Riff Building Using 3 Scale Progression

Welcome to this weeks lesson by Billboard Magazine Top Rated Instructor Scott Morris. This lesson will focus on riff building using 3 scale progression. The first thing to learn is the scale below, an A Pentatonic Minor scale. 'Pent' means 'five' and 'tonic' means 'notes', so basically you will be playing a 5 note scale. The notes in the A Pentatonic scale are A, C, D, E, G (ending back with A note). Begin by slowly learning this scale.

If you're new at learning tablature, a quick easy explanation follows. The lines (-----------) represent strings. The numbers on the lines designate the fret number to play. The smallest string is represented by the line on top (small E, or high E string) and the largest string (large E, or low E string) is represented by the line at the bottom. Ready? Let's begin.

  A Pentatonic Minor Scale
e :------------------------------------------------------
B :------------------------------------------------------
G :------------------------------------------------------
D :------------------5--7--------------------------------
A :-------------5--7-------------------------------------
E :-------5--8-------------------------------------------
 Notes    A  C  D  E  G  A

Practice this a few times before moving on.

Shown below are the three scales we'll be working with throughout this lesson. You'll find the names of the notes beneath each scale. During the course of this lesson, a good student will also focus on trying to remember the names of the notes. Now, go ahead and give these next three a try: A Pentatonic Minor Scale, D Pentatonic Minor Scale and E Pentatoinic Minor Scale.

   A scale        D scale      E scale
e :------------------------------------------------------
B :------------------------------------------------------
G :-----------------------5-7-----------7-9--------------
D :---------5-7-------5-7-----------7-9------------------
A :-----5-7-------5-8----------7-10----------------------
E :-5-8--------------------------------------------------
    A C D E G A   D F G A C D  E F#  A B D E

Next, we will play these scales as a 3 scale progression. After playing through this a few times, it will clearly demonstrate in sound how 3 scale progression is the format used by many famous blues artist when creating riffs for a song. Ready? Let's begin.

e :------------------------------------------------------
B :------------------------------------------------------
G :-------------------5-7--------------------7-9---------
D :-------5-7-----5-7------------5-7------7-9------------
A :----5-7-----5-8------------5-7-----7-10---------------
E :-5-8--------------------5-8---------------------------

e :------------------------------------------------------
B :------------------------------------------------------
G :---------5-7------------------------------------------
D :-----5-7-------------5-7------------------------------
A :--5-8------------5-7----------------------------------
E :--------------5-8-------------------------------------

Riff Building

A riff is a series of notes taken from a scale that may be used to create a rhythm part to a song. This next example clearly demonstrates how this riff was created - by taking notes from the A scale. After you try this riff a few times and get used to it, we will then put this riff in order as we did practicing the 3 scale progression, which will demonstrate how you can create riffs from scales to build rhythm parts to create a song.

   Riff #1            Practice this a few times
e :------------------------------------------------------
B :------------------------------------------------------
G :------------------------------------------------------
D :-----7-5---5-7----------------------------------------
A :---------7--------------------------------------------
E :---5--------------------------------------------------

OK, now that you have the basic idea, let's play these riffs in order as we did the 3 scale progression. By now, you should recognize each riff by its scale name. For example, the A scale riff, the D scale riff, and the E scale riff. Ready? Let's begin.

e :------------------------------------------------------
B :------------------------------------------------------
G :--------------------7-5---5-7-------------------------
D :----7-5---5-7-----------7----------7-5--5-7-----------
A :--------7---------5--------------------7--------------
E :--5-------------------------------5-------------------
    4 times          2 times         2 times

e :------------------------------------------------------
B :------------------------------------------------------
G :-----9-7---7-9----7-5-5-7-----------------------------
D :---------9-----------7------7-5--5-7------------------
A :--7-------------5---------------7---------------------
E :---------------------------5--------------------------
    1 time        1 time      2 times (then start again)

Well students, that will complete this lesson. I hope this helped give you a better idea about how scales are used to build riffs to create rhythm parts for songs.

Scott Morris is a guitarist and author/publisher of You Can Play Guitar videos and Metal Rock Tab books.

Scott Morris

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