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Arts & Entertainment

Riffs

Tom Morello

Lesson time 20:58 min

Powerful, hard-driving riffs are the heart and soul of Tom’s musical legacy. Learn his tips for experimenting with tuning, slides, chukkas, and more, to unleash heavy, rocking riffs of your own.

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Tom Morello
Teaches Electric Guitar
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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Preview

For me, it's that mid-tempo, heavy riff rock, which really scratches the itch in my soul. Often the tone you're playing with can lead to a successful riff. I'll tell you this story. We were-- Rage Against Machine was practicing for a South American tour, and all of our had already gone to South America. So we were playing on rental gear, playing on somebody else's gear. We were running through our set and it sounded awful. And it didn't-- it just sounded bad. And you know, we were sort of looking at each other like, are we so dependent on the amplifiers and the guitars that we play that we can't sort of recreate that with other instruments? And it dawned on me that that wasn't the case. It's like if we had had other instruments, we would have written other music that sounded good on those instruments. And so that is one of things that always led me in my guitar playing is if you pick up an electric guitar or a bass or an acoustic guitar, it leads your riff writing in different directions. And that's something to embrace. So right now, we're going to go through those things and play. Just going to turn this on, going to concoct a riff out of thin air on the electric guitar and try one on those other instruments, as well. All right, so, let's see. Let's try one in F sharp, which is one of the most rocking of all keys, and see what we got here. [ELECTRIC GUITAR RIFF] That's a-- Something like that, a sort of off the cuff riff that occurred to me. It was the tone of this guitar that kind of led the way on that riff. Let's try another instrument. [ROCK MUSIC] So now, let's stick to the key of F sharp and see where the tone of an acoustic guitar leads us just off the cuff. [ACOUSTIC GUITAR RIFF] There is an important relationship between riffs and chords. And there's really a diversion to opinions on the topic. There's the James Brown school of thought and then there's the more harmonic, melodic school of thought. James Brown said that every instrument is a drum. And he's emphasized the one in all of his music meaning that each bar of the music comes back to the root note, the one. So on that riff that I was just playing there, this is the F sharp, which is the one. [ACOUSTIC GUITAR RIFF] We're always back to that F sharp. And it is a repetitious, funky, rhythm that becomes hard to escape. 90% of my riff writing subscribes to the James Brown theory. Now, there are many other great riffs in the world that have chord progression. For example, if we take this same F sharp rhythm and move the chords around you get a completely different feel. [ACOUSTIC GUITAR RIFF] There's the movement in the chords that lends itself to more sort of harmonic or melodic interplay, but you perhaps lose some of the tribal thump of the note returning to the one every time. The good news is you need not choose. And in your songwriting, like in mine-- for example, the Audioslave catalog was ...


Strike a Chord

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.



Reviews

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

I feel like giving up most of the time. This class has kept me inspired.

All around great lesson. Super inspiring, authentic and informative. Thanks!

I've never had so much fun learning something in my life! Thank you Tom for sharing your knowledge and passion for music with us. Truly inspirational!

That the quality or price of instruments does not make your greatness.


Comments

A fellow student

I've come up with some riffs already! Would've been great if we all could share it somehow and get each other's feedback

Larry G.

This kind of one on one experience and mentorship is what so many of us needed. From a beginner's perspective, every second is dripping with invaluable knowledge for practice.

Levi W.

Anyone catch what the scale was he was using in the "dissonant" riffs? Mixolydian?

A fellow student

This is amazing. A really great guitar player and a phenomenal teacher. He makes it seem so simple!

Matthew B.

For all of the beginners out there, this isn't an intro to guitar class. Tom explains this right in the course intro/preview. This is about discovering and developing your own style of playing. He's coaching you in how to unlock whatever abilities you have inside of you and invites you to explore new sonic horizons. There are hundreds of alternate guitar fundamental and technique resources online. I would be super disappointed if that's what we were getting from this class. It's a huge waste of Tom's time to just be teaching us how to do scales or read tablature. You should be doing this class to tap into a new channel of inspiration, not practice scales. I say this as someone who is mediocre at best with the guitar. I have no theory or professional instruction. I'm here to listen to Tom, explore some new concepts and get excited about playing.

A fellow student

I have replayed the first two riffs being played on the electric and acoustic guitar in the video and repeatedly read the paragraph about F# and E notes. I haven't progressed because I don't understand what is being said/conveyed. I am truly a novice. That's the feeling I get.

William

He treats the viewer with what comes off as real interest in our ability to garner usable and fun exercises. Does not go over my head. I catch a man who is happy to share - like a blackjack dealer who really wants to deal you a winning 21 ! :) Never heard of you before this Masterclass series even though I've listened to Audioslave a lot (Sorry - I just focused on Chris Cornell's voice with that band, but now I'll listen again to hear you). Thanks Tom.

M B.

Utterly useless for a beginner. Lots of technical terms thrown at you right from the start. Should not be advertised as suitable for novice guitar players. Looks more like a self-promotional video of the instructor's skills than true learning.

Matthew A.

It is definitely helpful to have your guitar out and stop and replay sections as you progress with this lesson. Tom has always been one of my favorite guitar players and it's awesome to have him share some of his trade secrets with us.

A fellow student

If you're a beginner without the ability to read music how should I go about reading the tabs?