If you were to compile a list of the greatest riffs in rock history, it would be littered with Jimmy Page riffs. One of the greatest guitarists ever, his riffs range from edgy to funky. As fun they are to listen to, they’re even more fun to play. So, why not use them as exercises to improve your guitar playing? Here are 5 Jimmy Page riffs to increase your finger dexterity.
Dexterity is essentially your ability to coordinate fine motor movements. Knowing that, it’s obvious that building dexterity is an important part of playing and improving on guitar. Without it, your guitar playing ceiling will be pretty low.
There are many traditional exercises that can help develop finger dexterity, but it’s good to use “real music” as much as possible. There’s a musicality that’s developed when using…well, music.
The Jimmy Page Riffs
The Jimmy Page riffs I chose for this lesson are great for building dexterity in the beginner/beginner-intermediate guitar player. They incorporate string skipping, bends, vibrato…you name it. The rhythmic variation and fingering requirements will help you improve on common weak areas and force you outside of linear and uniform playing patterns of typical guitar exercises.
So, let’s get to it and break down the riffs.
Riff 1: “The Ocean”
The Ocean is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs simply because of the groove of this riff. It’s impossible to listen to it without bobbing your head along.
The riff opens with a couple of quick hammer-ons from fret 5 to 7 on the D (4th) string before playing down an arpeggio pattern from the 5th fret on the D string to the 7th fret on the A string to the 8th fret of the low E string.
Note the fingering for this section of the riff below:
Involving the pinky finger on the 8th fret of the 6th string can be a bit problematic for the beginner guitar player or intermediate guitar player who hasn’t developed enough coordination/strength in the pinky finger.
The next part of the riff is simple, but can challenge your coordination at first because of the groove. Again, the fingering I use is noted below.
Black Dog is quick and shifty. The technique in this riff is fairly basic, but the arrangement requires a bit of coordination. You’ll want to start slow with this one and gradually build it up to speed.
The first part of riff contains a little chromatic lick into a roll on between the 7th frets of the 4th and 5th strings. The roll is an important technique to develop and dexterity will improve in the process.
The second part and last part of the riff have a couple of quick position shifts. Shifts like this require that the note before the shift be released quickly or you end up with a little inadvertent slide between positions.
Heartbreaker. Another Led Zeppelin song with a groovy icon riff that’s just plain fun to play.
In this riff, you also see a little chromatic lick as you did in Black Dog. Only this time instead of there being a roll at the end of it there’s a string skip.
This is particularly effective at building finger dexterity in the second part of the riff that begins on the 2nd fret of the 5th string. This section requires the use of the pinky finger for the string skip and a 1/2 step bend.
Despite being recognized mostly for the amazing drum work of John Bonham, Moby Dick offers a great riff for the beginner-intermediate guitar player. It’s yet another example of a dirty, groovy riff by Jimmy Page.
*Note that the 6th string is tuned down to D.
Similar to Out on the Tiles, this riff also includes a two-note repeating lick that I think is great for building fundamental coordination and synchronization. It gets your pinky involved as well, which you can never have too much of.
Improving finger dexterity is crucial for continuing to develop as a guitar player. These Jimmy Page riffs are fun to play and will accomplish just that. While traditional exercise can be effective, sometimes the best exercises are found in the music itself.
Arpeggios are a great tool to use when soloing over chord changes or adding fills to rhythm sections. However, when and how to apply them can be a little confusing. So in this lesson we take a look at a few song examples of applying arpeggios to guitar solos and fills to see how to use them effectively.
When applying arpeggios to the guitar, it’s important to note that they don’t need to be applied in full. More commonly, you see arpeggios applied using only a 3- or 4-note portion of a pattern, which is the case for the majority of the examples in this lesson.
Song 1: Hotel California
The first song we’re going to look at is Hotel California by The Eagles. It has one of the most iconic guitar solos of all time. And it just so happens that the most recognizable section is played using arpeggios.
Note that there are two guitars harmonizing on this part of the solo, but we’re just going to look at one.
Ex. 1 – Bm arpeggio
In the first part of this section of the solo is using a three note Bm arpeggio played over a Bm chord.
In the diagram below, you can see that this arpeggio pattern is derived from the Em shaped Bm chord (see CAGED system if you’re not familiar with the different chord shapes). I’ve outlined the Bm chord, the full arpeggio pattern, and the three note arpeggio pattern used for this part of the solo.
