Sometimes, the best way to learn guitar is to blaze your own trail. By creating your own guitar exercises, you are giving yourself permission to explore ideas that will develop your own personal style without the worries of being right or wrong. Personally, I’m not a fan of copying the exact nuances of another player. Most of the time, I will tweak something to the point where it doesn’t sound anything like the original riff/exercise.
Granted, learning how others play is essential to improving, but eventually you will need to step out on your own if you wish to develop as a musician. If you’re like some of my students who break into a cold sweat when trying to come up with an exercise, then you’re in luck. In this week’s lesson, I describe some key components that guitarists use to develop new exercises. Use these ideas as a kick-off point for your own material then combine or mix/match them, or come up with something new. By doing this, you will find that your understanding of guitar will grow by leaps and bounds.
Here are some concepts to help create your very own personal riffs/exercises:
Every idea needs to start somewhere. Below is a simple 2-string scale pattern in the key of F that you can use as a starting point.
Try to play this two-string scale backward and forward. Notice that when played this way, you end up with an odd rhythm exercise. In this case, the exercise below shows it as a quintuplet, which is five notes per beat. This alone is not only challenging, but results in a great sounding riff when played smoothly and in time.
The Double Up
Doubling up notes can prevent the odd meter that we experience in the base sample above. The riff takes a step back in the second set of 16th notes on the second beat. Instead of playing straight through the scale, you go back to the A note (5th fret, 1st string) before proceeding with the rest of the scale.
Removing a note from the scale pattern will not only make you sound faster, but breaks up the predictability of your exercise. This also has the effect of making your scale runs sound fresh and exciting. Some beginner/intermediate guitarists believe that the more notes they play, the faster they will sound. I’ve personally found that this is not necessarily true. By breaking up the pattern, you will be emphasizing different notes within the scale. This, in turn, gives the listener the illusion of speed.
As The Removal has shown, making a riff unpredictable is an easy way to add fun and excitement to your exercises/riffs. In the case of The Skip, instead of going in order, you leap over several notes and work your way back down the scale. Notice the last three notes of the exercise. I used The Double Up to make it even when playing.
That’s it! Three simple and effective ways to make your standard scale patterns sound amazing. Remember, the above exercises are meant to teach you ways of developing your own style. Once you are ready, experiment with scales that you know and are comfortable with.