I don't really understand how chord progressions go with riffing, if they even do.

Right now, I am jamming away in a classic rock-metal style, playing a power chord or two then a few notes from the pentatonic scale of whatever key I'm in. So far, so good. I know which chords are I, v, IV and so on, and when I play em, but is this way of thinking not so suitable for riffs? Cos it seems like that means a hell of a lot of chord changes. And what is the chord when I play a few notes or a lick from the scale?
I'm wondering if there is always some kind of progression going on, even if its not explicitly voiced, wtich should be influencing the notes I play, and perhaps the bass part. Or am I just overthinking it?
chord progressions are a tool for harmonization, you have a "riff" or melody which can be harmonized in multiple ways, this harmonization is your chord progression, the issue your having is that your thinking in only one line, if you want to add a bass line to your riff you're now implying a chord progression, or how would you harmonize a piano with your riff, again you have a chord progression, if you jam over a backtrack its likely just to be a simple chord progression
A Harmony will be implied by the notes you are playing.

I think that you may be thinking that the chord changes everytime that the note changes???

That is not always the case. For example, your riff is the single notes A, A, C# C#, E, C#, E, A. The harmony implied without further context would be just an A maj chord. The riff resolves to A and only has the notes from the A maj chord.

You could add in an accidental. A, A, C#, D, C#, E, C#, E, A and the implied harmony would still be A maj.

If you extended the riff to A, A, C# C#, E, C#, E, A, E, E, G#, G#, B, G#, B, E then the implied harmony would be Amaj Emaj.

Of course harmony is only implied, you can swap and change the underlying chords as you see fit and if it sounds good to you.
I believe it doesn't help to think of certain riffs in terms of chord progression, functional harmony, I chords, iii chords, etc. I'm thinking of Metallica-like power chord / chromatic / pedal tone stuff. Those kind of riffs are really more like beefed-up melodies than harmonic progressions.

You can try to put this kind of riff into your favourite prescribed method of understanding harmonic progressions but I don't see how it would be useful. You can always create a bass line melodically. Of course this creates chords but not necessarily in any meaningful progression.

It's sometimes useful to know what intervals are inside each 'chord' (when they differ from the typical root / fifth) so you can understand how they get their individual flavour of sound.
i think it's useful to be able to reduce riffs to their implied harmony. not necessarily for when you're writing the riffs, but for when you're writing parts that go with the riffs.

for example, with the pedal point type riffs, generally you take the pedal note as the root note of the implied chord, and treat the other notes of the riff as extensions of the chord. use the key of that part of the song to determine chord quality if the other notes don't imply it (i.e. the major or minor 3rd).
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i think it's useful to be able to reduce riffs to their implied harmony. not necessarily for when you're writing the riffs, but for when you're writing parts that go with the riffs.

this isn't quite true, you can do it in both directions, you can start with a chord progression and write a melody over it, or write a bass line and play the melody over it, for example the main riff to thunderhorse (dethklok) is written over a clearly defined chord progression, as is the main riff to sweet child of mine (easy examples we probably all know), the bass notes change in order to imply a specific progression, also the basis of soloing is being about to play melody over an already established progression
okay, just imagine trying to solo over a complicated riff full of single note runs and patterns. you can clearly hear that the riff isn't static with its implied harmony. wouldn't it help to be able to break it down?
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sure, you can just do it either way, start with chords then write a riff to fit those chords (ie most of jazz), or start with a riff and then harmonize it, or work on both at the same time, it really doesn't matter which direction you go
It all depends on what you're trying to do, what's most comfortable for you, AND (most importantly) what serves the song.
You have to consider what the other instruments will be playing as well. Guitar players often write very basic pedal-based riffs where the piano/bass/whatever fills out the chord. For example, let's assume you have the following riff:

(This is taken from "I Don't Know" by Ozzy Obsourne.)

If we just look at the guitar parts, it's implied to be: i for 3 bars; then VII, iv.

But what if added bass parts to it? What if we now play an A note over bar 1, a B note over bar 2, a C note over bar 3; then G, D, G to finish off? Well, it's implied that it becomes: i, iidim, III, VII, iv. Bit of a different feel, right? (Note: the actual bassline is in A minor and strengthens the idea of "i for 3 bars and then VII, iv". You can look up the tab yourself, if you want.)

So, my point is, the notes the other instruments are playing have an impact on how the song sounds.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Feb 5, 2014,
Well...when I first started sololing or improvising. I did what most people would do.
Just play whatever notes that's in the parent's scale or Key.
It was kind of like throwing spaghetti on the wall and watching what's going to stick.
It was an improvement from not hitting sour # or b notes that didnt belong there.
However threre where still some misses in there or didnt sound right even if I played
notes from the parent scale.

So I purchased grips of books. Like 4-5 of them. They all say to learn modes.
So I learned those modes and arpeggios. I played them over chords as instructed.
Much improvements. Alot of Randy Rhodes solo started to make more sense to me.
My playing made more sense to me. It wasnt like I knew how to express/articulate
those modes in different ways nor was I a master at distinguishing the different sounds
of all the modes...but I got better. A lot of it also has to do with fretborad knowlege.
My solo still didnt make sense.

So i purchased more a rock lead guitar book with backing tracks. Thinking it was going
to be death metal. But not...it was 12 bar blues stuff.
It asked me to do exactly the samething as you're doing. maj scale over maj chords.
Minor scale over min chords. However it also say to practice on phrasing.
Questions and answers phrasing. Now, it's making more sense.

But i was still like, WTF???. I can easily hear Satriani using different scales over the
same chord or riff. So on to the learning the axis pitch system.

It donst have to be oneway or the other. It can be both.

All those metallica, leppelin, Aerosmith..ect songs made more sense to me.
It wanst like i didnt know how to play them already...I did.
I learned the BLUES Scales. The verious variations of them.
They're not chormatic scale. You dont play all the notes from the chormatic.
Even though you play option notes into the pentatonic scale. Theres still a root to them.
It sounds bluesy...
It's the same concept was Satriani playing verious modes/scale. it's just dosnt
sound bluesy all the time.

As i get better with interval knowlege. I already knew how to play around
arpeggios. i just used those argegios as an alternative/ghost root.
if I solo off the 3rd. The interval from the 3rd to the 5th is 1 1/2 step=minor interval.
From the 5th to the 7, it's a major interval.

It follows chords structure. It flips back and worth between maj and minor. visa versa.
When I use arpeggios as alternative roots. Im bascailly doing the samething.

It's just more ways of articulating or getting different sounds.
There's only 5 notes to the pentatonic...it's how you play those notes to make it sound cool.
It's not as easy as some people thinks. Lots of inflections, Lots of technique. Lots of pharsing.
Last edited by smc818 at Feb 5, 2014,