Stop Doing Riffs & Licks Like This (YOUR ULTIMATE 3-STEP GUIDE)

When it comes to the study of riffs and licks, guitar students are making some big practice mistakes that are causing it to be more difficult to remember what was practiced day to day. In this lesson, I’m going to show you the biggest problems that I notice when students are practicing riffs and licks and I'll help you fix how you do your guitar exercises so you get much more out of each practice session... 

The best part is, the corrective method that I discuss in this lesson can apply to almost every single riff and lick learning that you do, instantly creating great results that can really work when you include them into your practice routine.


One of the biggest frustrations that a lot of guitar students face is that they will start working on a riff, or a guitar lick, and then (after they put down the guitar and come back the next day), they can’t remember the idea that they were practicing.

Maybe they forget the shape the next day, maybe they can’t recall the rhythm. Maybe they do know the general note layout, but they can’t recall the order and sequence of the notes.

Let's face it, practicing riffs and licks like this is totally counter-productive. So, you’re going to want to stop doing this.

In this lesson, we’re going to organize a NEW plan so when you sit down to study your riffs and licks you WILL remember them the next time you grab yr guitar.

The first step of this new plan, comes down to understanding what it is that you’re playing. Let me show you a guitar riff right now that you can try at home and we’ll use my riff as our example in this lesson.

Riff Example:

Every guitar part that you play will always have information within it that clarifies several important musical elements. 

When you learn new ideas, you need to; analyze the theory and rhythm behind the idea, write down what the riff on paper, and record the riff or lick for listening to on your next practice session.

It’s like you’re creating a detailed plan, or you could call it a log of what you’re performing. This is important because the notes will tell you things… like what key the part is in… and the groove will tell you what kind of beat structure is there.

In the riff (that I just showed you above), we have a series of tones that all begin at the note of, “E.” And, if you have a look at any music keys chart you’ll see pretty quick that “E Major,” has four sharps, but our riff doesn’t.

So that means our riff isn’t in the key of, “E Major,” it’s from the key of “E Minor.”

To prove the key of the idea you're practicing, visit and use their Scale Calculator to learn more specifically how any and every riff or a lick you play /practice can be analyzed properly.

The next thing that’s important, is understanding what the rhythmic beat structure is like. Ask yourself some simple questions about what the rhythm part is like regarding what you’re playing.

Things like… is the beat and the overall feel fairly consistent? Where does the feel of the notes get faster, or are there parts where the feel is slower?

How do you want to tap your foot? Is it more quickly, or does your foot want to tap at a moderate or even at a slow pace?

The riff example that we just played was VERY consistent. Except for at the end were it slowed down slightly. If you were to clap that feel, how would it sound?

Make a few judgment calls at this point, on whether the riff is made up of mostly eighth-notes, or does the riff have some quarter notes? I’ll give you a hint – this riff that I just played, is almost entirely made up of 8th notes, except at the very end - there’s two quarter-notes.

You don’t have to be an expert on rhythm to start asking these types of questions. But, once you do begin paying attention to rhythm, you’ll find that your musical memory starts to get a whole lot wiser!

Once you’ve determined some ideas about your riffs; note structure, the key, the intervals, and the rhythm. 

Once you’ve made a few crib notes about the riff that you’re working on, the next step is to actually create a simple recording for documenting what you’re learning.

You can do this using your phone or you can do it on your iPad, or you can fire up an online web-app to record your ideas... I often use one that’s called, “”

This web-app will just use the microphone of your computer or your laptop to instantly record and then save whatever your computer microphone picks up.

It's very easy to use a web-app or mobile app for making a quick recording on your home computer.

Alright, so now let’s review how this new riff and licks system I’ve laid out here for you, actually functions and how you can integrate it into your daily routine.

Step one: Once you’ve got your riff organized, immediately take some extra time to become more fully aware of the notes that are involved with the part.

Use fret-board diagram paper, and TAB paper to jot down the notes and their locations. Then, once you’ve got all the notes labeled, have a look at a key signatures chart, or use the interactive scale calc. over at to figure out your scale.

Step two: Spend some time focusing on the rhythm and the beat structure of your riff or your lick. Make some determinations about the timing to help you better remember what specifically is involved with the rhythm structure of your riff or lick…

Step three: Finally, record your idea and make a quick MP3 of what it is you’ve been practicing...

This entire method (if you use it), will go a long way in helping you to better understand where you’re at when you first start practicing any new idea.

And, best of all, it’ll help you to keep working on them the next time you sit down to practice guitar!



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