Riff & Jam: The Two-Figure Rock Technique

In this lesson, I'm going to show you a simple trick I use when starting to jam with other guys to get the groove on and start getting your chops out there, which can also be used to compose rock riffs easily.

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Riff & Jam: The Two-Figure Rock Technique

"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple." ― Jack Kerouac

I love jamming with other musicians. It's a very fun and rewarding experience.

In fact, I think it's a crucial step to do within any newly formed band so that you can get to know the other members and what they like to play.

Still, some people often double-think themselves at the mere thought of playing something on the fly, improvising with other members. What will they think if I screw up? What if what I play sucks?

In this lesson, I'm going to show you a simple trick I use when starting to jam with other guys to get the groove on and start getting your chops out there, which can also be used to compose rock riffs easily.

Yeah, a must-have skill for any guitar player, of any style, age, country, etc.

You can watch the video lesson or keep reading for more details.

YouTube preview picture

Check out the infographic at the bottom for a quick reference.


For this technique we'll be using the two-note power chord hack. If you have not yet read my article on power chords, you can do it right here.

What we are going to do is use two notes that are two frets apart on the 6th string as root notes. These will be our base for the two figures we're going to use.

I'll show you using the F and G notes on the 1st and 3rd frets respectively, just because I like how it sounds there, but you can move the two figures anywhere on the 6th string.

The first figure starts on the highest of the two notes:

The purple note is our root note, and the other colors represent the two-note power chords we'll use.

Normally you'll want to use small barres to play each one so that it's easy.

All these chords sound well with each other, and you can use them as you wish to create a riff with any groove you want.

The second figure looks similar.

Yeah, there are a bunch of notes on top of each other.

In this figure, we have a new chord we haven't seen before. If you check out the light blue notes, they are not a power chord. We are playing on the 3rd fret of the 4th string, and the 2nd fret of the 3rd string, which make those notes an F and A respectively.

If you remember the 3x3 Box Technique we saw before, you'll see that by the position of the A note with respect ao the F, it means that the A is the 3rd interval of the F. This is not a power chord, but in this context we can use it to have a very similar sound, and it will fit right in.

Again, we can use these chords as we wish to make up any riff.


There is one more trick we can use to add a little bit of flavor. For this we will come back to the first figure and analyze a new chord.

Check out the blue notes at the bottom. It's a new power chord that is just one fret above the yellow one.

If you play this chord in relation to the purple root note, you'll see that it sounds a little odd. This is because those notes create a lot of tension because of the unusual intervals: 6th fret on the 4th string is a G# and 6th fret on the 3rd string is a C#, which are b2nd and b5th intervals respectively. The b5th is what is called as tritone, which because of its dissonance has been considered in history as a "diabolic" interval. The tritone has additional properties we'll see in the future.

You can use this new chord, as long as you don't let it ring too long and instead use it as pass chord. This means that you can briefly make it ring as you move from one other chord to add a little weird sound that can be used very tastefully.


That's it!

If you play around with this two figures a bit you'll soon get the hang of it and be able to play many riffs easily. You can move these two figures up and down on the 6th string and it will be fine.

Just use your imagination!

Also, check the infographic.



About the author:

Max Chiossi is a rock guitarist and engineer with a laser-focused approach. You can visit my website at www.iwillteachyoutoplayguitar.com.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Nice little hack, simple and effective.  Thanks.
    You are welcome! I don't really know how I came up with it, but one day I found out I was instinctively playing riffs along those lines and they sounded cool, so I knew that it would be useful for others.
    The video and concepts were terrific thanks for sharing. The diagrams are just kind of hard to read. 
    I'm glad you liked it. I know what you mean, I tried to make the diagrams as easy to read as possible, but I could not come up with an easier way than this. Of course, I could have done individual diagrams for each power chord, but it would take many more diagrams and it sort of destroyed the point of making it an easy hack. Thanks for reading/watching!