Devising Rock Riffs & Ideas?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by classicplayer, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. classicplayer

    classicplayer Member

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    This past couple of years I've been trying to come up with ideas for original Rock riffs and motifs.
    It is not the easy, I find. That is what makes me marvel at the ideas that Jimmy Page developed into
    some of the most revered and still played riffs of his right up to today. Was it a case of four musicians in a room throwing out ideas individually and eventually finding that magic combination of notes and tone that all could make a contribution to? Where did they start?

    Flash forward to present times and someone like Tim Sult of Clutch that comes up with some crushing riffs of his own as the guitar player in that veteran Rock outfit. His ideas do not sound as complicated as what Page developed, but they serve the purpose in the context of a 4-piece Rock band.

    How do you begin and are you successful at your own Rock ideas on guitar?



    classicplayer
     
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  2. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Step up to the plate?
     
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  3. RLD

    RLD Member

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    Well, you have to do whatever it takes to get it done, and that could be anything depending on your personality.
    When I was writing instrumental rock cues for music libraries/publishers I had various "tricks" to get me in that state.
    During a writing session I would sit with my guitar and a recorder and I would record everything I came up with.
    95% of it might be unusable but something would usually be kept.
    Sometimes I would envision myself in a band and I would be able to "hear" what we were playing...might get some ideas out of that and it would be recorded.
    Sometimes I would have a rock radio station playing in the background, so low that I could barely make it out and that would spark an idea.
    Sometimes I would randomly turn up the radio and get 1 second of a song and turn it off...that would be enough to spark an idea.
    All these ideas were recorded in a 1/2 hour to hour writing session.
    Next day I would go through the recording and pick out bits that made sense and flesh them out into finished ideas.
    Most important thing is to...that's right, just do it.
     
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  4. monty

    monty Member

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    Beginning is easy, finishing those ideas are what I find hard.
     
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  5. classicplayer

    classicplayer Member

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    This is information I can use. Thanks. I usually sit down wit guitar plugged in and go through a chord progression or two and work it out a couple of positions on the fingerboard and see if a riff can come out of it. In other words, I try and streamline or outline the progression with different rhythms. As you write, sometimes many of these I end up throwing away and go on to yet another idea.


    classicplayer
     
  6. IGuitUpIGuitDown

    IGuitUpIGuitDown Member

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    Yes, always record when inventing new goo.
    Even after inventing a great riff or part if I don't record it I will forget the actual timing of it. And that dilutes the music from great to meh.

    Page was influenced by Bonham's playing, so invent a drum part that inspires riffage.
     
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  7. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    I steal riffs and make new ones.
    I ain't telling if I stole this or not:
     
  8. kimock

    kimock Member

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    To the extent I bother to come up with “new rock licks” which is no easy task btw, I’ve gotten my best lines, motifs, etc borrowing from Afro-Cuban rhythms to start.
    Clave, Bell patterns, (7 wheels of Bembe) conga drum rhythms, hi-hat patterns, stuff like that.
    Find a strong rhythmic frame and flesh it out.
    It at least gets you started with something that grooves or dances immediately that the rhythm section can dig into.
    Half the battle is getting it to stick with the ensemble anyway, so serve up the rhythm first.
     
  9. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    Well, I'm not going to tell you that you can't get anywhere with that approach. But to me, one of the cool things about a good rock riff is that it's not really outlining any harmony. I remember looking at TAB books and seeing N.C. where the chords were usually notated, and finding out that stood for "no chord". Take the riff for Whole Lotta Love, you could figure it's some kind of D to E move, but it's not really outlining anything, hence the N.C. That's the cool thing about power chords, they don't define the harmony. With just a root and a 5th it could be major, minor, dominant, any number of things. Now, often there will be enough of these power chords to devise some kind of tonality or scale, like the riff for Sabbath's Iron Man, which is clearly an E minor thing. But think about that riff and that tune, the key/tonality is a little ambiguous. It's definitely more modal than functional. And that's what makes it interesting, that's what makes it rock music.