Ex. 2 – F# arpeggio
The second part of this section again uses a three note arpeggio pattern. This time the F# major arpeggio is played over an F# chord.
Again, in the diagram I’ve outlined the C-shape F# chord, the full arpeggio pattern, and the three note arpeggio pattern of F# used for this part of the solo.
If you map out the rest of the guitar solo from this point you will see that it’s applying similar three note arpeggio patterns for each chord. It then returns to the Bm and repeats.
The next song we’re going to look at is Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits. This is a guitar player’s song and Mark Knopfler provides some great examples of arpeggio use in fills and his solos.
Ex. 1 – Dm7 arpeggio fill
In the beginning of the song there is a series of fills that accompanies the rhythm. One of those fills is a four-note Dm7 arpeggio played over a Dm chord. The first three notes are played with more of a sweep picking style.
The Dm chord, full Dm7 arpeggio pattern, and the four-note pattern used in the fill are shown in the diagram below. Again, note that this is a minor 7th arpeggio being played over a minor chord.
This example from the first guitar solo one of my favorites. The lick starts with an A major arpeggio and transitions to an D minor arpeggio. The licks are played over an A major/D minor chord change.
What I like most about this lick is the use of harmonics for the first two notes of the A major arpeggio. It’s also a great example of when using a full arpeggio pattern (well, almost full pattern) works well within a musical context.
The A major chord, full arpeggios shape, and the arpeggio used in this lick are outline below.
The second part of the lick is a descending D minor arpeggio using the E minor CAGED shape.
Outlined below are the Dm chord, full arpeggio, and the arpeggio notes in this lick.
These examples should give you an idea of how arpeggios can be applied in different ways. More often than not you see 3- and 4-note versions of arpeggios being applied. However, in some cases you may see more full arpeggios be played, particularly sweep style arpeggios which are popular in metal music.
One of the easiest ways to learn your way around the fretboard is by applying licks to each scale position. You take something you already know how to play and apply it to the different positions on the fretboard. Sometimes it may take a few adjustments to get the lick to work, but that’s ok. It’s still a simple process. Let’s take a look at some examples using the minor pentatonic scale shapes.
Using the A minor pentatonic
The examples in this lesson are using the A minor pentatonic scale. If we look at the minor pentatonic, we see that it consists of the following five notes:
If we look at the A minor pentatonic scale laid out on the entire fretboard, we can see that these 5 notes (intervals) occur over and over again up and down the fretboard.
So what does this mean?
It means that any given lick is not confined to any single position on the fretboard, but instead can be played anywhere on the fretboard.
For example, take the following lick:
If we take a look at the notes from this lick and apply them to the A minor pentatonic scale, you’ll see that this lick is played using position 1 of the scale.
But as you saw in the first fretboard diagram, these notes exist all over the fretboard. So, let’s take a look at how we can adapt this lick all over the neck.
Applying licks to each scale position
In the second position of the scale, we can play the lick using the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. You’ll notice with this position we can do a pull-off between the 4th and 5th notes of the lick. However, we can adapt the pull-off a little earlier using the 3rd and 4th notes.
In position three, the lick is played exactly the same as it is in the first position, only moved over to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th strings.
When played in the fourth position, the lick again can be played in the original style using the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strings.
Once again in the fifth position the lick can be played in its original style using the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings.
More than one way to play the lick
You may have noticed that in any given position there are opportunities to play the lick in a different way. The examples only show one, but feel free to adapt it however you like. This will only help your familiarity with the fretboard.
Learning and applying licks to each scale position is an easy way to learn the guitar fretboard. It helps you see the connection between the notes and positions up and down the neck. Over time it gives you the freedom to play any lick anywhere on the fretboard as opposed to feeling locked into a single position on the neck.
Take licks that you already know and begin applying them to different positions. Be sure to work with both major and minor scales. Start with small licks and build to more complex licks and runs.
In previous lessons we’ve learned about the CAGED system for learning guitar chords and scales. Another system that is useful for learning scales is the 3 notes per string system. In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at the 3 notes per string major scale patterns.
What is the 3 notes per string system?
With this system of learning scales, as the name implies, you play 3 notes per string across the fretboard for each position. There aren’t any changes from 3 notes, to 2 notes, back to 3 notes, like you find in the CAGED system. It’s more uniform in nature, which I think appeals to many guitarists and can make it a little easier to move through the scale.
