Music & 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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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.

Literally changed my life!!! Tom is the best teacher I have ever had! If every teacher was like him, the world would be light years ahead! Thank you very much for your amazing Masterclass and for your masterful enlightenment in guitar, music, art, and life!

I'm late to the game, but Tom's words and advice have been inspirational. He's a tremendously likeable, enthusiastic and practical guy who is down-to-earth despite his fame and achievements. There is no better combination for a teacher of any subject, especially the guitar, and in the overhyped world of rock music. Thanks so much.

The best Masterclass i've done, s far!! Amazing!

This has been totally different to all of the other guitar courses that i've seen. Rather than focussing on the small details, like play this scale, it was much more looking at the big picture of what can I do with what I can do and make it great. Excellent, a refreshingly different approach and Tom's style and delivery is perfect.


Comments

Marty F.

Tom this lesson was magic riffs to me are the key to inspiration. Now I know through this lesson how to speak to guitarist in their language to convey far easier what I want. thanks so much.

joseph H.

BTW: I have to give a shout out to the production crew behind his video. Just terrific quality of the lighting, the photography and the audio. Producing videos of this quality require some hard work. Tom is not only a great musician, he is such an incredibly charming person.

Marc T.

I would also add experimentation with different keys to his last exercise. After you've flipped a riff, try shifting it a few tones up or down and it'll change the vibe of the entire song! ;)

Massimo M.

The invitation to experiment is very beautiful, first with the tone of the guitar (acoustic, electric), then with the constructive elements of the riffs. The demand to play music backwards is not new, but it is still a valuable tool at the service of creativity, to unlock it and go beyond the boundaries. I noticed that Tom Morello has a very broad way to make alternate picking, and I was fascinated.

Ed G.

By the way, I really like what Tom has to say. The feeling is just as important as the notes you play. Maybe even more important.

Ed G.

For the total beginner players, go to the justinguitar website. The free membership will have you up to the intermediate-beginner level in no time. In my case, there is still a lot over there for me to advance to, but I grew bored of the site. This program is picking up at the perfect spot for me, and the presentation is more engaging. In summary, I recommend you do the beginner lessons with Justin (it won’t take that long) then come back to this program.

christopher J.

It's great, but I'm a complete and absolute beginner. Tom is already talking about chord progressions, keys, F-sharp, pentatonic scales, root notes, and it's only the 2nd lesson. I'm worried these lessons are already to advanced for me?

Rob M.

Every minute that he shares information i feel like i am changing as a human being.

Jon W.

Wow to the student who first heard the “Killing in the name of...” riff before anyone else, including the rest of the band!

Robert G.

The first time I heard this, I dug in but I have decided to master triads, then learn, and invent riffs, I constantly keep trying to match fragmented chords with riffs and scales. Then jazz it up lol. Long road for me, because I love the journey more than anything.