Effective and Fun Practice Using Guitar Riffs

Is your guitar technique practice feeling stale and boring? Are you getting burned out playing finger exercises that just sound very "musical"? Most beginning guitar players feel this way - it is very common.

Ultimate Guitar
Is your guitar technique practice feeling stale and boring? Are you getting burned out playing finger exercises that just sound very "musical"? Most beginning guitar players feel this way - it is very common. Spending large amounts of practice time playing lots of drills and exercises that don't sound anything like songs is demotivating and just plain boring.

Beginning guitar players face many problems when learning the best ways to improve their technique. Here are the top technique practice issues:
  1. Playing scales all the time gets boring - fast.
  2. Working on finger exercises for long periods of time is even more boring. Plus, most finger exercises don't sound musical at all.
  3. Trying to practice too many different types of drills. This causes overwhelm and is very demotivating.
  4. Not knowing what to practice so that you can improve your technique quickly while having fun doing it.
It's not always easy to know what to practice and the best ways to practice to get the results you want. What I've found is that learning to practice in a way that helps you build your technique while playing things that sound cool and are fun to play is the way to beat practice time boredom. The answer is to incorporate guitar riffs into your practice routine.

Guitar riffs are short musical passages that are usually repeated many times within a song. Why should you practice guitar riffs? Here's why:
  • Riffs sound cool and are lots of fun to play.
  • Practicing riffs will help you improve your technique and hand coordination.
  • Playing riffs will also help your "ear" and learn new songs faster.
  • Riff practice can be based on real songs - playing songs is the main reason we play the guitar.
  • The more you work with guitar riffs the better your overall technique becomes. They are the foundation of many songs in lots of different styles of music.
This lesson will show you two riff ideas to learn and use in your guitar practice right now.

Guitar Riff 1

Riff number one has a blues rock sound. The best way to learn it is to break it up into two smaller sections.

Learn the first section of the guitar riff first - don't move on to the second section until you have fully memorized the first. Once you can play the first section from memory use the same approach with the second part. It is very important to learn to play both sections from memory. It is very difficult to build consistency and speed playing the riff if you have to look at the tablature while playing it - commit it to memory as quickly as you can.

Once you can play each section on its own put the two together. Play slowly and make certain that your fret hand fingerings are consistent - play the riff the same way with the same fingers each time. The same goes for your pick hand - use the same pick motions each time you play it. Building speed will follow - speed is a byproduct of consistency and accuracy. Take your time - if you practice using consistent fingerings the speed is sure to follow.

Guitar Riff 2

The second guitar riff is also based on a bluesy sounding pattern. Use the same approach to learning this one as the first - break it into two sections and master each section before you try to put them together.

There are many benefits to using riffs in your guitar practice. Playing riffs improves your technique by allowing you to work on musical ideas that are based on songs and integrate several important guitar techniques all at the same time. Riffs improve your hand coordination and memory. Improving your ability to memorize guitar parts is crucial for learning to play complete songs. You can use these same principles of breaking riffs down into smaller parts when you learn your favorite music.

Make sure you listen for guitar riffs in your favorite music. Many styles use them - rock, blues, country, pop and metal. They are played on both acoustic or electric guitar. Start using riffs from songs you like in your practice - the two ideas in this lesson are just a starting point.

About the Author:
Paul Kleff is a guitar teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has written instructional articles and lessons and presented guitar instructional clinics throughout the USA. Get more beginner guitar lessons, guitar playing tips and videos at Paul's website.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    really nice guide, i'm an (almost)intermediate guitarist and i found some useful tips on this.