Have you ever been working on a guitar riff, and been unable to execute it properly? As guitarists, we’ve all been there. It can be frustrating to know exactly what you want a riff or lick to sound like, but not have the correct methods in place for executing it.

As it turns out, there is a pretty straightforward way to achieve results, an it starts with my favorite “R” word, repetition. In order to master a riff, lick, or general technique it often takes hours and hours of repeating the same phrase. This might seem self evident, but repetition can be done both correctly and incorrectly.

Let’s imagine you have a two measure riff you are trying to master, and the really tough spot comes at the end of the second measure. In fact, most of the riff is pretty easy except for the very last beat of the second measure. That last beat has a hammer on, pull off and crazy bend happening really quickly.

The very last beat of the riff is what demands the lion’s share of your attention, so it makes the most sense to spend your time working on just that one difficult area. If the entire riff lasts eight seconds, but only the last second demands work, you’ll end up wasting seven out of eight seconds working on stuff that doesn’t need work! If you practice the riff for one minute, 52 seconds will be spent working on the wrong areas, and if you spend an hour practicing that riff, 52 MINUTES will be spent on the wrong stuff! That leads to lots of wasted practice time.

When I learn guitar riffs, I focus in on the most difficult spot, and spend my practice time working on just that. I will repeat a difficult area hundreds of times before piecing the whole riff together. When practice time is limited, it is important that you learn guitar riffs correctly, and that means practicing the right way. Happy rocking!