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Writing a Riff From Scratch

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Ever wanted to see how a song gets made?



Welcome to the Blog


Hey everybody


Hope everybody's doing as okay as they can be out there and welcome to the first official blog post of the website.


In case you’re new to the site and YouTube channel, I have started a video series entitled “Writing a Riff From Scratch”.

Basically, I start with a rough idea either taken from what I recorded down in my phone or elsewhere and show you my specific process of building it up into a finished piece of music.

This could take the form of a riff, a melodic motif or even a fully fleshed-out song depending how long the video goes.


More importantly, it’s meant to capture a moment of spontaneity inside a very structured process. It’s a very “warts and all” type of video so you get to hopefully pick up some new tricks and learn from some of my mistakes from being in the moment with the creative process.

Honestly to me, this is the online equivalent of being an intern at a recording studio watching over the shoulder of what the head engineer does when working on records.

However in this case, it is the songwriter instead of the head engineer behind the desk that you’re watching.

My hope is that you find some useful tips and tricks while looking over my shoulder. This is for anyone who is in LOVE with the process of songwriting and wants to improve upon it.





Writing a Riff From Scratch Episode 5





So anyway, this particular idea was born out of jamming with another human being in the same room! (GASP!). What a concept right?

So anyway, my brother and I were fumbling around with our instruments for a while during an impromptu jam session in the basement. He on the drums and myself on the fiddle. I was plugged into a little practice amp with a super fuzzy tone that kind of got me into thinking about Primus


(which is weird because Les doesn't really use much fuzz but ....this was my thought process at the time.)

If memory serves correct, my brother started playing a simple 4/4 mid tempo style beat (think Down Rodeo from Rage Against The Machine) and I decided to resort to tapping seeing as I felt like that would fill out the sound better than some alt picking noodly type improv that I usually default to in the beginning.

Anyway anyway, several minutes of fumbling later and I coughed up this little morsel that I thought was pretty tasty so I wanted to capture it asap.

Plenty of happy accidents occur as a result of this stream of consciousness

Some useful nuggets in this one include

When in doubt, try it out.

Now, I hate that I came up with like a “Dad rhyme” phrase to describe this but honestly, I can’t think of anything better to describe it. This is a great discipline to implement when you're working on something and suddenly get an idea for an alternate version of the song but you're not sure if it will sound better because it's still just an idea in your head.

Record everything is my quick answer. When in doubt, try it out. I cringe every time I say it out loud ha ha but it really does sum up what is a truly effective practice. There have been many times where I have written two completely separate songs in the same session as a result of trying out these ideas. My hope is that this will keep you occupied and hopefully inspire you to start working on your own projects.

If you do decide to check out the video and you found it helpful, let me know!


While you're at it, let me know what you would like to see me talk about in the future pertaining to songwriting and music theory.

Thanks for reading.

-Aaron-




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