Improve your guitar technique by learning new riffs
There are tons of easy guitar riffs one can learn, and there is a reason for this.
Unlike a guitar solo, when it’s your time to shine and show your musical and technical skills, the main role of a guitar riff is usually to provide harmony for someone else playing a melody – usually the singer or another guitar player during a solo.
This doesn’t mean guitar riffs shouldn’t in themselves be melodic (in fact most of the guitar riffs you’ll find in this lesson are pretty melodic).
Neither does it mean they can’t be complex (in fact, the last few guitar riffs in this lesson are not easy at all).
However, since neither melody nor complexity is the main role of the guitar riff, many guitar players chose to keep their riffs quite simple.
This is why easy guitar riffs can be found in abundance.
However, simply learning easy guitar riffs and stopping there, creates two problems that stop you from reaching higher musical goals.
- If you frequent guitar shops, you have probably heard a beginner play “Smoke on the Water” on a guitar he’s trying out.
It’s a very easy guitar riff, yet, the beginner in the guitar shop, by no means makes the riff sound the same as Ritchie Blackmore’s
And the reason is not the guitar or the amp.
The reason is that even though the beginner may be playing the same chords, even if he nails the rhythm right, he’s not using the same articulation, accents, and phrasing techniques Ritchie Blackmore does.
What this means for you, is that, rather than learn as many easy guitar riffs as possible, you should focus on perfecting the ones you already know.
Simply playing the right notes at the right time, is a good first step, but not enough to make your riffs shine.
- Though playing the right chords at the right time is easy on “Smoke on the Water” it doesn’t mean every guitar riff Ritchie Blackmore plays is that easy.
Complexity and more advanced techniques are not a necessity to write a good riff, but they surely provide more options.
In these 12 guitar riffs, we’ll start from the very easy and reach more advanced levels in terms of technique and complexity by the end.
Don’t worry if you can’t play all these guitar riffs – yet. If there’s a riff you really can’t nail, find out what techniques are being used and develop them separately, then come back to the riff.
Once you’ve got the technique there, it will be easy. Believe me.
So, let’s start with our first, very easy, guitar riff.
Note: Though most of these riffs can be played on both an electric or an acoustic guitar, they are mostly electric guitar riffs and some will sound more effective on an electric guitar with the distortion on.
The next guitar riff is also easy. If you’re more of an intermediate guitar player than a beginner, practice this riff anyway but focus more on your accents, correct finger position as well as playing it with a metronome, to make sure you have everything in place.
You execute vibrato by slightly bending the string and taking it back to its natural position in a repeated, rapid movement.
Vibrato technique takes some to develop, don’t expect instant results. But start working on it now.
Vibrato is indicated by the squiggly line over the notes that should have the technique applied.
Vibrato is a very important technique, so let’s work on it a bit more in the next two licks.
In order to keep things simple, the guitar riffs above use only single notes.
And while you can write a great guitar riff using only single notes, in most cases, riffs make use of chords.
The next guitar riff is simply a succession of power chords something you will encounter frequently in Rock, Punk, and Heavy Metal Music.
The next riff is also made of a succession of power chords, but the rests placed among the chords, add variety to the rhythm.
We’ve come to the point where the level of difficulty of these guitar riffs will go up a notch since we’ll be using palm muting technique.
Palm-muting is a bit of a tough nut to crack since you will have to adjust the position of your right hand so that the palm touches the strings near the bridge – but not deaden them completely.
Read this lesson to learn more about palm muting technique.
To keep things simple, in the above riff, every chord is palm muted.
However, guitar riffs that use palm muting can be made even more interesting when the technique is applied, but not all the time.
In the next riff, only apply palm-muting technique to the notes that have the words P.M under them or the ——- sign that follows it.
To play the chords that aren’t palm-muted, lift the palm of your right hand.
It may take some time and practice until you get this right, but once you do, you will know the drill and can apply it to any other riff that uses this technique.
In the following riff we’ll combine both single notes and power chords, as well as introduce a new technique: Legato playing, that is hammer-ons and pull offs.
These are indicated by the slur between the note that should be pulled off and a note that comes before it if it’s a pull off, or the slur between the note that should be picked and the note that should be hammered on if it’s a hammer on.
As promised, the last guitar riff in this lesson is not easy at all since it introduces semiquaver notes and long legato runs.
If it’s too hard for you, it’s fine because as you’ll see in the conclusion to this lesson, you don’t need to be able to play complex riffs to start creating your own.
Conclusion… and some good news
It’s quite likely that you can’t play, at least fluently, the last few riffs.
But did you manage to learn until Guitar Riff 4 in this lesson?
If you did, congratulations.
You can now start thinking of creating your own riffs.
If you keep learning new guitar riffs, perfecting the ones you know, and improving on the specific techniques being used, all it takes to become a composer of riffs, is some creativity.
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