Posted Jun 02, 2010 10:53 AM
In an effort to make this as simple as possible, I'll head straight into thingsthere's no need to neglect appropriate brevity by drawing out an insanely long article on such a basic concept.
Every [good] riff has a key -- a particular note that the ear naturally wants to hear after an obvious cadence. If you want to play around with auditory anticipation, the best way to do so [manually, with an instrument] is to harness the power of intervals. For example, most of you will immediately hum the riff to Smoke on the Water when you see the name, so here's something for you to try: SOTW is in the general key of G minor; the dominating note the ear begs to hear is a G note, so what's the best way to convince the ear that G is the greatest damn note in the entire world? Simple: you throw out a D note before it.
Technically speaking, D is a perfect 5th up from G, making G a perfect 5th down from D. If you take G one octave higher, it becomes a perfect 4th up from D.
Here's the deal: nobody knows why, but when the ear becomes accustomed to and comfortable with a particular key, that key's root note's ascending perfect 4th will sound outlandishly wonderful and uplifting.
So how can you use this to your advantage?
Easy: Jam a D power chord long enough to get used to it, and then, when it feels right, go directly from that D chord to the opening riff of Smoke on the Water (or any other riff in the key of G).
Sounds slightly more exciting, doesn't it?
You can do this with any riff. Just remember that, whatever key it's in, introduce it with that key's root note's descending perfect 4th. You'll have listeners drooling at your feet.
I also recommend trying the same thing with other descending intervals; beginning with a descending minor second is similarly uplifting (e.g. Jamming an F# chord before going into a G chord).
Rock harder, my friends.
P.S. This is simple theory -- most of you may already be aware of this. That's okay! Just keep rocking your neighbors' socks off.