Riffing With Modes #1: Writing with Major/Ionian 

I posted a video on how I wrote the solo  with tabs at my Patreon: https://bit.ly/35Ll3x1 This is the first of a seven part series on how to write riffs. Every guitarist should be able to make a decent riff, and throughout these videos, I’ll be demonstrating the strategies and techniques I use to writing music on the guitar. Each video will focus on a different mode of major, but will not always be totally limited to that key. In the case of this video, we perform a relative modulation by resolving to the vi chord for long enough to make it feel like our new tonal center. In future videos, we’ll build on the skills we learned before and explore new possibilities. To fully understand this video you’ll want to know the following topics- Major Scale + Chords: https://youtu.be/M8eItITv8QA Seventh Chords: https://youtu.be/3JizNRwHYNY Suspended Chords Pt 1: https://youtu.be/qu49nYaBfdM FAKE GUITAR????? This guitar solo was not easy for me, especially on my Strat. I had to practice it for several days and film it many times. I have about 40 minutes of footage of me failing to get it right, but I played it till II got a take that was good enough for me to post. All of the leads on my videos I film live so that the take you’re seeing is the take you’re hearing. I very very rarely make post-audio edits to my leads like fixing a bad bend or moving the timing of something, but if I do it’s always out of expediency. In this case I left it totally untouched with one exception- I slightly boosted the gain of the tapping section since it was noticeably quieter than the other parts. I hope you’ll afford me that luxury! This video is brought to you by an incredible subsection of the human race known as MY PATREON SUBSCRIBERS. I owe them my thanks for their support, and so do you if you learned something from this video! Special thanks to the following members: Adam Granger Billyshes Bradley Bower Brandon Combs BuzzWasHere Christopher Swanson CrippleMonkey Daniel Danciu Darrin Goren Don Dachenhausen III Don Watters Erik Lange Joe Buote John Arnold jon reddish Kip Ingram Linas Orentas Lord of the Chords Live on Indiegogo Now! Marc Bulandr Marek Pawlowski Markos Zouganelis Martin Morgan M. Nick White Patrick Ryan Philip Sharp


 Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors.  However, I do hope you find it helpful.   

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Hey, I'm Jake lizzio. And in this series we're going to be covering two really important topics writing riffs and using the modes as a teacher. I can tell you that a lot of students struggle with being able to just produce a riff out of thin air. I know for myself, it was really a problem just being able. Able to learn that skill.

So what these videos are going to do our walk you through the entire process of crafting a riff from scratch and then also being able to write complementary parts to it arrange it with other parts of a band and use this kind of Riff creating tactic in different modal tonalities. Now before we get started here, I just want to note that this will not be an introduction to modes. I am going to expect you to already have knowledge of these scales before you watch these videos. So in this case, we're learning about riffing with major you should know. Major scale you should know the chords of the major scale. So if you don't know that stuff, I've linked to a video Below in the description.

Also, I'm not going to be limiting myself a hundred percent to just each one of these modes in my previous lessons. That's what I've done. I've said we're only going to use lydian. We're only going to use the notes of Dorian, but when we're actually making music, it's pretty common to want to expand Pastor 7 Notes. So I will be doing some other tricks outside of the keys here and I'll be explaining those the whole time through so you can understand where and when you might want to To leave the safety of your key for some more adventurous sounds so let's get started. We're writing riffs in major today. And before we even play any notes, we just want to have an idea of what major is capable of and where we want to go with our song. We have to start with some idea and I can tell you most of us would agree that you know, major would be a bad idea for something evil or creepy it would be maybe a good idea for something upbeat and you know energetic so I'm going to go with that other one. I want something more upbeat and energetic And since I'm on an electric guitar, I'm thinking maybe something in the style of Rush something riffing but like still energetic and still kind of heavy.

So that gives me some sort of guideline to follow throughout this entire process. So now we have to pick a key and they're really all the same to me, but they look and feel totally different on your instrument.

So the key of E is pretty common on the guitar.

We'll just go to the key of f instead that's something a little different and we're writing riffs. We want to start with the scale. All right, and here's just my F major scale and I'm actually to play a little bit of am not only going to play it maybe up to an octave maybe octave and a half because what I think of writing riffs, I don't think of high notes, you know, I don't think of High stuff like that. I think of this low chunky riff territory.

