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Guitar Lesson: Riff Building Using a Three Scale Progression

By Scott Morris of

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Welcome to our first guitar lesson from Billboard Magazine's top rated instructor, Scott Morris. This first lesson will focus on riff building using a three scale progression. The first thing to learn is the scale below, a Pentatonic Minor. Pent means five and tonic means notes so basically, you will be playing a five note scale. The notes in the A Pentatonic scale are A, C, D, E, G, then ending back with A note (one octave higher). Begin by slowly learning this scale. If your new at learning Tablature, a quick easy explanation is; the lines = strings, the numbers on the lines = frets, the smallest string or high e string is represented by the line on top with a small e and the largest string or low E string is represented by the line at the bottom with a large E. Ready? Lets begin.

A Pentatonic Minor Scale

Practice this a few times, before moving on.

Shown below are the three scales that we'll be working with throughout this lesson. You'll find the names of the notes beneath each scale. A good student will focus during the course of this lesson by also 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 Pentatonic Minor Scale.

Next, we will play these scales as a three scale progression. After playing through this a few times, it will clearly demonstrate in sound how three scale progression is the format used by many famous blues artist when creating riffs when writing a song.

A riff is a series of notes taken from a scale that may be used to create a rhythm or melody of 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 three scale progression, which will demonstrate how you can create riffs from scales to build rhythm parts to create a song.

OK, now that you have the basic idea, lets play these riffs in order as we did with the three scale progression. By now you should recognize each riff by it's scale name. For example the A scale riff, The D scale riff, and the E scale riff.

Well students, that will complete this lesson. I hope this helped give you a better idea of scales and how scales are used to build riffs and create rhythm parts for songs. In our next lesson I will be showing you the formula for a major scale by using whole steps and half steps. I'll be mainly focusing on the key of C major as there are no sharps and flats which will make it easier for you to understand, as the notes in C major scale are C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C. I will also demonstrate how this scale was used for creating some of the most famous riffs in History, from Star Wars to Walking Bass lines, applicable for all guitar and bass guitarist.

In future lessons I will be teaching you many different elements of guitar playing from Blues Scales, Diatonic Scales, Scale Formulas, Chord Formulas, Ascending and Descending Runs, Bar Chords, Power Chords, The Gypsy Scale, The Diminished Scale and Run, Guitar Licks, Fingertapping, Whammy bar Tricks and much more. I will also give information on special effects and equipment. Until then, today's lesson tip is: "He who practices most, plays best!"

So until next time.....

Scott Morris
Author/Publisher of You Can Play Guitar Videos and Metal Rock Tab Books

If you have any questions about this lesson, feel free to Email me. As a guitar student of OnlineRock you can receive a 10% discount on all guitar lesson videos and tab books by Billboard's top rated instructor, Scott Morris, author and web host of You Can Play Guitar. Visit the Web site at

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