5 Classic Rock Riffs for Beginners
Riffs are the building blocks of classic rock. They are the earworms that stick with you and make the songs memorable. In this video, you will learn how to play five of the most popular riffs from Deep Purple, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin.
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The Basics of Britpop
How jangle, glam, punk, shoegaze, and more blended to create a worldwide phenomenon. Just don’t forget your tambourine.
- Learn genre-defining elements of Britpop guitar.
- Use the various elements to create your own Britpop songs.
- Discover how “borrowing” from the best can enrich your own playing.
When considering the many bands that fall under the term “Britpop”–Oasis, Blur, Suede, Elastica, Radiohead’s early work, and more–it’s clear that the genre is more an attitude than a specific musical style. Still, there are a few guitar techniques and approaches that abound in the genre, many of which have been “borrowed” (the British music press’ friendly way of saying “appropriated”) from earlier British bands of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s.
It’s difficult to say when Britpop started, the term was bandied about in the British press in the early 1990s to label such bands as Suede and Blur. You can argue the Stone Roses created the template in 1989 with their self-titled debut album. But I think you can hear the sound of Britpop much earlier, 1970 in fact, on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Harrison’s bright rhythm guitar, wah-wah lead, and drum groove on “Wah-Wah” all fit the template for 1990s Britpop. Ex. 1 emulates these three characteristics of that proto-Britpop recording.
Wah-Wah (Remastered 2014)
Ex. 2 jumps ahead two decades with a specimen Britpop fans will be more familiar with as it pays homage to both the Stone Roses’ “Fools Gold” and Suede’s “The Drowners.” Once again, the wah-wah pedal is employed. In the first section, the wah-wah is engaged primarily on the muted strums to generate a funky rhythmic pattern. In the second section it’s used for texture. The strum is basic, playing four, quarter-note down strums, but the wah-wah is rocked back and forth creating the illusion of eighth- and 16th-notes. This could take more practice than you might imagine, but you should think like a drummer. Note the Bb major chord in the first section and the B major chord in the second section. These are non-diatonic chords (meaning not in the key), giving the progression a slightly more sophisticated, or at least unexpected, sound.
The Stone Roses - Fools Gold (Official Video)
Yet another two-guitar-wah-wah groove, inspired by Pulp’s “Lipgloss” is shown in Ex. 3. Guitar one features cowboy chords strummed with a busy rhythmic pattern–a hallmark of Britpop–while guitar two plays a motif (a short melodic pattern), with the wah-wah on, though not moving much. It’s more for tone and texture.
Pulp - Lipgloss
As seen in two of the previous examples, dual guitars are a big part of the Britpop sound, no doubt inspired by the likes of the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones. Ex. 4, based on Blur’s “Coffee and TV,” features guitar one playing barre chords and distinctive mutes thrown in for accents, while guitar two plays a double-stop riff that creates suspensions between the 3 and 4 of the chord. The G chord is a rather surprising choice in the key of B.
Blur - Coffee And TV
Moving on from 1960s influences, Ex. 5, based on “Delicious” by Sleeper, has that 1980s “jangle” sound (for more on jangle guitar see my June 2021 lesson “What Exactly Is ‘Jangly’ Guitar?”) heard in songs by such bands as the Smiths and the Cure. In this example, guitar one, a la “Delicious,” is dirtier, and guitar two has that glorious 1980s clean tone.
Sleeper - Delicious (Video)
Britpop is not without its solos, but once again we can find the influences worn prominently on the sleeves of the guitarists. Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which, besides the intro piano that sounds as if it came straight out of John Lennon’s “Imagine” sessions, has a guitar solo reminiscent of George Harrison’s lead on the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” Ex. 6 provides the feel, atmosphere, and quintessential licks of “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which also features a IV to IVm (in this case F to Fm) chord movement, another classic Beatles move. It is notable that Oasis founder, Noel Gallagher said of the song, “It reminds me of a cross between ‘All the Young Dudes’ [Mott the Hoople] and something the Beatles might have done.”
Oasis - Don’t Look Back In Anger (Official Video)
The Blues Influence?
Though not as overt, there is a blues influence to be heard in Britpop too, however, it’s filtered through the prism of ’70s glam rock. Once again Oasis–with help from T. Rex–is our point of reference. Ex. 7 demonstrates the influence “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” had on Oasis’ “Cigarettes & Alcohol.” Pay attention to the syncopations found in guitar one, as you must play through four measures before the progression repeats exactly. Guitar two has syncopations of its own although you only have to play one chord shape.
