#1
Lately Ive been playing around with the blues scale alot more than normal, and Ive come up with a few good riffs, but Im noticing a difficulty with making riffs in general. There are a few preconceptions I have, that I know are most likely wrong or harmful to my own creativity.

First of all, if I make something resembling a riff to another song, I immediately push it away. Rhythmically or note wise, it doesnt quite feel like my own creation, but I also know that inspiration is how you are going to make something.

And more to the title, I have trouble building a riff to a steady beat. Usually Ill continually try something new, but it ends up not having a definable beat. Have any of you guys had success with building riffs to metronomes or drums? Or when you are messing around trying to make a riff, do you have a 4/4 time going in your head as a basis?

Sorry if this doesnt make sense, sometimes stuff like this is hard for me to explain.

Thanks
#2
Quote by AlskiOverload
And more to the title, I have trouble building a riff to a steady beat. Usually Ill continually try something new, but it ends up not having a definable beat. Have any of you guys had success with building riffs to metronomes or drums? Or when you are messing around trying to make a riff, do you have a 4/4 time going in your head as a basis?
Try learning bass.

Not even joking. Arguably one of the most vital aspects of a bass player is the ability to lock in with the drummer. Now, I'm not telling you to go buy a bass if you don't own one or have any interest in owning one, but listen to some bass players. Try to write a bass line on your guitar.

Either that or listen to some funk music.

Quote by AlskiOverload
First of all, if I make something resembling a riff to another song, I immediately push it away. Rhythmically or note wise, it doesnt quite feel like my own creation, but I also know that inspiration is how you are going to make something.
Just realize that there's so much music out there that you're bound to write something at least slightly similar to something that's already been written. Just don't try to copy people's music and you'll be fine.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
Last edited by food1010 at Jul 15, 2010,
#3
Yeah I would say I have a 4/4 mode in my head, as well as 3/4, 7/4, and 5/4.
Once I lock into that tempo I stick with it, but I mainly play chords and don't really have any skills at making riffs using scales so I don't know if what works for me really means anything.
I still use the same approach when making a riff in a scale, but I can't make very cool rhythms. You should definitely get over the idea of lifting from your influences though. That will help a lot. Every strumming pattern and/or chord progression has been done before. Almost everything I make is using a rhythm I learned from a song I like. Take different strumming patterns from different songs you like and add them together. You can do the same with chord movements. Take a chord movement you like from a folk song and put it to a more punk rhythm and sound. People aren't gonna listen to your song and be like "oh that's a total rip off" if they can tell who you're influenced by I would say that's a good thing.
#4
Usually, everything I come up with is 4/4 in my head... What I would suggust for you to do is play with various drum beats and tempos until you get the hang of building rhythmically "correct" riffs. Good luck!
#5
Everything can be put to drums and bass, no matter the time signature. Just because you can't put a beat to it right away doesn't mean it doesn't have one... unless it's one of those pieces where there's a "?" for the time sig, there is DEFINITELY a beat. You just have to look.

When you figure out the secret to writing good music whenever... tell me please.

Really though, I just play. Unless I have a time sig written down already I don't even worry about making it fit... I just play. And even IF I do have a time sig down I don't even really care about making it fit. Polymeters are fun!

Don't worry too much about how similar it might be... there are a bazillion things you can do to it to make it sound different.
#6
Just think of something nice and repetitive in your head. Experiment with different sounds, in your head. They try to play then on the guitar.
#7
Thanks for the tips. I own a bass, and youre suggestion might get me to pick it up and actually try making something with it haha.

Kurdt Staley: Im kind of in the same situation as you. I typically make decent chord riffs and stuff, but when it comes to rock riffs off of scales, Im not so great.

Im getting an 8 track recorder soon, so hopefully that will be a good way to experiment with beats and bass riffs, etc.
#8
Quote by AlskiOverload

And more to the title, I have trouble building a riff to a steady beat. Usually Ill continually try something new, but it ends up not having a definable beat. Have any of you guys had success with building riffs to metronomes or drums? Or when you are messing around trying to make a riff, do you have a 4/4 time going in your head as a basis?


Don't forget that not everything has to land on the "right" beats, and also that you are working with the drums and bass. In a band situation it is important to realise that each element works together to form a musical whole.

Many times I've been listening to some music and a section starts off with just a guitar, and it sounds "weird" or has no "proper" solid beat etc, but then the rest of the band come in and suddenly everything makes sense (the guitar is playing a syncopated rhythm or in polymetres/rhythms etc). Just keep that in mind, don't throw away riffs because they sound crap on there own...good things can happen when other instruments interact with what you're playing.
#9
lol note wise is one thing, but if you are throwing awsome riffs away because you think they rythmically resamble other riff you are kinda wrong philosphically
#10
Learning how to play bass is a good idea and on that token, learning drums would probably be considering cutting right to the source.