So let's start just by playing that scale shape up and down just kind of playing around up and down the scale note by note. And then my first suggestion is just start chugging away at the time and any here and it's a really good idea to keep repeating that tonic note and then maybe experiment with some of those other notes of the scale.

The fifth the sixth fifth fourth third sixth fifth fourth third fourth burp. Sorry fourth and third you get the idea. I'm just kind of playing around with these notes always returning back to the root. You can stumble across a lot of great ideas just by doing that. But to me, it's a little boring just going up and down the scale like that. I would rather think of an arpeggio and specifically there's an arpeggio. I really like major 7th chords are awesome sounding chords fmaj7 is in the key of f that's the one It's just been extended to a major 7. So what if I outlined the notes of that chord riff mode instead? What if I just played the notes of an F major 7 like this F a CEO and then back down that is really nice to me and we can do some variations on that. Let's skip the a all together. Let's just go FC and that is lovely as well and if we can go a little bit more outside of that arpeggio we could add in maybe this 9th note of the scale. So we're just adding more. It's the scale to keep things from sounding that not once so now I have this and I'm going to think of that as like maybe an F major 9. I've got all the notes of an F major night in there. So maybe we can just think of it as an F major and I'm arpeggio. I love the way that sounds but I don't want to make that the entire riff right now. I would just call that an ostinato. It's a cool pattern. It's a cool arpeggio shape. We're just going up and down it but I want to turn it into like a full riff something that can really carry an entire song.

So what we To do is follow it up with something something different because this F major thing is going to get a little boring after a little while. So let's think about chords that can follow up our F Well any of the chords in the key of F and that's what we're and we're enough major. So let's look at these other chords of a thin let's just try bringing some of them in. Let's try the 6 chord, which is D Minor so I'll play my little riff and then I'll play A D Minor but I'll actually just play it as a d power cord because we're writing riffs here and power cords are really appropriate when you're writing a riffs. I don't like so much going riffs and then full chords, but if you're writing a riff I Power chords are really the way to go. So here I've got my f riff and then a deep powerful and that actually works really well. I just don't like it. I was looking for something brighter and more energetic. That was my vision here. So let's try one of the major chord. Let's try the five chord and that works but it kind of Falls flat to me because we just played that fifth note before we got there. So I don't really like that. The four chord was is going to work great.

And what I ended up choosing on was actually doing the three chord, which is a minor and then scooting it over to the four chord for B flat. So here's what I ended up settling on was a thief now, I really like that. I thought that was perfect. So I figured let's do it again with a slight variation in the only variation here was instead of a we do a G minor which is the to board and then once again the can bump it up to the fourth floor. Let's go back to the first thing we wrote which is f to a minor to be flat and Now, I'm really screaming for something different. I can hear it calling and I'm a sucker for suspended chords. I think it's a great idea to do anytime. You're on the 5 chord to be a big suspended thing. And since I don't want to play chords, let's try to arpeggiate a riff of Phi a suspended concept. So I'm just going to be on the 5 chord here for C. And I'm going to play the note c f and g and palm you through them and then I'll resolve it just by playing the notes of C and G.

So basically here is our entire riff all put together. We've got F A minor B flat again after G minor B flat the third time after a minor B flat and then cease us for C major.

And then to get back to Ethel Merman who's walk down the scale right g a g and I'll probably do it with a band and then it helps come back. So I think that sounds great. It's really got a lot of cool movements going on there. It's got a lot of energy to it and it sounds riffy but I feel it's a little boring in the Rhythm department.

So what I want to do is to spice up this Rhythm a little bit really if we look at the Rhythm. All I'm doing is one and two and three and four and one and two and three and four and one and two and three and four And to and and I feel like if we had some 16th notes in here and maybe kind of play on that syncopation a little bit more we could get more interest coming out of this exact same riff. So here's the first thing we can do this a power cord. Let's push it back by 1/8. No, let's push it in a to note earlier. So that way it comes in before the beat. I always like landing on a cord before the because you kind of this punch in the face effect. And as long as the band is supporting it you can get that nice syncopated effect. So what we'll do is one and two and three and four and and I I don't want to actually get rid of any of the notes from my previous measure. So what I'll do is I'll just throw some sixteenth notes in there and that'll actually give me some extra interest. So here's what I'm going to adapt it into it's going to be one and two and three and a four and one and two and three and four and and instead of playing the power cord. I'm actually just going to play the notes of the power cord one at a time like this and then same thing for B flat. I'll play the notes of a b power chord, but instead of completing the B power chord, I'll actually grab a little bit of the tritone.