    Right on. To the OP, think of all the iconic riffs you can hum in a near monotone, yet people will still get the reference. It's the rhythmic element that makes it a great riff. I know a term like clave might mean a specific couple patterns for most people, but I've come to think of it as a generic term for anything that repeats and has some syncopation, and could be played throughout the entire tune. When I think of something like the riff to the Stone's Satisfaction, to me that's a clave. I mean that's what a great riff is, some kind of repeating rhythmic phrase that you could listen or possibly dance to (even if that dance is moshing and headbanging) over and over again. It can stand on it's own. You could grab a couple sticks and clank out a 3-2 clave and people can feel it and dance to it. One of my favorite nights was when I was visiting some friends in Chicago who were really into Brazilian music, all of us drinking out on their stoop and we started jamming out clanking whatever we could find together; sticks on garbage cans, shovels, pint glasses, etc -all percussion with no harmony, which turned into a 30 person dance party on the sidewalk. Good times...

    And then you get times where a good riff does even more than that. For example, the riff in Pretty Woman is one of my favorites. It sets up the tune and comes back in here or there, but the way it comes back towards the end of the tune after he says stuff like, "I guess I'll go home, it's late. But maybe tomorrow night.... but wait, what do I see?", and then the riff comes back in, basically being the musical equivalent of the "pretty woman" sashaying back to Roy. Damn, that's the baddest sh!t in the world...
     
  10. aiq

    aiq Supporting Member

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    That "Spanish tinge".
     
  11. jay42

    jay42 Member

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    hmm...Led Zeppelin = Thieving Magpies?

    I sincerely believe that those Brits, Scots, and Irish guys ate up a lot of low hanging fruit in the 60's and 70's in both idiomatic English language phrases, and blues riffs.
     
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  12. 2Badde

    2Badde Member

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    Spend just a couple of dollars and download some drum apps - DRUMBEATS and DRUM GENIUS are just fine. There are dozens of different styles and tempos. Pick one. Plug in and play along. If you have decent chops and the innate skills to create, you will be inspired to develop a new riff / progression almost every time you do this. Allow the percussion to inspire and lead you.
     
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  13. amstrtatnut

    amstrtatnut Member

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    I say hum a riff or melody. Totally freeform and see where it goes.

    It could end up as a bass line or melody, or whatever.

    With a guitar in my hand, Im limited by what my hands know to do.

    Humming can be a symphony if you follow it through.

    (Disclaimer: Ive heard symphonies but, never actually written one. I have read however, that Beethoven would walk around his neighborhood loudly singing the brotherhood of man theme from symphony number 9) :)
     
  14. jerryrig

    jerryrig Member

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    Basically to me, in this context, a riff is musical phrase played on guitar. so I get ideas from all sorts of things, like other instruments.

    I might hear a pretty vocal of keyboard phrase, and then do something like that on an overdriven guitar.,also percussive instruments are great for getting ideas.

    I always hear musical ideas on other instruments and think how could I play something like that on guitar with a rock attitude. sometimes, i get good ideas from humming silly things that i would never do in public.

    another thing I thing that I do is the old 'less is more" way of thinking....taking out the notes that don't serve a purpose.

    sometimes, i have no idea where the ideas come from, maybe from my childhood or some thing i heard but can't remember where

    the trick is getting it down on the guitar and making a song around it or putting it in an existing song.

    Just be ready for any idea that might come, capture it and work on it til you have something you can use.
     
  15. JohnnyBGoode

    JohnnyBGoode Member

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    One of my big reaoizations was about how rhythm works on melody - take a few minutes and try to play Do Re Mi Fa (and that's it) each time changing the rhythm, downbeats, upbeats, length. As said above - doing it over a drumbeat should also inspire you. I

    Learn Funk guitar. Funk rhythm riffs are a lot more interesting than Rovk riffs. Page and Malcolm Young might sound bigger but Nile Rodgers and Cornell Dupree are the real masterminds. After you can play some of their stuff - try playing it lower and dirtier(and probably slower) to make it into Rock.

    It's really more about how and when you play the notes...
     

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