Fun And Effective Song Practice Using Guitar Riffs


Do you get bored easily when you practice guitar scale patterns?  As guitar players, we know that we need to practice scales to help improve our technique, but sometimes it can feel stale and uninspiring.   Almost all guitar players feel this same way—it is easy to get burned out and turned off by just practicing scale patterns for a long period of time.  And many players get bored because they just play exercises that don’t seem to be relevant to what they want to play—they don’t sound like songs.


Here are the top problems that beginning guitar players encounter when they focus too much on playing scales and exercises:

Problem #1:  Finger exercises are boring and many times not very musical sounding.

Problem #2:  Just playing scales all the time can be boring, too.

Problem #3:  Not knowing how to build your technique while practicing things that are relevant to the music you want to play.  It’s frustrating to practice only things that are not musical sounding because you feel like you are spinning your wheels and not getting any better.

Problem #4:  Trying to take on too much at one time when learning scales.  Overwhelm, boredom and frustration are the result.

Problem #5:  Feeling frustrated makes you want to give up on practice.

It’s difficult to know what has to be practiced in order to learn songs and improve your skills.  Would you like to have a way to practice scale type patterns and ideas that are not boring, sound cool and that will help you learn how to play songs in a shorter amount of time?  The answer to your problem is leaning to play guitar riffs.

A riff is a short musical phrase that you can repeat over and over.  Why practice guitar riffs?  The benefits are many:

  • Many guitar songs are built around riffs—they sound really cool and are fun to play. 
  • Using riffs in your practice is a great way to build your technique while keeping your practice time fun and sounding good.
  • Working on song riffs will also help you improve your ear, timing and hand synchronization. 
  • Playing song riffs is “real world” practice that helps you learn to play songs.  The more you work with them you will be able to learn new songs much more quickly because they help you improve your foundational guitar technique.

Let’s look at two riff ideas to learn and use in your guitar practice so you can start improving right away.  Get the free guitar lesson video to learn how to play riffs right now.

Riff #1

The first riff has a blues/rock sound.  The easiest way to learn it is to break it down into two sections.  The entire riff is 14 notes long—to start just focus on learning the first section of five notes.  Breaking longer musical parts into smaller sections is key to learning and memorizing them quickly and easily.  Watch this guitar riff lesson video to learn the correct way to fret the notes in it.


Once you have learned the notes in the first section use the same approach for the second half.  Make certain you have memorized the notes and can play each section without looking at the tablature—this is very important.  It is difficult to build consistency and play the riff smoothly if you cannot play it from memory.

Now put both sections of the riff together.  Play it slowly using consistent fret hand fingerings and pick motions.  Building speed will follow—speed is a byproduct of being very familiar with the notes and committing the music to memory.  It is very important to take your time and not try to rush into trying to play the entire riff at a high rate of speed.  Learn the notes and build consistency and the speed is sure to follow.


Riff #2:

The second riff is also based on a blues rock pattern.  The first half and the second half are similar.  We will use the same approach to learning it as we did the first one.  Learn the fingerings and picking for this one by watching the riff lesson video.


Follow the same steps for learning the second riff that you used in the first one.  Remember to learn it in two sections—commit each section to memory, go slowly and take your time getting it “under your fingers.”

The benefits of riff practice are many.  It improves your overall technique quickly by giving you real music based practice.  You are working on coordinating both your pick and fret hands and also learning to memorize guitar parts—this will help you learn to memorize songs because you can use the same method for learning any guitar part to any song you want to play.  And these riffs sound equally as good on acoustic or electric guitar.

Start listening for repeating guitar riff ideas in your favorite music.  Use ideas from songs you like in your daily practice—the two ideas in this lesson are just a starting point.  Guitar riff practice will make your playing take off. 

Watch this guitar riff lesson video that demonstrates all the music in this lesson so that you can learn and use riffs to improve your guitar playing right now.


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