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5 riffs every guitarist should learn

 
 

Riffs are cool! When you start learning guitar, it is important to learn a few riffs to get your fingers moving in the right ways. A riff is a short repeated phrase typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song. There are millions of riffs in music and guitarists love them! Here are 5 riffs that every guitarist should learn:

The Strokes - Under Cover of Darkness

Strokes songs are pretty much all riffs and chords, this riff is actually featured in the verse and it is really fun to play. Featuring lots of arpeggios, give it a go!

 
 
 
 

2. John Mayer - I Don’t Need No Doctor

Originally a Ray Charles song, John Mayer’s live version of I Don’t Need No Doctor features an incredible riff. Give it a go.

 
 
 
 

3. Muse - Hysteria

Turn up your overdrive and give this alternate picking masterpiece a go. It is actually a bass riff, but it’s too much fun to not play it on guitar!

 
 
 
 

4. Michael Jackson - Beat It

An incredible riff in Michael Jackson's huge hit Beat It. Fun Fact: Eddie Van Halen played the guitar solo on this track.

 
 
 
 

5. Arctic Monkeys - DO I Wanna Know?

A super cool riff that is a little slower than the others but still has everything we like in a riff!

 
 
 
 

Hopefully you have enjoyed learning these riffs and make sure you play along to the backing tracks and send us videos of you playing!

If you are looking for lessons in guitarBristol House of Music offer one-to-one lessons in guitarbasspianovocalsukulelesongwriting and music theoryBook your first free lesson now and start your musical journey with us!

 

We have released our first book!

This book teaches you every chord you will ever need in all five CAGED shapes, allowing you to master the fretboard and helping you to develop and expand your chord knowledge whilst keeping it fun and easy to grasp. Get the book and take your chord playing to new heights. 'Every Chord Shape You Will Ever Need' is ideal for guitarists trying to get to the next level and who like to play, perform and write music.

 

Using your ear to improve your guitar playing...

We’ve all been there… you’ve been playing guitar for a while and you are searching for the next song to learn and spend hours upon hours sifting through tablature, trying to find the right one. Or you go on YouTube and watch endless videos, trying to find someone who teaches you the song correctly.

 

There is another way!!! Guitarists get very reliant on tablature. There is nothing wrong with tablature as when you start learning it is a really useful tool for reading music. However you don’t need to waste any more time learning from terrible tablature!

What is Ear Training?

 

Ear Training is improving your ear as a musician so you quickly identify what note is being played, or chord, or diad, triad etc.

 

Let's start with intervals; take a look at the following intervals and make sure you listen to each one carefully-

 

In the key of G (so starting from the note G), we are going to play every possible interval.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Once you have listened to each example above, play through them one at a time and listen to how they sound.

 

 

Exercise 1 – G chromatic scale

Exercise 2 – G chromatic scale, playing root then different intervals (down the neck)

Exercise 3 – G chromatic scale, playing DIFFERENT INTERVALS then THE ROOT (up the neck)

 

 

There are several different tricks to help you recognise intervals, using song examples that you know. For instance the Jaws theme tune is a minor 2nd, Here Comes The Bride is a perfect 4th and the Star Trek theme tune is a minor 7th. 

Whilst this is a fun tool, I feel the best way to improve is to listen a song and try to identify what's going on and attempt to recreate it. Try this with songs you know first if that helps!

John Mayer – I Don’t Need No Doctor

 

We are going to focus on John Mayer's adaptation of I Don’t Need No Doctor, which is actually a Ray Charles song!

 

First take a listen to the live version-

 
 

So the first thing to identify is the key and the chords. Play along to the song and see what you come up with.

EXERCISE 4 - (SPOILER ALERT) – Chord progression

 

There are actually some interesting chords in this song, but the chord progression basically resolves around the key of E major, with the main progression (you may have been hearing) going between the chords Em, G and A.

 

First here are the chord shapes used:

 
 

Next we have the chord progression:

 
 

How did you get on? Don't worry if you could only figure out the root notes of each chord, that is still an achievement to get you started with ear training!

 

Now you know the chord progression, the next challenge is to do something that might feel weird. We are going to have a go at working out the trumpet solo! The trumpet solo starts at 1:48 (skip ahead in the video below). Have a listen and see what you can hear:

 
 

EXERCISE 5 - (SPOLER ALERT) - First note of each bar

Hopefully you have had a go now at figuring out some of the licks of the trumpet solo. Below is the first note of each bar, use this to help if you need! 

 
 

EXERCISE 6- IDENTIFY THE SCALE (E minor PENTATONIC)

Another tip in helping you to identfy what notes are being played is to figure out what scale is being used. After playing along for a little while I started to realise that this solo features all the notes from the E minor pentatonic scale. Here it is below:

 
 

EXERCISE 7 - (SPOLER ALERT) - EVERY 2 BARS NOTATED

Okay here is some extra help if needed! I have notated every two bars of the trumpet solo, take a listen and try and figure out the gaps.

