Rock Guitar Riffs on Your Mandolin

May 13, 2021

When I was a kid, the music I first learned on guitar was "classic rock" - the Beatles, Carole King, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, etc...

A lot of my students play this same type of music on their mandolins. One question that has come up over and over again: "How do I accompany in a 'rock' style?"

Taking my lead from Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Mike Campbell and loads of local rock guitarists I've listened to and played with over the years, I've developed this all-purpose major chord riff that you can hear in the video and learn below.

The idea is that when it's time to fit in with your bandmates on a single chord, you play this riff instead of just strumming away while your fingers hold down a static chord voicing, the "default" accompaniment setting for many of us.

The greatest benefit of this riff is that you only have to learn it once. And then it will look and feel the same for all the other major chords.

So, let's learn how to perform G, F and C major using this rock riff method instead of simple strumming.

First, here's the chord progression that loops continually during my performance. And here's how I'd usually play it, strumming.

Let's learn how to do the riff, step by step:

First, material-wise, it's only three notes.  And the name of the chord in question (scale degree "one") is always played with your index finger.

Next, there is a grace note on the first note of each riff.

You effect a grace note by using the "hammer-on" effect.

One more feature: a double stop on the first two notes.

In this lesson I've taught you the notes of the riff itself, along with special effects like double-stops and hammer-ons.

The final step is to combine this riff with your right hand "drummer," which in this case is all downstroke eigth notes with LOTS of syncopation.  Which is the subject of another lesson a couple of weeks from now.

Tim's Mando Lessons is your all-purpose, one-stop shop for honing  your mandolin skills and learning all of the great tunes to play at the jam sessions.  Join our growing Community of learners today and watch your playing improve fast!

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