However, playing 3 notes per string requires a bit more flexibility as some of the notes are 4 frets apart. If you have small hands or lack adequate flexibility, you may find these patterns a little difficult to play.
Also, instead of 5 different patterns to learn (as with CAGED), there are 7. I find these patterns run together a bit and they’re not as distinct as the CAGED patterns. So learning them may take a bit longer.
3 notes per string major scale positions
The scales in these example are F major, but the shapes can be applied to any major scale up and down the neck. Play each position ascending and descending across the neck.
For notes that span 5 frets, I recommend playing the first note with the index finger, the second note with the middle finger, and the third note with the pinky.
As always, practice the positions with a metronome!
The 3 notes per string major scale patterns give us another way to map out scales on the fretboard. Combining these patterns with the CAGED patterns can really open up the guitar and allow you to expand your lead playing. They may take a little more time to learn, but I think the effort is well worth it.
When we first learn the pentatonic scales, it’s typically done position by position. We learn one pattern, then the next, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but if we don’t expand on it we’re bound to feel trapped in the “box”. But, there are some methods that can be used to get you out of the box and playing pentatonic scales up and down the neck. In this lesson we take a look at a few of the easy ones.
Learn the scale diagonally
When learning the pentatonic patterns, we typically play each position of the scale horizontally across the neck from the 6th string to the 1st and back. For instance, in the diagram below we see the first position of the A major pentatonic played horizontally.
When played horizontally like this, you see runs like the following:
However, we can move this scale vertically up the neck as well and pass through each position of the pentatonic scale.
Now we can take the same lick from the horizontal example, apply it diagonally and get the following:
This method isn’t confined to a particular position. It can be applied to any position of the pentatonic and from any starting point in the scale. The very nature of it gets you moving through the pentatonic scales up and down the neck.
Playing in octaves
Playing in octaves is probably one of the easiest ways to move between pentatonic positions. It’s as simple as taking the same lick and playing it an octave higher.
For instance, take a look at the following diagram that outlines 3 octaves of the root, 3rd, 5th notes.
These octave shapes traverse the first 3 positions of the A major pentatonic. We can take these shapes and make a lick out of them like the following:
An even more simple idea is to take the same lick in the same position and move it to the second octave (above the 12 fret) on the fretboard. For example, take a look at the following diagram that outlines the 5th position of the A major pentatonic scale below and above the 12th fret.
Using this position in both octaves we can play a lick something like the following:
Using the root note to anchor position shifts
If you’ve read the lessons on using root notes to navigate the major and minor scales, you know that the root note can be used as a reference for scale patterns. This allows you to use the root note to move between scale positions.
For instance, take a look at the following lick:
This lick is based mainly in the 1st position of the scale and grabs the major 3rd from position 2 before ending on the root on the fifth fret of the 1st string.
But, we can target the root note in a different position to allow us to move out of the 1st position box.
So instead of landing on the root note at the 5th fret of the first string, we can end the lick on the root note at the 14th fret of the 3rd string, putting us in position four.
Both licks contain the same notes, but the second lick requires a position shift up the neck, getting you out of the pentatonic box of the 1st position.
While the root note is an obvious target note, the same method can be applied to any note of the scale. In general, this method typically works well with any chord tones, so the music you’re playing over may influence which notes to target.
In this lesson you learned three easy ways to play pentatonic scales up and down the neck. The examples given were simple, but the concepts can be greatly expanded upon and adapted to any lick or run.
A good way to become more familiar with the various chord shapes is by playing chord progressions by position all over the fretboard. What I mean by this is pick a position on the neck and play all of the chords of the progression in that single position rather than moving to familiar chord shapes we already know. Let’s take a look at a common chord progression to see how this works.
I – IV – V chord progression in the key of G
In this example, we’re going to use a I-IV-V chord progression in the key of G. If you’re not familiar with using Roman numerals to describe chord progressions, here’s a quick review.
The table below outlines the key of G. The Roman numerals indicate two things.
First, it tells the position of the note in the scale. G is the first note, A is the second note, and so on.
Second, it gives the quality of the chord created from that note.
From this table you can see that a I-IV-V chord progression in the key of G consists of the chords G major, C major, and D major.
When first learning guitar we typically start with learning open chords.
