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"Writing The Perfect Riff Part 2"

Jordan Warford here, Editorial Manager for Guitar Tips.

Thanks for tuning in to this week's edition of our Guitar Tips newsletter. Join us as we continue our series on creating original riffs. This week we will cover how to choose the proper chords to back up your riffs and how to link them together to make a song.

With all of that in mind, let's get started!

Taking The Next Step

Looking at chords.

I remember how intimidating writing music was to me when I just started out on guitar. It wasn't easy and before I knew it, my lack of knowledge soon caught up with me. The biggest frustration I encountered on a regular basis was creating a great riff and going nowhere with it.

After a few months, I was left with dozens of riffs and no songs. If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. It is a common problem amongst guitarists of all ages. The solution is much simpler than you may think.

When writing music, the foundation of the song is in the bass line and chord progression. The riffs that you have seen from our previous lessons are simply the icing on the cake. Riffs are appealing to our ear but don't give us much to work with when it comes to writing a full song with verses and a chorus.

When you create a chord progression, you open up a whole new world of possibilities. Why? Simply put, you have more options available to you that will help keep your music interesting. Let's be honest, no one wants to hear the same riff played over and over again with nothing to back it up.

Unfortunately, many beginners have the superstition that chords are hard to link together and that they have to be complicated to create a unique song. This could not be farther from the truth. The reality is that the greatest songs in history had the simplest chord progressions and the catchiest riffs (as stated in our previous newsletter).

You can use simple chords and still create great material, but there are a few things you should know before you really dig in.

Choosing chord progressions.

Choosing chords that are in the correct key can be a challenging adventure when you don't know music theory. For most us, we end up finding chords that sound good together by trial and error. This can limit you in many different ways by constricting you to the same chords over and over again.

Found below is a chart that gives you all of the most common chords for each key. Look down the first column to find the key you would like to play in. Then simply look to the right to see all of the chords that you have available to you!

As a side note, most chord progressions sound quite nice when you use the root chord (one of the chords from the first column) with its relative minor chord (found in the relative minor key column). Technically speaking, they are both the same key signature with a different order of chords.

We'll save the theory behind chords and the building of chords for another day. In the meantime, practice stringing together chords in the same key. Enjoy!

Key (Major)
Relative minor Key
C
Dm
Em
F
G
Am
Bo
Db
Ebm
Fm
Gb
Ab
Bbm
Co
D
Em
F#m
G
A
Bm
C#o
Eb
Fm
Gm
Ab
Bb
Cm
Do
E
F#m
G#m
A
B
C#m
D#o
F
Gm
Am
Bb
C
Dm
Eo
F#
G#m
A#m
B
C#
D#m
E#o
G
Am
Bm
C
D
Em
F#o
Ab
Bbm
Cm
Db
Eb
Fm
Go
A
Bm
C#m
D
E
F#m
G#o
Bb
Cm
Dm
Eb
F
Gm
Ao
B
C#m
D#m
E
F#
G#m
A#o

Shaking things up.

Many of the chords seen in the chart above are played as open chords. Naturally, this can become dull with time. To branch out into a new direction and sound, you can play the above chords in various places on your neck via movable chord shapes.

A movable chord is essentially a shape that you hold with your fingers and move up and down the neck of your guitar. They are extremely useful and serve as a great way to learn the notes on your fretboard.

Here are some of the common movable chord shapes:

 

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The first shape shown above is a Major chord with the root on the 6th string. The root is what names the chord. Learn the notes on your 6th string and you'll be all set. For example, holding that shape on the seventh fret of our 6th string gives us a B Major because the note on the seventh fret of our E string is a B and we are using a Major shape.

The second shape show from the above diagrams is a minor chord with the root on the E string. The same rules apply as the previous chord. If we play the minor shape on the 7th fret, we get a B minor chord because the note on the seventh fret of our E string is a B and we are using a minor shape.

The third shape from the above diagrams is a Major chord with the root on the fifth string. If we play this shape on the seventh fret of our 5th string, we will get an E Major chord because the note on the seventh fret of our A string is a E and we are using a Major shape.

Lastly, our fourth shape from the above diagrams is a minor chord with the root on the fifth string. If we play this shape on the seventh fret of our 5th string, we will get an E minor chord because the note on the seventh fret of our A string is a E and we are using a minor shape.

All of the above chord shapes allow you to use a different set of tones to accompany your riff. The two different Major and minor chord each have their own feel and quality. Experiment and have fun play with the different chords. You now have a great starting point for many songs to come.


Conclusion

That raps up yet another edition of our Guitar Tips newsletter. We hope you enjoyed this week's article. Creating your own chord progressions doesn't have to be hard or frustrating. Before you know it, you will find yourself thinking of the chords you would like to play without the use of a chart.

Join us next time as we dive into the world of home recording. Learn what it takes to create a CD or tape from your bedroom! It's an issue that no musician will want to miss out on.

Until next time, keep on rocking!

 


WRITTEN BY ELMORE MUSIC

Learn the Acoustic or Electric Guitar in 30 days! Highly recommended!

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