 

EXERCISE 8 - THE WHOLE THING!

Well done for getting this far! Hopefully you have figured the whole solo out, or if you have only managed a few bars that is still great! It is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to not rely on tab. Here we go, here is the whole trumpet solo:

 

HOW DID YOU GET ON?

It is a difficult thing to do, if you have never tried to figure something out by ear before. Here are some tips-

 

  1. Work out the chords.

  2. Find the key.

  3. Figure out what scale to use.

  4. Decide where you want to play it on the neck.

  5. Start by figuring out a few of the licks.

  6. Keep on building and be persistant (don't cheat!)

  7. Slow it down if necessary - there are lots of apps available that slow down songs (this might help you).

  8. Practice, practice, practice.

 

Well done for giving ear training a go! Don't be disheartened if you found it difficult, or you only managed a few licks. It took me a long time to develop these skills, but I assure you if you put in the effort the results will amaze you. You will no longer rely on tablature or YouTube videos! Thanks for watching!

 

If you are looking for lessons in guitarBristol House of Music offer one-to-one lessons in guitarbasspianovocalsukulelesongwriting and music theoryBook your first free lesson now and start your musical journey with us! 

 

We have released our first book!

This book teaches you every chord you will ever need in all five CAGED shapes, allowing you to master the fretboard and helping you to develop and expand your chord knowledge whilst keeping it fun and easy to grasp. Get the book and take your chord playing to new heights. 'Every Chord Shape You Will Ever Need' is ideal for guitarists trying to get to the next level and who like to play, perform and write music.

 

Understanding the Major Scale – Creative ways to play around with it

The major scale is the most important scale in music. It is usually the scale that we relate music to when we talk about intervals or numbering a chord progression. Maybe you have heard someone say “we are playing a 1 4 5 in G” and you haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. Or maybe you have seen chords like Amajor9, or Bminor11th and wondered what they mean?

Well it is simpler than it sounds and really understanding the major scale is a very important thing to do as a guitarist and as a musician.

1. First things First – G major scale (E Shape)

So lets get playing! The first thing to learn is of course the major scale; I have chosen to get started in G major. This scale can obviously be moved around the neck and played in any key but this is a great place to start.

 
 

You will notice that I have included a chord at the start, that is a G major 7 chord. When practicing scales it is important to think about the chords you are playing over, so get used to practicing it this way, listening to the chord before hand. This will help you to start understanding the sound that goes with each scale/mode.

2. The Formula

Now you know how to play a major scale, you can start thinking about how it has been constructed. Remember that it is the most important scale and that is because when we talk about intervals the major scale is what we refer it to.

So the major scale formula is simply, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

So in the key of G major, which has 1 sharp in its key (of which is F#), the notes are-

1          2          3          4          5          6          7

G         A         B          C          D         E          F#

So now you know this is the formula try playing the scale again and look at all the intervals within it. Take a look at it on a piano if that helps:

3. Ways to practice the Major Scale

So the next thing we need to do in order to get this scale under our fingers is to practice! Playing the scale over and over again (like the example above) is great at first, but after a bit you are going to start getting very bored of just playing a scale repetitively. So here are a few ways of making it more fun...

Going up and down the scale in 3rds 

This is a really great way of getting to know the scale, give it a go and remember to play the chord when you start.

 
 

Going up and down the scale in 6ths

One of my personal favourites in going up and down the scale in 6ths, it’s a really cool sound and it gets you away from just playing the same old intervals all the time.

 
 

4-note-arpeggios

Another really awesome thing you can do with the major scale is create a 4-note-arpeggio on each interval of the scale. This shows you all the chords available to you. It’s sounds pretty incredible!

 
 

4. Play to music

You can keep devloping these ideas and once you start to feel more comfortable then it is time to play along to a chord progression. Here is a chord progression I have created in G major, play along with the chords and get to know all the changes.

 

First learn the chords-

Then play along with the chord progression-

 
 

5. Improvise!

The final challenge is to Improvise! Improvisation is all about using the tools that you have in a creative way. Play melodically, think of yourself as a singer and try and come up with licks that sound cool and catchy! Here is my attempt:

 
 

Feel free to add your own chords to the mix and come up with some more ideas. You can also try this in different keys and see how you get on! Hopefully this has given you some creative ways to play and learn the major scale!

If you are looking for lessons in guitar, Bristol House of Music offer one-to-one lessons in guitar, bass, piano, vocals, ukulele, songwriting and music theory. Book your first free lesson now and start your musical journey with us!

 

We have released our first book!

This book teaches you every chord you will ever need in all five CAGED shapes, allowing you to master the fretboard and helping you to develop and expand your chord knowledge whilst keeping it fun and easy to grasp. Get the book and take your chord playing to new heights. 'Every Chord Shape You Will Ever Need' is ideal for guitarists trying to get to the next level and who like to play, perform and write music.