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Thread: What is a riff?

  1. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Good answers. Let me emphasize that I do know what a riff is. I just wanted a discussion on the definition of what a riff is.

    Interesting reading all of the replies.

  2. #17
    Registered User Sir Speedy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Garfield New Jersey
    Any repeated part can be called a Riff . "It's raining like cats and dogs " that's a Riff. to be more specific "Lead Riff " or "Rhythm Riff" It is kind of vauge . It could be a Motif , Lead break, or harmony . It could be a Bass line , or rhythm figure that repeats .
    Come to think of it , you don't hear Acoustic strumming called "Rhythm Riffs"
    But ,bluesy pentatonic Rhythm figures are allways called "Riffs"

    Like the Repeated parts in "Sunshine of your Love " or "Heart breaker" by Led Zeppilin , those are "Blues Riffs" played as Rhythms .

    If you play a cool Blues "Lick" you can probably make a "Repeated Rhythm" out of it , on the low strings , and i think that would be a "Riff" .

    It must come from Blues , because everyone calls the Rhythm to Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode " a Simple 12 Bar Rhythm Riff .
    Last edited by Sir Speedy; 09-15-2011 at 08:37 AM.

  3. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    I see Speedy. Good response. 'Everyone' knows what a riff is, but it is slightly harder to come up with an acceptable definition of what it is.

  4. #19
    Registered User SkinnyDevil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    For what it's worth, I was told long ago that the term RIFF is a fusion of the phrase RHYTHMIC FIGURE and originated in jazz. Further, I was told that it typically, but not exclusively, refers to single note or double-stop melodic phrases (as opposed to chordal) used as repeating themes.

    By that definition, most of the above examples qualify nicely.

    I've never actually looked up the word, though. I always figured it as slang for "theme".
    David M. McLean
    Skinny Devil Music Lab
    Hidden Content

    "...embrace your fear..."

  5. #20
    Registered Crutmauler
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    I always thought "riff" was just the rock word for "motif".

  6. #21
    Registered Crutmauler
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    I think it actually comes from the jazz dudes abbreviating "Rhythmic figure"

    It's slang.

    Sometimes notated as "rhy.fig."

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