All right, the tritone off of the B flat isn't he? And that's the Major Seventh. We were hearing prominently earlier. So it's like this e is pretty familiar territory to us. Right and I think it would be a cool idea to kind of grab a little bit of it right now and that we get a little bit of tritone dissonance going on. So now the new and improved version of this riff now that that Rhythm has been changed around a little bit is going to sound like this one and two and three and four and So, I'm finally at peace with that Riff to me. It takes a lot of sculpting to get something, right? Where I need it, you can see I started with an idea. I wasn't happy with it. So I tried some different variations and I wasn't quite happy with those but they were better than where I started. So you keep kind of chipping away at it until it finally is something that you're happy with. It's a very evolving process very rarely does the rift just come out of your fingertips, you know, most of the time it's going to be one of these process were devolves and you just kind of have to keep sculpting it until it's just right, but now that I have this cool riff, let's put it to use one of the simplest things I can do is just give it a nice driving drum. Hide it and now add a Baseline and what I'm going to do is just outline the F major chord have fac.

And then when that a minor comes around that a power chord, I'm just going to play the note a and when the B flat power cord comes I'm going to play the note D flat and I get something like this one, two, three and four and one and two and three and four and one and two and three and four and one and two and three and four.

So I'm very happy with that. But we spent all this time making just that one riff and it's going to get boring if we just keep doing it over and over and over again. So one of the cool things we can do is just repackage this riff into a completely different context by changing the drums and changing the base this would serve as an amazing intro If instead of our drums and bass driving ahead. What if our dramas were kind of doing like a start and stop Punchy kind of feel well, as long as we're punching in on those accents and as long as the base is cutting out we should get a really cool in. doctore kind of feel so now we can take this exact same riff and call it like an intro to a song then we can go into the full driving version of this Riff to give it some contrast. But if we do the Riff again, we need to change something. We neither need to add singing or add a new Melody instead. What I decided to do is write a whole different section. So now we're going to talk about writing a b section to complement this we have this chunky major riff and I feel like a nice complement to it would be a clean section.

Additionally. I want to do something that is Relative minor and we haven't really talked a lot about relative modulations on this channel.

But in the key of F major, the relative minor is D Minor.

So if we start focusing on the 6 chord E minor then the key signature doesn't change but the tonality will kind of reset to being the key of D minor and as long as we pay resolving to D Minor it'll feel like deminers our new home. So that's what we'll do here. Let's write a simple chord progression starting on D. Minor will go to B flat which is the four chord and then we'll go. To the 5 chord c and then we'll do that three more times D Minor B flat and then see and what this is going to do is it's going to build us up to find but it'll be a nice little vacation away from our major tonality will be in this nice darker smoother minor tonality instead. Now, let's spice up that chord progression a little bit D Minor is in the key. We could extend it to D Minor 7.

We could also extend it to d-minor 9.

A minor 9 boards are pretty classy. So let's play d-minor 9 instead instead of d flat major. Let's play a B flat major 7th, but we can add in a sharp the ladder for a nice little tension there and then for c will display a Seattle.

So we've got our new progression which is d-minor 9 B flat major 7 sharp eleven and then see at nine and all of these notes even though the chord names are pretty weird.

All those chords are all those notes are in the key. We haven't left the key signature. Also, it's totally die. Photonic Now to turn this into a Groove section. It's really easy. Once again, just add some drums.

And here I just added more base that's outlining the chord tones, but I threw in a little bit of like a pentatonic minor lick to kind of give it some interest underneath.

And finally, I took those same chords and just rearrange them into different voicings and strum them on as whole notes on top of the entire thing.