Open chords are easy to play. From there we progress to the basic barre chord with the index finger barring across 5-6 strings.
However, there comes a point where we need to expand our chord vocabulary, and this can be accomplished through playing chords in different positions on the fretboard. Any chord progression can be played in any position on the neck.
The diagram below shows the root positions of the I – IV – V chord progression in the key of G in all 5 positions of the G major scale.
I-IV-V by position
Let’s break this progression down position by position. If you’re not familiar with the term CAGED, you may want to read the CAGED system lesson before continuing. The chord shapes in the following diagrams will make much more sense if you have a basic understanding of that system.
In position 1, we get the following chord shapes:
G major chord with the root on the 3rd fret of the 6th string (E shape)
C major chord with the root on the 3rd fret of the 5th string (A shape)
D major chord with the root on the 5th fret of the 5th string (C shape)
Position 2 gives us the following chord shapes:
G major chord with the root on the 5th fret of the 4th string (D shape)
C major chord with the root on the 8th fret of the 6th string (G shape)
D major chord with the root on the 5th fret of the 5th string (A shape)
In position 3 we get:
G major chord with the root on the 10th fret of the 5th string (C shape)
C major chord with the root on the 8th fret of the 6th string (E shape)
D major chord with the root on the 10th fret of the 6th string (G shape)
The chord shapes of position 4 are:
G major chord with the root on the 10th fret of the 5th string (A shape)
C major chord with the root on the 10th fret of the 4th string (D shape)
D major chord with the root on the 10th fret of the 6th string (E shape)
In position 5, we get the following chord shapes:
G major chord with the root on the 15th fret of the 6th string (G shape)
C major chord with the root on the 15th fret of the 5th string (C shape)
D major chord with the root on the 12th fret of the 4th string (D shape)
Note that in position 5, the chords are in their natural shapes:
G major = G shape
C major = C shape
D major = C shape
These are also the shapes that make up the open chord positions from above:
Applies to any chord
This method of playing chords by position isn’t limited to a I-IV-V progression or just major chords. In the figure below you see all chords of the key of G in position 1. This can be applied to any position in any key.
Playing chord progressions by position is a great way to familiarize yourself with the different chord voicings found all over the neck. It helps open up the fretboard and reduces dependency on only playing open chords and basic barre chord shapes.
This method can be applied to any chord progression in any key. Experiment by taking songs you already know and playing those chord progressions by position.
In the previous lesson on arpeggios, we learned what an arpeggio is, how to build a major arpeggio, and the common shapes of the major arpeggios across the fretboard. In this lesson we’ll take a look at the minor arpeggio. We’ll learn what makes up a minor arpeggio, how it differs from the major arpeggio, and its various shapes found on the fretboard. Let’s get started.
Forming Minor Arpeggios
Minor arpeggios are formed from the notes of the minor chord, which are derived from root, 3rd, and 5th intervals of minor scale. The minor arpeggio differs from the major arpeggio in that the 3rd interval is a minor 3rd as opposed to a major 3rd.
Like the major version, there are various techniques that we can use when playing minor arpeggios as well. Again, the style you use will largely depend on the type of music you play. Below are a few examples:
Below are the diagrams for the minor arpeggio shapes on guitar. They contain the chord shape from which they are derived and suggested fingerings. Feel free to change up the fingering as necessary if you find an alternative more comfortable.
The minor arpeggio consists of the root, minor 3rd, and perfect 5th intervals. Like the major counterpart, minor arpeggios can be used to target chord tones in guitar solos and fills and help add a little color to your playing. Again, playing arpeggios can take a little time to get down, so be ready to put in some time!
In part one of guitar triads we looked at major triads and how you can learn these triads based on the CAGED guitar system. In this lesson we’ll take a look at minor triads. If you need a review of triads and how they’re formed, check out part one again. Otherwise, let’s get started!
Minor triads are built from the 1st (root), 3rd (minor 3rd), and 5th (perfect 5th) degrees of the minor scale.
As is the case with major triads, these intervals are all a 3rd apart and the number of semitones between each interval determines the quality. With a minor triad we have the following stacked thirds.
Minor 3rd = 1 1/2 tones (3 semitones / 3 frets)
Major 3rd = 2 whole tones (4 semitones / 4 frets)
Stacked 3rd Intervals
Minor 3rd + Major 3rd
Note how this differs from a major triad, which stacks a minor 3rd on top of a major 3rd.
