Write a Great Guitar Riff in Two Minutes or Less!

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Rock Dojo Student Shows Off Her Yellow Guitar Strap

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been playing the guitar for 10 days or 10 years, you can write a great guitar riff if you follow this simple guide to writing great guitar riffs!

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1. Choose a Rhythm for Your Guitar Riff

A great guitar riff begins with a great rhythm. If you’re beginning guitarist, I recommend keeping it simple and sticking to the basics: whole notes, quarter notes, 8th notes, and their equivalent rests.

Basic Rhythms with Rests

In this example, 7-year old Mikaela kept it simple choosing four quarter notes for her guitar riff:

Super Easy Rhythm

2. Choose a Musical Concept for Your Guitar Riff

Now that you chose a rhythm for your guitar riff, it’s time to pair it with a musical concept. While there are dozens of musical concepts and thousands of chord types and scales to choose from, the reality is most rock songs are built around a few basic musical concepts: open chords, open power chords, moveable power chords, and the major and minor pentatonic scales.

Again, Mikaela kept it simple choosing open power chords for her guitar riff:

Open Power Chords: E5, A5, & D5

3. Noodle Until a Great Guitar Riff Appears

Believe it or not, you’ve already done all the hard work you need to do to write a great guitar riff. At this point, simply combine your chosen rhythm with the musical concept of your choice. The key is getting out of your own way. Don’t judge. Don’t think too hard. Just combine step one with step two and noodle. Trust me, something magical will happen and a great guitar riff will appear!

For seven-year-old Mikaela, we captured the magic with Guitar Pro 7, which I highly recommend for all budding composers to help you capture your ideas!

Mikaela's Riff

Mikaela’s Open Power Chord Riff

Mikaela’s Open Power Chord Riff Backing Track

Brian Parham is the author of Guitar for Kids: Rock Dojo The Complete Belt System, a complete system for playing, teaching, and sharing your passion for the guitar for the people you love most. Guitar for Kids features five must know musical concepts, step-by-step composition guides, and 11-awesome songs to add to your repertoire.

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