That sounds amazing to me introduce just waiting for somebody to start singing or playing a guitar solo on top of it. I opted for a guitar solo. Now. I actually spent a lot of time working on the solo and I don't want to go through all the details of it. But I have posted the tablatures on my patreon page and I will be posting a video on how I made the solo long story short. It's all the D minor scale. I was thinking of D Minor not of F major and I tried to highlight at the beginning of this solo a lot of this keynote because every one of those inversions every one of those chords, I showed you all had a high e ringing out on top I thought it was kind of cool to be in the key of F and we constantly have this e ringing out through this minor section that will eventually will get lifted up to an F. Once we get back to the key of f now there's two parts in this solo and section where you're actually going to hear straight quarter note pen tuplets and that's pretty weird and abstract and I really want to explain to you how that ended up in the song because I feel like there's a lot to learn through this process. You see initially. I just had the guitar part and the drum part and I didn't have a bass part written. So I plugged in my base and just started grooming along just kind of coming up with ideas thinking about what the base should sound like and while I was Courting. I ended up falling into this really strange Groove pattern.

Now I didn't think too much of it. I just like the way that sounded and then stop recording and tried to add drums on top. And then I realized as I was trying to add drums on that it wasn't on the triplet grid and it wasn't on the 16th.

Grid. I realized this is actually a quarter note pain tuplets. Now, there's no way I would have accidentally played a quarter note pen tablet had it not been the hundreds of hours. I've spent playing and practicing quintuplets by the mere fact of me practicing them. It kind of bled naturally into my natural playing I wasn't thinking hey, I'm going to put quarter note pain tuplets in here. Everybody's gonna think it's weird. No, it just naturally came through my playing because I've practiced it so many times and then later on I had to do. So. Yeah, that's actually what that is. That's a quarter note pen tablet. Now, it would have been really annoying to just keep blasting away at quarter note pent-up. Let's so I decided to put them in sparingly. I only put them in on two measures but during those two measures I give that pent-up late idea a lot of support by having the guitars also do pen tablets and the bass drum as well.

So let's take a listen to what this entire thing sounds like we'll have our main riff being served as an intro. Then we'll have our main riff being served as just a driving riff then we'll go into our B section, which is this minor clean section Groove with a guitar solo on top and two occurrences of quarter note pen tablets, and then we can come back to our main riff fade things out.

So I think all that stuff works good. You could really repeat everything at this point in time and you'd have almost an entire song written. All you need is a bridge section and you can come back to either of these sections to close things out. But before I close this video out, there's a few things. I really want to stress. First off is that it's going to be a lot easier to write riffs. If you've learned lots of riffs a lot of the things I end up doing on my guitar or a little tricks that I picked up elsewhere. So it's highly advise that you learn lots of the songs that you Like listening to because a lot of the little maneuvers you will find ways to put them into the current theory state that you're in also. I really want to drive home the point that riff writing is a crafting process at least for me and I think for most people as well it's very rare that this kind of stuff just happens naturally most of the time an idea grows. It's like a crystal and it just kind of keeps expanding and a lot of times it's not about adding things to your if it's about taking things away creating space removing notes can do a lot to add interest to something.

So, you know if you think your riff is lame, but that might be true but find out why it's lame and then remedy that if it's too you know consistent well take away. Some notes add some rests. And if you think it's too boring well try to add in some more rhythmic interest add in some more sixteenth notes for triplets or try to have some bigger jumps in your range. And also I just want to reiterate that it's not about what you write. It's about what you do with what you write if I have this riff all on its own it sounds okay, you had drums and bass and it sounds awesome. And then also the fact that this riff can serve many different functions, I mean The idea here is intro riff and verse riff and that's just by changing what's around it. So it's so important to always remember that whatever you wrote is going to be heavily colored and influenced by whatever is happening in the background.

So as a composer you really want to be thinking not just on your instrument. You want to be thinking about the role of your other instruments probably most likely keyboards piano and bass. So, that's all we've got for the major scale today. We will be doing this again soon with the Dorian mode. I hope you enjoyed this video and I hope you learned something from this video. EO if you did like this video and you want to support me in this channel you could do so by joining my patreon page. There's links Below in the description. You could also consider buying my ultimate modal poster, but if you can't do that a like comment and subscribe all helps me out. So thanks for watching and I will see you next time.


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