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