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Apple-Joe
04-27-2005, 05:43 PM
I just want to raise a guitar-related question.

I assume most of you have, one time or another, heard a riff.

Now, I would like to hear your personal view on what a riff is. Give me your definition; What makes a riff be a riff? Where goes the line between a riff and a melody? Do you also consider melodies as riffs?

I used to consider riffs as i.e. the intro of Iron Maiden's 2 Minutes Two Midnight, for those who've heard that song.

When I think about it, Judas Priest's Breaking The Law has got a very distinct intro, however, with a slightly more melodic touch than the previous mentioned example. Now where goes the 'dividing line'? When is it a riff, and when is it a melody?

The intro of Eric Clapton's Layla is also a famous example. Quite melodic, yet, I'd call it a riff.

Most guitarists have played quite many riffs, however, I'm not sure that just as many has considered the definition of a riff.

Give me your opinions!

Factor
04-27-2005, 08:25 PM
Riff:
Melodic and/or hamonic motif repeated and sometimes varied throughout the tune.

I wouldn't call a melody a riff, but there's most certainly a distinctive melody in all the riffs I like.

EDIT:
With regards to improvisation, this differs from style to style. While a keeping a good riff going may be cool in rock, this may quickly become boring in jazz. "Riffs" in jazz can be repeated patterns which the bassist plays. The intros to So What and Footprints come to mind.

A good riff needs to groove, establish harmony and carry a melodic line - all at once.

Schooligo
04-27-2005, 09:10 PM
Most of the quesitons at IBreathe I have some type of answer which is usually a pretty good one :D

however in this case there seems to be a "Gray area" based on my knowledge

I would like to find a definitive definition of a riff also a definitive definition of a lick(in genenal is it a melodic motif sequence? or ?)

sometimes it is the same as a "lick" sometimes it is considered something quite different

I have some theories as to what a riff is, just no definitive theory

Factor
04-27-2005, 09:29 PM
Well:

http://www.google.com/search?q=define:riff&sourceid=opera&num=0&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

http://www.google.com/search?q=define:lick&sourceid=opera&num=0&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

;)

Schooligo
04-28-2005, 01:17 AM
well thanks for the research Factor, but unfortunately a simple definitive definition as far as I can tell doesn't exist, that's what I meant by "Gray Area" for these terms

for instance(based on your research):
"Term used in pop, rock and jazz for short phrases used as background or as building blocks for solos"

that defintion describes a lick as well!

"A short melodic phrase that may be repeated and played as a solo or used as an accompaniment. See Licks"

that definition even refers to licks!

anyway you get my point!!

Of couse there are some definitions that based on my knowledge fit my theory of what a riff or lick is. but as I said before there is no definitive definition or answer.

Poparad
04-28-2005, 01:27 AM
My short definition: a riff is a melodic accompanimental part. It has a bit of melodic interest, but when it comes down to it, it's still accompanimental so other melodies (vocals, horns, guitars, etc) will fit ontop of it without being interfered with by the riff.

Chim_Chim
04-28-2005, 01:32 AM
I would consider a riff something of a mix between an accompaniment,melody and a fill.A repeating "hook" if you will. ;)

If Beavis & Butthead sing it while pumping their fists in the air then it's probably a riff. :p

Chim_Chim
04-28-2005, 01:34 AM
My short definition: a riff is a melodic accompanimental part. It has a bit of melodic interest, but when it comes down to it, it's still accompanimental so other melodies (vocals, horns, guitars, etc) will fit ontop of it without being interfered with by the riff.

That's a solid perspective in my opinion. :cool:

satch_master
04-28-2005, 03:26 AM
i dont think a riff is a proper musical term. Well not in traditional music such as jazz and classical anyway. Isnt it kinda slang for a rhytm. I associate the word more in rock music than other styles because of the repetition.
You have very inquisitive minds dont you?

Schooligo
04-28-2005, 03:53 AM
Quote by Satch master:

"You have very inquisitive minds dont you?"

yeah , generally there are no dumb questions, but sometimes it gets me into trouble :D

Poparad
04-28-2005, 04:09 AM
i dont think a riff is a proper musical term. Well not in traditional music such as jazz and classical anyway. Isnt it kinda slang for a rhytm. I associate the word more in rock music than other styles because of the repetition.
You have very inquisitive minds dont you?
Actually 'riff' came from jazz. Charlie Parker even wrote a tune called "Thriving on a Riff" back in the 40's.

GrantMe
04-28-2005, 06:49 AM
That's a solid perspective in my opinion. :cool:everything Poparad says is a solid perspective.....just so you know.

Caffeinated Cat
04-28-2005, 05:05 PM
From a rock / metal perspective, I've always thought of a riff as a rather short, repeated rhythm part. As opposed to a chord progression, which would be a bit more complex and longer. The intro to Stairway to Heaven would be a chord progression, the main riff of Black Dog would be a riff. A riff generally stands out in the foreground, like the "hook" of the song, while a chord progression tends to be more in the background. Something you could play an accompanyment over.

Schmaus
04-29-2005, 02:01 AM
If you listen to Rage against the machine, then you know what a riff is.

Chim_Chim
04-29-2005, 03:53 AM
everything Poparad says is a solid perspective.....just so you know.

Yeah I've noticed he has some nice takes. :D

Apple-Joe
04-29-2005, 09:31 AM
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.

Sir Speedy
05-16-2005, 03:51 PM
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 .:cool:
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Apple-Joe
05-17-2005, 11:15 AM
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.

SkinnyDevil
05-17-2005, 01:54 PM
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".

hairballxavier
05-23-2005, 04:55 PM
I always thought "riff" was just the rock word for "motif".

hairballxavier
10-12-2005, 08:01 AM
I think it actually comes from the jazz dudes abbreviating "Rhythmic figure"

It's slang.

Sometimes notated as "rhy.fig."