In this lesson, I want to share with you a very popular country riff that you can insert into your playing in many situations. You can play this riff over any major chord, and in any chord shape.
What you need to know in order to really own this riff are a couple of basic chord shapes and their surrounding pentatonic/blues scale patterns.
Of course, all of this can be figured out by ear or by rote, but a little bit of music theory can help you have a deeper understanding of things which will free you up to use them all over the neck and in different situations.
You can always check out an online guitar lessons program to help you quickly improve every aspect of your playing. With that in mind, I’m going to show you how to play this riff, and explain a little bit of the theory too!
Let’s look at the riff over a G major chord in open position:
The riff starts on the root of the chord, and then we go straight up the major blues scale to the major 6th or last note of the scale, then returning to the 5th, and then ending on the root again one octave higher. If you play the TAB above and then look at the interval/scale diagram, you’ll see what I mean.
The major blues scale adds a minor third in between the major second and the major third. This creates a little chromatic run. What I mean by a “chromatic run” is a sequence of 3 or more half steps, or notes that are 1 fret away from one another.
Now let’s try the same riff, but over a C major chord in a different chord/scale shape:
Here we start on the root again and follow the same interval sequence, but the root of the C shape chord is on the A string!
The shape of the riff is basically the same, but because of the way the guitar is tuned, with the B string being tuned only a third away from the G string, we have to compensate, by playing the final root note that is one octave higher from where we started, on the first fret, instead of as an open string.
Now both of these patterns and riffs can be moved higher up on the fretboard too! Let’s look at a D chord in the same shape as the C chord:
To make it easier, and to build off of an open D chord, I started with the open D string, but I could have also started on the D note on the fifth fret of the A string! I then again followed the same sequence of intervals!
You can try this on a major chord by just moving this shape around! Intervals are absolute, while note/chord names are incidental. The shapes always stay the same, no matter what the chord!
For more clarity or guidance, you can watch the video tutorial below.