Arts & Entertainment, Music

Riff Rock Writing: Chorus, Solo, and Arrangement

Tom Morello

Lesson time 12:55 min

Learn to complete your song by adding a chorus, a solo, and a structural arrangement to the whole piece. Tom also breaks down the arrangement of the Rage Against the Machine classic, “Bulls on Parade.”

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Add a Chorus • Try Alternate Basslines • Lay Down a Solo • Feed Off of Your Own Excitement • Inject Your Voice Into Existing Song Arrangements


If you're in a band that's a virtual democracy, where everyone's contributing, what I would normally do-- in Rage Against the Machine or Audioslave-- I might come up with one riff like that. I'll bring that into rehearsal. I'll see how that bounces off the other musicians. I'll eagerly look forward to their input and the ideas that they have that may take it in directions that I never imagined. Since, here, in this studio, in this master class, I am the bandleader, why don't we just sort of follow through on this song and come up with another part or two to flesh out a complete song in the next couple of minutes? How about that? So what we're going to do is we're going to listen to the already recorded piece of work and where we left off. I'm, once again, going to sort of count on the gods of inspiration to inspire me for the next part. What I will do is I'll keep it in the same key. The song that we're working on is in the key of E. I'll keep it in the same key, and I'm going to pretend like this is going to be the chorus of the song. And so we're going to have a big, broad, open chorus of a song, and we'll see what happens. Hit it. [PLAYING GUITAR] All right, and now, right away, we're going to double track that to give it that Led Zeppelin riff rock power. Hit it. [PLAYING GUITAR] All right, bring on the bass. [MUSIC PLAYING] We're going to try a couple of different options. The first one is playing in sync with the other two guitars for maximum riff power. Go. [PLAYING GUITAR] OK. That's option one. And now we're going to try an alternate bass part to see if it takes the chorus in a different direction that we prefer, and we'll choose between the two. Hit it. [PLAYING GUITAR] OK. And immediately listening back to them, my taste chooses the first one. I say we go with the big Sabbathy roundhouse knockout punch riff. We erase the other one. Let's put that back in. And so now, if I were constructing this song in my home studio, I would take the-- the-- what we're-- we'll just call it Part A and Part B. We just played Part B now. I would say Part A. Then we go into Part B. Then we go into Part A again, Part B again. Give me one more Part A and one more Part B, so we're just going to go back and forth between those. If we could-- we're going to put that together in the studio. We're going to listen to that as if it were a song. I'm going to strap on the guitar. I'm going to play a guitar solo over one of those parts, and then we're done, and we're ready for some vocals on top of it. How about that? [MUSIC PLAYING] All right, so now we're going to listen to an arrangement of this song that we've created together today. The arrangement is going to be a very simple one. We're just going to go back between the A part and the B part, the verse and the chorus, back and forth. I'm going to play a riff of solo over one of the sections, and we'll see if we're done. All right. Here we go. From the top....

About the Instructor

Tom Morello is a two-time Grammy winner and one of Rolling Stone’s "greatest guitarists of all time." In his first online guitar class, the co-founder of Rage Against the Machine will teach you the riffs, rhythms, and solos that launched his career and sent his music to the top of the charts. Tom will share his approach to making music that challenges the status quo and teach you how to create your own musical style.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Tom Morello

In 26 lessons, Grammy-winning musician Tom Morello will teach you the guitar techniques, rhythms, and riffs that define his signature style.

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