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How to write your first guitar riff

Are you able to play some of your favorite guitar riffs but find it hard to come up with your own? This lesson will show you that to get started is probably easier than what you may have thought, and that if you can play a riff – you can easily learn how to create a riff of your own. For the purpose of this lesson we’re going to use only one moveable chord for the whole riff, (and for every variation of that riff) – the power chord. The power chord is notated by the letter of the root note, followed by the number 5. Thus G5 is the power chord of G, C5 of C etc. (learn more about the function of the power chords in music here)

How to Write your first guitar riff - G5 C5

Many riffs are made exclusively of this single moveable chord. Other riffs blend the power chord with other chords and triads such as major or minor.

The first thing we’re going to do is to learn a simple riff that contains only 4 chords: G5, A5, B5, C5

How to Write your first guitar riff - G5 A5 B5 C5


The next step is to alter and play around the same components of that riff and come up with something entirely different.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Play the riff from back to front
  2. Change the order of the chords but keep the same rhythmic pattern as in the example below:How to Write your first guitar riff
  3. Use the same chords, in any order, using a different rhythmic pattern as in the example below:

How to Write your first guitar riff

After you’re done experimenting with these chords you can eliminate some, insert new chords; use different rhythmic patterns as well as apply techniques like palm muting. As soon as you know it, you’re creating guitar riffs of your own!

Don’t be afraid to experiment even if your riffs sound sloppy at first. As you improve your technique, learn music theory and develop other areas of your guitar playing, your riffs will start sounding more interesting and professional.


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