Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Single-Note Riffs and Backup

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Single-Note Riffs and Backup

Article excerpt

Learn how to accompany your songs by playing unique single-note lines instead of strumming full chords.

DAVE MATTHEWS'S "SATELLITE" opens with an ear-catching single-note line; it's the riff and the vocal backup - the thread that weaves the song together. Single-note riffs like this are distinct and catchy and they're different from chordal riffs (which I covered in the Acoustic Rock Basics lesson in the July 2010 issue) because they use single notes exclusively to provide the melody and often the accompaniment for a song. When you hear a passage like this, the sheer number of notes can be intimidating; how do you create such cool but complicated lines out of thin air? Most great single-note riffs have a simple idea behind them, though, and when you break them down - or start from a small piece and build them up - they become much more manageable. In this lesson, we're going to create riffs out of bite-size pieces and build a single-note riff like one used by Matthews in one of his best known songs.

Static Riff, Moving Melody

The first approach we'll try takes a small idea - a "riff fragment" - and adapts it to work across a chord progression, turning it into a full-blown accompaniment for a tune. You don't need to start with much. For instance, come up with one small idea you like - something short, like Example 1. We'll be working in the key of D, so let's experiment with expanding the riff to fit over a measure of D - a little repetition, as shown in Example 2, will work. …

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