Riff Development | Getting the Most out of Your Ideas


One of the greatest lessons I learned when I was a student of music composition was to make use of my ideas; or in this case – riffs. Before my training, I didn’t often maximize on my ideas and would write motifs, ideas, riffs, etc. and not take time to find their full potential as most young and inexperienced composers do. Below is an example of how I might begin to develop an idea.

(0:00 – 0:24) I present the idea as a simple gallop riff with some chromatic ties between the gallops and a chromatic 3-note run at the end of the phrases. I establish the initial idea by repeating it before I develop it by modulating up a whole step.

(0:24-0:35) In the modulated development, I change up the chromatic ties between the gallops; however, I leave the chromatic 3-note run intact. At the last phrase end, I introduce the next development before I continue into the next phrase by playing the 3-note run as double stops (power chords).

(0:35 – 0:58) As I return to the original key, I have developed it further by playing the whole section as open power chords. Also, you will notice that the percussion has become more aggressive; the crash and splash cymbals are in use with some more technical fills.

(0:59 – 1:10) When I modulate this section, I change octaves for some of the ties for a better flow on the instrument. At the end of this section, notice I extend my 3-note chromatic run by adding an additional 3 more notes and by extending the measure from 4/4 to 5/4 to emphasize my cadence before returning to the original single-note idea (1:11)

If I were to develop this idea further, I would begin to look at fragmentation. By taking some of the individual ties, or even the 3-note chromatic run, I could explore some excellent development to build upon my original ideas. When doing this on your own – make sure to save your best developmental ideas for last as to make an exciting climax! I’d love to hear what you all might do, as well!

Happy composing and happy riffing!!


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