Welcome to “Pet Riffs” everyone. Scroll down to see the video/tab portion of the lesson. I will semi regularly be bringing you the riffs used most often by your favorite rock, blues and fusion guitarists.
Today we are looking at 3 uniquely different guitarists in the rock genre; Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, and Neal Schon.
The first riff up is Eric Johnson.
This riff is in Em pentatonic and involves Eric’s patented smooth position shifting, and a pet riff I have heard him use countless times, the Em7 arpeggio. The really important thing for this riff is to follow the picking pattern exactly. It makes quick licks like this so much easier to play if you use the most efficient picking patterns which many of the greats figured out early in their careers. This riff is mostly alternate picking with a tiny bit of economy picking during the arpeggio section of the riff. The last note is a pick harmonic one octave above the fretted note, another EJ regularity.
Next up we have the inimitable Yngwie.
Most people that are known by one name have usually made a stir in their field and Yngwie is no different. He burst out of the early 80s with more speed, precision, classical remembrances and ego than any rock guitarist in history. He quickly made his mark as one of the best with standout albums with Alcatrazz and his own Rising Force band which are now considered shred guitar classics.
This riff contains Yngwie’s favorites; diminished 7th arpeggios and the harmonic minor scale using a very mathematical formula ie groups of 3 notes then 4 notes on each 2 string groups which allows Yngwie maximum speed with minimal effort. This picking pattern at speed sounds as if every note is picked but the magic is that he only picks the first 2 notes on the 3 note per string section of the riff. He then picks all 4 notes on the second string in the riff. This is rather ingenious as it gives Yngwie time to get back to a downstroke on the 4 notes per string section with minimal effort and movement which allows much more speed.
Finally we have Neal Schon from Journey, the guitarist who allegedly “stole the show” at the guitar summit “Hear’n Aid” which included many guitarists recording solos at the same session including Yngwie, George Lynch, Vivian Campbell etc.
Neal is generally pretty underrated due to his band’s pop sound but make no mistake, the guy can shred and play with melody as well as any rock guitarist out there.
This riff is a clinic in straight out alternate picking. Neal has a real interesting way that he holds the pick and attacks the string. He holds the pick like a pencil and slices diagonally across the strings the opposite way that Eric Johnson does. Neal’s right hand is super fast and so this lick will take a lot of time to get to speed.
I hope you have fun learning these pet riffs. Drop me a line if you have some suggestions for future ‘Pet Riffs’ lessons.
Thanks for stopping by, see you next time.