Counting out the semitones of the first 3rd will give you the following:
Root to major 2nd = 2 semitones
Root to minor 3rd = 1 semitone
3 total semitones (1 1/2 whole tones)
Counting out the semitones of the second 3rd will give you the following:
Minor 3rd to perfect 4th = 2 semitones
Perfect 4th to perfect 5h = 2 semitones
4 total semitones (2 whole tones)
Learning minor triads with the CAGED system
If you’ve previously learned the major triads, then learning the minor triads will be a simple process of replacing the major 3rd with the minor 3rd.
Note that the first diagram for each form is the full chord. The subsequent diagrams are the triads that can be derived from that position/chord shape.
Using minor triads in your playing
Similar to major triads, a quick way to learn to utilize minor triads in your guitar playing is to substitute them for full chords in songs you already know. Try doing this for all of the triad positions to see how the different voicings can affect the feel of the song. For a few easy songs to apply this to, check out 5 Easy Songs to Learn on Guitar.
Triads are the building blocks of chords. If you’re used to playing only full chords, triads will help expand your playing and allow you to create more unique voicings and tones. They’re a great way to spice up your playing by allowing you to easily add little embellishments to your rhythms. Jimi Hendrix is a perfect example of this. In this lesson we’re going to focus only on major triads, but future lessons will address minor and 7th triads.
Let’s start with answering the question, “What is a triad?”
Triads are a group of three notes comprised of the 1st (root), 3rd, and 5th degrees of a scale. Each degree is a 3rd apart. They can be of four qualities:
Major triads are built from the 1st (root), 3rd (major 3rd), and 5th (perfect 5th) degrees of the major scale.
Each of these intervals is a third (3 notes) apart and the number of semitones between each interval will determine the quality of the triad.
Major 3rd = 2 whole tones (4 semitones / 4 frets)
Minor 3rd = 1 1/2 tones (3 semitones / 3 frets)
Note that 1 semitone is equal to 1 fret.
Stacked 3rd Intervals
Major 3rd + Minor 3rd
Counting out the semitones of the first 3rd will give you the following:
Root to major 2nd = 2 semitones
Major 2nd to major 3rd = 2 semitones
Total of 4 semitones (2 whole tones)
Counting out the semitones of the second stacked 3rd will give you the following:
Major 3rd to perfect 4th = 1 semitone
Perfect 4th to perfect 5th = 2 semitones
Total of 3 semitones (1 1/2 whole tones)
Learning major triads with the CAGED system
If you’re already familiar with the CAGED major chord shapes, learning the major triads will be a breeze. We can simply break apart the CAGED chord shapes into their smaller triad shapes.
Using triads in your playing
You can begin incorporating these triads into your playing by simply substituting them for full chords. For instance, take any of these easy songs and use triads in place of the full chords. Experiment with playing them in different positions outside of the original voicings.
Arpeggios are when the notes of a chord are played individually one after the other. They can be used to add a bit of color to guitar solos and fills, and are popular in metal music when played in a sweeping style. In this lesson we’ll learn the major arpeggios, the intervals from which they’re comprised, and how to play them.
Forming Major Arpeggios
Major arpeggios are formed from the notes of the major chord. In case you’re not familiar, major chords are made up of the 1st (root), 3rd, and 5th degrees of the major scale.
If you take a G major barre chord and play through each note of the chord individually, you’ve played an arpeggio.
We can complete this arpeggio shape by grabbing the major 3rd on the 5th string as shown below.
There are various techniques that can be used when playing arpeggios. The style you use will largely depend on the type of music you play. Below are links to a few examples:
I think one of the trickiest aspects of playing arpeggios is fingering notes that are side by side on the same fret. For these notes, you’ll need to use a rolling technique in order to play them fluidly.
CAGED Major Arpeggio Shapes
The diagrams below give you the CAGED major arpeggio shapes, the chord shapes from which they are derived, and the suggested fingering for playing each shape. Use the fingerings as a guide and feel free to adjust as necessary.
Arpeggios are a great way to liven up your guitar fills and solos. In this lesson we looked at the major arpeggios, which are comprised of the root, 3rd, and 5th intervals of the major scale. Arpeggios can be a little tricky to play at first, so it may take a bit of persistence to master them. In coming lessons we’ll take a look at minor and 7th arpeggios.