There are mainly two reasons why I was never interested in computerized guitar riff generators when I had made it a goal to learn riffs and write them myself.
- I found it hard to believe that a computer can ever come up with riffs like Crazy Train, Whole Lotta Love or Hell’s Bells. There are so many amazing riffs out there, it’s not like I was going to run out of them anytime soon.
- I wanted to become the guitar riff generator myself!
What I mean by this, is that I wanted to gain the ability to write guitar riffs at will.
This took me quite some time to achieve, but when I did gain this ability, I realized how easier it could have been had I used some short cuts.
Now, short cuts are by no means a substitute to learning your scales, chords and music theory. If you neglect those you’ll end up very limited in your choices.
However, these two short cuts I’m going to show you here will make it possible for you to start generating as many guitar riffs as you want, now.
Guitar Riff Generator Method 1: The Palm Muted Drone
If you’re planning to start writing guitar riffs, palm muting is a technique you can’t do without.
And while the lesson in the link above goes into a lot of detail on palm muting technique and patterns, what we’re going to do here is pretty simple, because we’re only going to palm mute a single string, the low E string.
The rest of the notes will not be palm muted but the low E is palm muted most, or all of the time.
Now, apart from the palm muted open E string, we’re going to use a combination of any of these notes to generate our riffs.
If you learn the theory you’ll find out I’m using notes from the E Phrygian mode, but you don’t need to understand any of this to start generating your riffs.
Just use the notes creatively like this:
Notice that that apart from the palm muting, I’m using other phrasing techniques such as a hammer on, a pull off, and vibrato on the last note.
It is important to master these techniques, and others such as string bending and slides if you want your riffs (and licks/solos) to sound great. Generating guitar riffs, as you’re probably already noticing, is not hard. The real deal is making those generated riffs stand out through mastery of the techniques involved.
For this lesson though, the goal is to become a guitar riff generator. At this point the quality of your riffs is not that important since what you’re aiming for is the ability to generate guitar riffs anytime you want.
The following are a few more riffs generated through the “Palm Muted Drone” method.
Once you have a clear idea of how this works, start generating your own riffs, no matter how simple they are.
If you can’t execute phrasing techniques like pull offs and vibrato, don’t use them in your riffs for now, but make sure you keep working on them separately.
For variety’s sake, I generated the next two riffs using a different time signature.
In these two riffs, there is a point where the low E string is not palm muted, and that is when it forms part of the power chord at the end of the riff.
In fact, when generating your riffs, not palm muting the low E all the time, is also an option you can choose.
Riff 4. (In 3/4 time)
Riff 5. (In 6/8 time)
These riffs should have given you an idea of what you can do with just a few notes.
In the next method, I’ll show you what you can do with just one chord.
Guitar Riff Generator Method 2: The Power Chord Sequence
As the name suggests, these riffs will be made from a succession of power chords.
Now, in reality there aren’t any two power chords that will never sound good together.
However, to make things easier, you’re going to use only power chords that start on a note that’s not a sharp/flat.
These are the power chords you will be using for this riff generating method.
To generate riffs this way, all you have to do is mix and match these chords, in a different order, using different rhythms.
The next few riffs should give you a clear idea of how many riffs you can generate this way.
Note that I’ll be using palm muting technique in some of these riffs. The reason is that power chords on their own can get pretty boring if you don’t throw in something interesting like palm muting.
The first riff using this method is quite simple and one that’s also quite common in Punk Rock and Heavy Metal music.
Due to its simplicity you can also use it as an exercise to practice your palm muting technique if you haven’t mastered it yet.
The next riff does away with the palm muting and uses rests to create rhythmic interest.
The final riff using the power chord sequence method is a bit more complex since it introduces semiquaver patterns and an off beat rhythm.
In the first two bars, you should only palm mute the chords exactly above the letters P.M.
Combining both riff generating methods
If you’re able to generate guitar riffs using both of these methods, how about widening a bit the horizon and use both in the same riff.
Conclusion: Consolidating Your Skills
By using any of these two methods you will gain the ability to come up with a guitar riff any time you want.
And the only way you can build this skill is to generate as many riffs as possible using these methods (the short cuts) as well as work on your technique and your theory.
If you do these three things together you will, over a reasonable amount of time, be able to:
- Really be able to come up with riffs anytime you want with complete ease.
- Thanks to mastering the techniques, the quality of the riffs will keep getting better and better
- Due to the understanding of theory and applying it on guitar you’ll be able to create your own riffs in any whatever key you want and know what you’re doing rather than follow a prescribed formula like you just did here.
Sound like a lot of work?
However it’s also fun work. If you learn things like technique and theory in isolation, it may get pretty boring and it will seem like a long time until you will achieve some tangible results.
But by working on these areas together and consolidating your skills, you’ll start seeing results quickly.
And the quantity of the work will not seem overwhelming any longer because until you reach your long term goals, you’re also seeing smaller results along the way.
Your riffs may sound boring, or sloppy at first.
Yep, happened to all of us.
But if you keep pushing at it, and invest into all three of these areas:
- Musical knowledge/theory applied to guitar
- Creativity – actually generating the riffs
You’ll come to the realization that no computer generated guitar riff can ever beat yours!
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