If you've got the melody side of things down for your riff, which it sounds like you do for typical blues rock-ish sounding stuff, you've gotta work on your ability to create interesting rhythms as well as mimic rhythms.

If you've got Guitar Pro, it's a very valuable tool for this. Why? Well, say you can't play drums. You probably know a little about rhythm, right? And standard notation? Well, start composing drum beats in Guitar Pro 5. If you've got the RSE, you can export them as MP3s and basically build your own backing tracks from the ground up, but more importantly, you can use it to figure out cool beats, then mimic those beats as you build your riffs around them.

Now, if you don't have GP5, I'd recommend investing in a cheap set of bongos or just drumming your fingers to create cool rhythms. Beethoven was known for pounding his fists against a wall when trying to come up with rhythms.
Last edited by STONESHAKER at Jul 16, 2010,
#11
Oh yeah... another good way to learn how to write good riffs would be to study them.

Some of my favorite riffs come from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Bad Religion.
#12
Quote by DiminishedFifth

When you figure out the secret to writing good music whenever... tell me please.

i hate saying this b/c i don't want it to be true (mainly b/c its the antithesis of how i view music) but what i notice is that most "good" music is fairly simple in composition and execution. sure it might be technically fast but when you look at what is generally accepted as good music its usually a fairly simple riff with a catchy chorus. even the ridiculous metal symphonys that have blindingly fast leads often have them over a simple chord progression.
#14
Quote by AlskiOverload


First of all, if I make something resembling a riff to another song, I immediately push it away. Rhythmically or note wise, it doesnt quite feel like my own creation, but I also know that inspiration is how you are going to make something.

dont sweat this, if it sounds good keep it! if it sounds exactly like something someone else already did then change it up i have this problem from time to time and the best thing ive found is to hold onto the riff and maybe change it up over time, sometimes i'll stick that riff with a different riff and it completely changes the context and it no longer sounds like a ripoff of something else (orchestrating instruments, arrangements, changing the bass line and all sorts of other stuff can make a riff sound different too)

Quote by AlskiOverload

And more to the title, I have trouble building a riff to a steady beat. Usually Ill continually try something new, but it ends up not having a definable beat. Have any of you guys had success with building riffs to metronomes or drums? Or when you are messing around trying to make a riff, do you have a 4/4 time going in your head as a basis?.


i jam to drum tracks all the time, usually when a riff hits me i kinda hear the whole song/piece at once so i can hear where the drums land and what the final product should more or less sound like. i found that the more i played guitar the easier it was for me to play what i was hearing in my head (familiarity with ones intstrument and all) so just keep jamming. work on figuring out what you're hearing in your head and putting it on your instrument. if you don't get it right you might still make an awesome riff on accident and whats better than an awesome riff that you worked hard on? one that required minimal work!

Quote by MapOfYourHead
^Melodic "hook" takes precedence over complex harmony in the music you're on about.

melodic hook takes precedence over complex harmony in all music i think, well most all good music lol, not always y'know, music is what it is. i love skinny puppy and thats borderline noise even their more popular songs have a catchy bassline or lyrical melody. even when you break down classical compositions alot of the famous well remembered ones (like canon) aren't inherently ridiculous and are still catchy and hummable. we can pick out bands and music of any variety and when you start looking at the bands of genres that appeal to wide varieties of people you'll see that theres a melody in there that grabs the person. i love dethklok, brandon small writes some sick melodies. theres all these things that make up a song y'know and when you look at the big picture you see the one thing between all the really enjoyable timeless "this song is awesome i'll jam this forever" is the melody, be it guitar, vocal, bass, synth or whatever.

in music everything is relative to everything else in a comparative context. no one piece is more important than the other, they all rely on each other to make a coherent enjoyable tune.
Last edited by z4twenny at Jul 16, 2010,
#15
I ment more of a precedence...

The most complex jazz progressions ever devised are still only there to emphasize the melody, where as in more poppy tunes, "simple" chords are used and harmony isn't thought about a much...of course it still thought about, just not to the extent of neverending key changes and using non-diatonic chords/extensions blah blah blah.
#16
When you got a riff or something that seems pretty done, don't leave it there. Experiment.
Play it really slow or a lot faster and make fitting adjustments.
Learn the riff backwards.
Cut the riff into two sections, AB, and reverse those, BA.
You name it.