We’re firmly in my rock/metal roots again this week with a lesson on how to write a riff.
Riffs can often come to us when we're noodling around with ideas, but I wanted to film a lesson on how you can approach writing riffs using some scale patterns if this is entirely new to you.
I wanted to just film myself with a couple of scales in mind and see what I could produce. It ended up being a metal riff very much in the style of Metallica.
We first establish a tonal centre, a note around which we are basing the riff. In the Metallica style, I'm basing my ideas in E minor. Doing this allows me to pedal the open string 6(E) with a heavy palm mute. To that, I want to add some more notes.
A great starting point for writing a guitar riff is using the minor pentatonic scale. The scale can be found on any string but for writing riffs, we're focusing on the low string 6(E) and 5(A). E minor pentatonic is the notes E-G-A-B-D.
To add a little more colour to note possibilities, we can extend to a 7-note diatonic scale. The two that immediately spring to mind for me are the E Phrygian mode (the Metallica scale) and E Aeolian mode (or natural minor scale). I also add in the b5 interval in the descending part of the riff in a minor blues scale. The b5 interval sounds particularly menacing and metal!