Guitar Lesson: Riff Creation Warm Up Exercise

Hi Folks. So you have either already been taking guitar lessons or just picked one up recently. Either way this lesson is good weather you are a novice beginner or if you are Joe Satriani ( I did not leave anyone out this lesson can be done by anyone).

The most important key element in all music from the first Neanderthal trying to woo a lady (or warn of Sabertooth tigers) to Today’s Dub step is rhythm. You can not escape it. Whether you are Playing a Drone Piece or some exquisite solo via Yngwie Malmstieen, regardless of whether you call yourself a lead or rhythm player, you are using rhythm. Before you worry about keys and scales and modes and chords and chord progressions, rythm is your master.Sorry for pounding it in to your skull but that is the nature of rhythm, be it percussive or floaty it is still the foundation of all music

Now that we have established, many of you have wanted to be the guitar hero, ( and not in that damn video game neither) so here is a great building block tip for you. Songs have Hooks and and the best hooks come from Riffs. Riffs are those sometimes soul crushingly heavy ( in metal) or spirit lifting and light( in other forms of music) chord progression or scales or arpeggios that construct the different parts of songs.

So you been wanting to write a song, but are scared you can not construct a riff like that of Iron Man, or Smoke on the Water. Well I got news for you, probably not, but I am gonna give you a secret or two anyways ( hell, you may even create a riff that makes people say “Deep Purple Who?”).

This lesson is called Mongo and Chango. It is called this for a number of reasons and you need no musical back ground to do it. Not to disparage all the lefties but all this applies to you too, just flip right for left for every thing I say from this point forward. Wave with your right hand (or left if you are a mutant) This hand that is waving is called mongo for the remainder of the lesson (your strumming hand. You know the one that holds the pick, or plectrum if you are pretentious) Wave it around like you just don’t care ( it is important to warm up before any and all exercises). Now that you are done looking like like a dork, place Mongo ( your right hand, or left if your a freak) by your bridge of your guitar. Get used to it being there, it is gonna be there quite a while.

Now Granny ( like on Beverly Hillbillies) Wave with your left hand (or right if you are wrong) This we will call Chango (Your fretting hand…THE MONEY MAKER HAND) Grab the Neck with your left hand ( or right if you are weird) Like I said before, warm up before you exercise, don’t want to injure your precious little hands( I don’t care how silly you look keep on doing it).

Now Shake hands with yourself (MONGO meet CHANGO, CHANGO meet MONGO). Now thqat you are done acting like a dork it is time to move on to the lesson. The real lesson. I call this the Djembe Method (Sounds like Jedi don’t it?).

For those unfamiliar with the Djembe, it is a hand drum used in Afro/Cuban music. More often than not, however, it is used by hippies in a Pseudo-Rastafarian mating ritual ( Don’t ask me? I’m not an anthropologist!). The idea is to strum and chord change as if you were beating a Djembe. Your right hand strumming only on the beats the right hand hitting a Djembe would hit. Likewise the left hand changes chords, hammer-ons and pulls offs, slides and or bends only when the left hand would strike a Djembe. (if not familiar with these terms, go to YOU TUBE, then come right back to this)

The best way to learn Djembe is to just join a drum circle or be a hippie. If you already know or are a hippie then you need no further instruction, If not you may need to find a hippie (this may be harder than you think). Hippies usually hang out at parks ( especially now with the Occupy movement) Record stores, music stores etc. You can spot them usually by the Pachouli oil smell, and the look of awe over everything, and hacky sacking. Be careful not to startle them as you approach, Approach slowy and ‘ply them with food ( they may be very hungry). If they look exhausted, they probably are not exahusted at all, but on another plane of existence ( not unlike astral projection). This is a boon as they may have some beats and patterns already for you.

As you lure the hippie with food make sure the hippie does not walk into on coming traffic ( and as you are no doubt walking backward at this time you may need to heed this very advice yourself). Now that you have your new pet Hippie home, You may begin your lesson( would rather hire a chimp but after that lady on Oprah who was mauled by her chimp I think this is the safer option). Toss a Djembe ( or bucket, Bongos, congas, Trash can whatever you got) in front of your new pet hippie and watch it go to town. Now stand in front of the hippie (not that close you will startle it) and mirror the hippie. Your right hand will strum with it’s left and your left hand will change from ideas with it’s right. The hard part will be your left ( or right if you are strange) as you are not so much making noise, but changing chords, or hammer-on pulling-off notes. Pick two chords, ore a simple grove for the fretting hand. The idea here is to have fun and get into the beat. Keep it simple,stupid, and just grove along.

After a while this will be come boring, so you may want to add embellishments to certain notes or chords. Maybe a pick slide instead of a strum on the first note or last note of every other measure, or bend up to the flatted fifth. just have fun and play as if you were playing the Djembe.

Care and handling of hippies is not my responsibility. I guess you are stuck on that one. You may need to switch to vegan food, listen to Phish and the Dead, if you are under 18 your parents may frown upon the presence of an unannounced new pet hippie. but luckily for you if you have a weird name such as Moon Flower, then chances are you’re parents may already be Djembe enthusiasts. Keep on Shredding my homies.

Disclaimer: I no way Endorse kidnapping, slavery, drug use, calling your hands frowned upon racist terms, This was meant to be a humorus take on a legit lesson and in no way should you try luring strange people into your home to force them to train you how to play Reggae. Do not try any of the things I listed in the disclaimer at home. To do so is at your own risk. However, feel free to learn Djembe on your own, make friends with Djembe players as it is more fun to play music together than it is to learn alone with a metronome. Good Day y’all.

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