How to Create Chordal Riffs

Creating Chordal Riffs Cover

Posted by Andrew DuBrock

Creating Chordal Riffs
When you first hear a catchy lick or riff, it may sound so good that you expect it to be a difficult lead technique requiring hours of practice to master. But many of the best licks and riffs are just made up of bits and pieces of easy chord shapes. Here’s how to use these shapes so you can come up with your own ear-catching riffs.

Creating Chordal Riffs
Click to enlarge.

Deconstruct Chord Shapes 
When you look at a simple D chord, you may not see all the potential within that three-fingered shape, but you can find countless great riffs within this chord—the Beatles crafted the instantly recognizable lines to “Norwegian Wood” and “Here Comes the Sun” based on the first-position D chord. Keep this shape rooted in your mind while you explore Example 1, which first shows a D chord, and then shows shapes you can access from this position by moving around just one finger at a time. Many of these shapes have slightly different names—for instance, the first one to the right of the D chord is a Dsus4. But we’re not worried about the names here; we’re more interested in how we can create interesting-sounding parts by embellishing a chord shape. Strum through each one and practice switching between them.

Excerpted from Acoustic Rock Basics

Receive lessons, songs, advice, and news like this straight to your inbox

Join the How to Create Chordal Riffs discussion

Get all things acoustic guitar in your inbox with our free newsletters. Your E-mail: