords found in the scale of “A” Dorian mode, we would begin from the notes of the "A Dorian Scale."
"A" Dorian Mode: A – B – C – D – E – F# – G

The chords of the scale of "A Dorian" would be:
Am – Bm – C – D – Em – F# dim – G

You can use these chords to build any progression. A popular and common Dorian Minor key chord progression is:

 Am, D, G, D, (i – IV– VII – IV)

Example 2). A Dorian Mode Progression

We use scales as a way to improvise and compose over chord progressions. Both of the scales below are in the key of A, but they fit over the structure of chord progressions differently (depending upon the chord types).

The "Natural Minor" Scale
"A Natural Minor":
The Natural Minor scale functions over a natural minor key and is capable of dark and soulful sounds. The scale is widely used in pop, rock, blues and many other styles of music.

It consists of seven notes: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7

Example 3). Natural Minor Neck pattern (Tonic notes are solid dots)

The "Dorian Mode" Scale
The Dorian mode minor scale functions over minor key progressions with a "major" quality IV-chord. It sounds more major or bluesy as opposed to the Natural Minor scale.

It consists of seven notes: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7

Notice the raised 6th as compared to the Natural minor scale.

Example 4). Dorian Mode Neck pattern (Tonic notes are solid dots)

Record the chord progressions from examples one and two and align the scales upon "A" tonic notes to create melody. Start by trying to compose a worked out part at first. Then, work at improvising as you become more accustom to the scales sound and character.

There are plenty more scales to use over a minor key. If you already familiar with the minor pentatonic and the natural minor scale and you want to step up, check out the "Phrygian Mode" as well as the, "Harmonic Minor scale" and the "Melodic Minor scale." They set the stage for beautiful colors and mysterious atmospheres over a minor key.



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Acoustic Guitar Riffs & Licks

Acoustic Guitar Riffs and Licks

Study methods for how the acoustic guitar can be used to perform beautiful open sounding progressions with rich melodies.

Each example in the lesson applies unique intervals across both fretted and open strings. Learn techniques to connect your phrases that introduce principles of melodic harmony, arpeggiated riffs, connecting licks and picked patterns.
PART ONE: In the first example, our practice progression applies open 4th and 3rd strings in a key of "G Major" progression that includes suspended and "add" intervals to diatonic chords.

Example two works on a similar approach in the relative minor key of "E Minor." This Minor key progression focuses on the 6th interval across the second measure creating a "D6sus4" chord, as well as, a "Cmaj13." An inversion of the keys VII-chord strengthens the turnaround in measure four by placing the third chord tone (F#) into the bass of the "D Major."

PART TWO: Example three explores arpeggiated riffs and connecting licks in a phrase that outlines chords in the key of "C Major." Chord highlights and embellishments add to the small arpeggiated chord voicings to create a catchy major tonality riff.

Example four accents the rhythmic feel of sixteenth-notes in a phrase that opens with a picked pattern. The immediate impact of this picked pattern feel quickly captures the listeners attention in measure one and allows the rest of the progression to better connect with the listener.

Take particular notice of how the chord harmony of example four places a strong focus upon the major 2nd interval. Each chord is using either the second or the ninth degree as a chord extension. Chord types across the progression range from the use of; "Minor 9, add2, and sus2."

Acoustic Guitar Riffs and Licks

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