Oasis - Cigarettes & Alcohol (Official HD Remastered Video)
As we heard in Ex. 5, arpeggios, play a large role in Britpop. Blur’s “She’s So High” and Suede’s “Lazy” are worthy examples. I don’t think Britpop arpeggios get any better than the Stone Roses’ “Waterfall”, which Ex. 8 is based on. If you’re searching for forerunners to this sound, look no further than the Beatles “Ticket To Ride,” “She Said, She Said,” or “Run For Your Life.”
Blur - She's So High
Beg, Borrow, and Steal
As with most overview lessons, this one has barely scratched the surface of the Britpop sound or the post-Britpop bands that followed. More examples of references can be heard in the Verve (“Bittersweet Symphony” via the Rolling Stones), Radiohead (“Creep” via the Hollies) and Elastica, who appropriated some riffs by the band Wire. All of those bands busted over these similarities, but don’t let these “borrowed” ideas worry you. To paraphrase the Who’s Pete Townshend, “All songwriters are magpies and thieves.” Just make sure you steal from the best!
Deep Pockets: A Guide to Developing Better Time
- Develop a better sense of subdivisions.
- Understand how to play "over the bar line."
- Learn to target chord tones in a 12-bar blues.
Playing in the pocket is the most important thing in music. Just think about how we talk about great music: It's "grooving" or "swinging" or "rocking." Nobody ever says, "I really enjoyed their use of inverted suspended triads," or "their application of large-interval pentatonic sequences was fascinating." So, whether you're playing live or recording, time is everyone's responsibility, and you must develop your ability to play in the pocket.
So, what is bad time? It's when people rush and speed up the tempo or drag and slow the tempo down in an unmusical way. If your quarter-note pulse is uneven, you can't lock in with what the band is doing because the time keeps moving. If somebody's fills are all wonky and don't land right, that usually means they are not subdividing and are just stuffing notes into the measure haphazardly. These players don't realize what is happening. Don't be one of these players. To develop your own pocket, you will need two things: your guitar and a metronome. A better groove, and a better ability to subdivide the beat, will lead to better phrasing and more control of what you want to play.
The first three examples are designed to eliminate your reliance on the first beat of the measure. Practicing with the metronome on all four beats of the measure is a very common way to practice scales and chord progressions. Remember that in most styles of music, the snare drum is on beats 2 and 4 of the measure. Practice with your metronome as if it's a snare, where the click is on 2 and 4. (A note about tempo markings: Usually the tempo is listed at a quarter-note level, but with the metronome on beats 2 and 4, it's marked as a half-note. So, if the half-note tempo is listed as 120 bpm, the quarter-note tempo would be twice that, or 240 bpm.)
Ex. 1 is a G7 arpeggio played in 3rd position, with half-note tempos of 100, 125, and 150 bpm. The recording of this example has a count off with the clicks on 2 and 4. If these tempos are initially too fast, start with a slower tempo where you can play the example cleanly, putting each note directly in between the clicks of the metronome. You can even start with just a single note at a comfortable tempo, getting used to what it sounds and feels like to put a note directly in between the metronome clicks.
Ex. 2 is the A minor pentatonic scale (A–C–D–E–G) in 5th position, played first in half-notes and then again in whole-notes. This example is designed to help you switch gears between different rhythms.
Ex. 3 is the C major scale (C–D–E–F–G–A–B) in 7th position played in half-notes and whole-notes, but at faster tempo. If you practice different types of scales and arpeggios in this way, you'll discover spots where you may rush or drag the notes.
The last three phrasing exercises are intended to eliminate your need to play on the first beat of the measure. Played over a 12-bar blues in A, each example uses a different rhythm or phrasing structure where you will need to count a lot of empty space to play these rhythms correctly. Ex. 5 is deceptively simple, where you play only on beats two, three, and four of each measure. It takes more concentration than you would think, so be careful that you don't fall back into playing your usual stuff.
Ex. 6 will develop your ability to play over the bar line, which is simply not starting or ending your phrases directly on beat 1. There's a lot of space to count, starting each small phrase on the "and" of beat 3, and finishing on the "and" of beat 1 in the next measure.
Ex. 7 aims to expand your phrasing, creating longer lines by playing a two-bar phrase almost entirely in eighth-notes. The challenge to this exercise is beginning on the "and" of one in the first measure and ending on the "and" of four in the second measure. In each of these examples, practice each rhythm by itself on a single pitch with a metronome, focusing on counting the spaces and playing that specific rhythm. Then, try adding different chord tones or scales when that rhythm becomes internalized.
After working on these examples, play over a track and focus on one concept at a time to see if you really have it under your fingers and in your ears. Always remember to keep things simple to begin with. There's plenty of time to make things complicated later on. Cheers!