Believe it or not there are many types of guitar riffs. In fact, I have categorized them into 10 different types! See these below…
What are the types of guitar riffs?
- Melodic Riffs
- Simple Chord Riffs
- Big Open Chords
- Power Chord Riffs
- Tremelo Picking
- Open-String Breakdown Riffs
- Progressive Riffs
In this Article, we will go over the main types of guitar riffs, as well as discussing the artists associated with those riffs.
What are Guitar Riffs?
When learning guitar you will either do in the direction of learning lead or rhythm guitar. Guitar riffs fit into the rhythmical based sequence of notes. These are played to form a catchy, memorable, and instantly recognizable groove. But, instead of chords guitar riffs will sit at the front of a track, and are generally the driving force whereby the rest of the instruments in the band will to synchronize too.
A guitar riff is simply a sequence of notes or chord progressions. Technically speaking, a riff can be played on any instrument, not specific to the guitar, but in some kind of music like Rock, Blues, Punk and Heavy Metal music, the distortion compliments the guitar and produces this amazing tone which cannot be replicated on another other instrument.
Due to the nature of some really technical guitar riffs, is a great way to build a guitarists reputation for rhythm based guitarists. This is because just like lead guitar you can pack so many notes into a fast fast tempo that you will be required to have a good technique. This can highlight many challenges for most beginners.
A Little Bit Of History
The Riff was born with the transformation of rock ‘n’ roll in the late 1950s. Pioneers such as Chuck Berry, Link Wray, and Dave Davies. Chuck Berry contributed the revolution by creating double-string licks added a sophistication that would be a huge influence on successive generations of guitarists.
On Link Wray’s site, his famous record Rumble in 1958, just based on a riff of a mere three notes. Another reward was counted for Dave Davies with his performance named You Really Got Me. The song is nothing more than a two-chord phrase repeated with rough distortion. He sliced the speaker cone of his amp which produced this amazing effect. Since then the riff has evolved and progressed through changing musical scenes such as punk rock, which allowed for choppy, spiky and powerful riff arrangements, like those from bands such as Gang Of Four and AC/DC.
Types of Guitar Riffs
Guitar Riffs can be composed by both chords (usually power chords) and notes, or entire one of those.
In your practice path, you find it interesting to learn the types of riffs and famous guitarist and bands that are associated with those riffs.
1. Melodic Riffs
For melodic riffs, I highly recommend “Day Tripper” by The Beatles as your first practice. In my experience, this rock riff is one of the easiest and awesome riffs for beginners.
It is based on E minor pentatonic scale with 2 repeated bars, worked on the thickest strings of 6th, 5th, and 4th strings varying from open positions to fret 4. The 1st bar notes played in the sequence are E, G, G#, B, E, D, while 2nd bar notes are B, F#, B, D, E. Even though a precise sound will require a distortion effect, you can feel free to play it on both electric and acoustic guitar, master this will be a big plus for you. See Tab notations below.
2. Simple Chord Riffs
Deep Purple: “Smoke on the water” (1972) is very iconic riff. One of the founding members of Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore, is an English guitarist and songwriter, playing jam-style hard rock music that mixed guitar riffs and organ sounds. Blackmore is prolific in creating this style of riffs guitar riffs and is often noted for his classically influenced solos.
You will play entirely on the 5th and 6th strings with the power chords (D5, F5, G#5, and G5) while moving through open position to the 6th fret. It would get the best authentic sound if being played with a tempo of 120bpm, coupled with an overdrive effect on an electric guitar. See Tab notations below
3. Big Open Chord Riffs
AC/DC: “Black in Black” is one of the most iconic big open chord riffs ever produced in the 1980’s by Scottish-born brothers Malcolm and Angus Young.
Their main playing styles are described as hard rock, blues rock, and heavy metal, or simply “rock and roll”.
4. Power Chords
For most beginners, I highly recommend making use of power chords because they are very easy to use. “Come as You are” by Nirvana. In this grunge-styled song you are tuned down a whole step, with a chorus effect to reproduce the original sound of the riff.
To give the rhythm a bit of flavor, Nirvana started with a three eighth-note fractional pick-up (D, D, and D#) to usher in the first bar in a syncopated fashion, then the rest of the song is all about the notes D, D#, E, G, A, being along with the alternating between 1st and 2nd fret positions of the guitar. The notes are eighth notes with a common time signature (4/4). The D, D#, and E notes are played on the 6th string in open position, fret 1, and fret two respectively. The G and A notes are played on the 5th string in open position and on fret two respectively. You’ll be playing E, G, E, G, E, E, D# for bar 1, and D, A, D, D, A, D, D# for bar 2. See the Tab below.
Guitar Tab Notation for Come As You Are
When looking into power chord riffs the there are many artists to consider. However, when talking about this genre of riff style it is impossible not to mention bands like Black sabbath (iron man), megadeath and metallica.
Straight up Pantera. They were really the originals of taking the blues style guitar but adopting them into really fat but bloozy style riffs.
Another suggested song for practice, especially with distortion effect applied.
6. Chuggy Riffs
Progressing from bloozy we are looking are much heavier genres.
The “palm mute” is a technique used on electric guitar. The “chug” sound is created by pushing your picking hand against the bridge at the very bottom of the strings with a heavily distorted overdrive tone, as seen in heavy metal.
7. Tremelo Picked Riffs
Tremolo picking is a type of alternative picking that is often done at a rapid speed while focusing on a single note for a specific amount of time (eg playing the same note 4 times over one beat of music).
This technique is used commonly in the black metal scene.
8. String-Skipping Riffs
String skipping is a technique for creating a sound on the guitar that is distinct from more typical solo riff approaches.
The guitarist may frequently play numerous notes on one string before moving to the next, improvising melodically linearly on the fretboard.
9. Open-String Breakdown Riffs
The guitars establish a rhythmically oriented pattern in music that focuses on open-string breakdowns (rather than a melodic twang). This is accomplished by tuning the guitars to a lower pitch and using only eight strings.
The technique includes lightly palm-muted strings to achieve a very high attack noise that decays slowly, making the overall sound more thick and “heavy”.
10. Progressive Riffs
Originally it was called “progressive” because it brought in elements that weren’t normally thought of as belonging in rock music (classical forms, odd time signatures, experimental recording techniques, etc).
The idea was that it was “progressing” the form of rock music and taking it into new places.
Guitar riffs can be used in all types of genres but you will most commonly see them in genres such as rock, blues, punk, and metal. You would expect to hear a guitar riff at the beginning or a bridge section of a song. But, there is no strict rule, you can hear them in the verse, and even chorus. It is the base of the musical composition while other instruments play different melodies over the top.is responsible for a highly important part, generally the driving force of the songs. They are played in a way to catch the audience’s attention immediately sometimes from the very first note.