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 getting started writing your first guitar riff is probably easier than what you may have thought.

That if you can play other musician’s riffs on guitar – you can easily learn how to create a guitar riff of your own.

Writing guitar riffs as explained in this lesson is not the only way you should be writing riffs and once you get more experienced you can experiment with different approaches to writing riffs on guitar.

Think of the following exercises as a stepping stone to creating your own first guitar riff. The end result should be creating riffs in your head and playing them on your guitar, but by playing around with chords, their sequence and their duration, as you”ll see below, your mind will get started thinking creatively.

For the purpose of this lesson we’re going to use only one movable chord for the whole riff, (and for every variation of that riff) – the power chord.

The power chord is notated by the letter name 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 guitar riffs are made exclusively of this single movable chord, though there are various ways to make the power chord sound interesting. 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 guitar 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:

Play the riff from back to front

  1. Change the order of the chords but keep the same rhythmic pattern as in the example below:
How to Write your first guitar riff
  1. 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 guitar 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.

Click here to learn 12 easy guitar riffs that increase in the level of difficulty and here to learn 10 more Heavy Metal guitar riffs. With each riff comes a new technique you can add to your arsenal of choices when writing your own guitar riffs. 

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