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.

Tom is brilliant. Wow. Very articulate, engaging and off-the-charts knowledgeable.

I found exactly what I was looking for in this course- an overview and map to navigate the way forward. Not just the overall but also the very useful specifics, these lessons will save me a lot of time and make my practice very efficient.

Tom is a great educator. Thought provoking, entertaining and full of practical tips I will actually use. Excellent class!

It was really helpful for my creativity. Thank you Tom!


Comments

JudetheCat

...fine to talk about tuning and drop X...but why is he showing this on a bass guitar?...most of us (all of us) will not be playing bass...if he explained the structure of the bass, OK...without that, lost...

A fellow student

I study pop music in germany and i'm so happy to get this lesson. I'm a huge fan and understand every word you say. For beginners this must be brainf*ck. I'm not a beginner and my stundets will love the next lessons with this knowlege you gave me here. The cool thing is, I also really try to give my students an own voice and I feel a huge inspiration with the words you are saying :) Thank You so much!! Michi Wilson

james K.

Love the lessons Tom. Most developing guitarists can find basic lessons in books and all over the net to learn theory, scales, modes, inversions, effects, tab, etc... This is unique and different. Some of the comments seem critical that you aren't walking them through the basics of playing the guitar despite the fact that one basic guitar lesson probably costs $20 at your local music store and only moves young players forward at a crawl. This seems to me more about finding your voice as a musician and adopting the attitude to be your unique best. Your insights, experience, and creativity on the guitar are much appreciated.

Gen H.

Really? The hammer and sickle symbol of communism on your guitar? Communism has killed more people than the Nazis. But hey, so long as it looks cool on a guitar, it's Okay, right? What's even more ridiculous is that RATM is supposedly very atuned to social issues. I guess they missed the 120 millions killed by communism so far including the current killing of Uyghurs and Hong Kong nationals by the Commie Chinese. I love the RATM music but boy, how clueless can you get.

Mike W.

In addition to the lesson PDF's, I think it would be really beneficial to myself and others if Guitar Pro transcribed versions of those tabs were provided, which would allow students to both learn the riff in stages while playing along at increasing tempos. Essentially working our way up to tempo and kind of playing along with Tom, if you will. Guitar Pro is a great tool to learn with, and I should think files for it would be beneficial to all guitar related students, should they decide to invest in it, making this course even more valuable.

Nick F.

You lost me at hello. This stuff is not for those who don't have an extensive knowledge of rock guitar. Nice to listen to, but definitely not useful for an intermediate guitar player, much less a novice.

Shannon N.

I am five minutes into lesson three and I had to pause for ten minutes cause I came up with a new riff.

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! ;)