April 2020 Assignment

Write a riff-based song. 

This will be easy for songwriters whose process starts with a short repeated melody line or chord progression — the song is constructed around the riff. Classical musicians might refer to an ostinato, or musical phrase that is persistently repeated at the same pitch. 

You know the five-note riff at the start of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the first six notes of Eric Clapton’s cover of “Cocaine” and the very first 12 notes learned by millions of guitar players worldwide, the opening riff of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”

Generally, with little deviation, you could play those short musical sequences through the entire song. Works the same for chords, which are just thee related notes hanging out on a fretboard or keyboard. Bob Dylan played the same chordal riff over and over (and over) on “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Then he played it over again.  

You don’t need to wear an Afro and call yourself Jimi to write a riff-based song. You just need an instrument, any level of skill and a cool riff.

Learn more about riff-based songs.

What is the difference between a chord progression and a riff?

What is the difference between a “riff” and a “melody”?

Question about riff-based songs

Acoustic riffs for acoustic guitar: Bob Dylan “Mr. Tambourine Man”

The Faker’s Guide To Chordal Riffs

Creating chordal riffs

15 Of The Best Guitar Riffs Of All Time

50 Greatest Guitar Riffs Of All Time

Ed Sheeran “Shape of You”

Taylor Swift “The Man”