Category Archives: riffs


We can all recognise the sound of a riff, but how to describe them?

So where to start when writing your own riffs?

  • KEEP IT SIMPLE! The most effective riffs work because they are memorable, this is largely because they are simple and rhythm based. Many use a small range of notes but with a funky, syncopated rhythm.
  • Many riffs use no more than three or four notes, but often create variety and interest by using big interval jumps i.e. an octave.
  • Many riffs are based on scales commonly the:
  • minor pentatonic i.e. A minor pentatonic is A, C, D, E, G
    (root, minor third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, minor seventh)
  • major pentatonic i.e. A major pentatonic is A, B, C#, E, F#
    (root, major second, major third, perfect fifth, major sixth)
  • “modes” (scales based on the major scale) are also used, common types are:
  • A Aeolian (also called the natural minor) is A, B, C, D, E, F, G
  • D Dorian is D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
  • G Mixolydian is G, A, B, C, D, E, F.

A minor pentatonic scale for guitar