What is the longest time you ever spent learning a riff or lick?

I went down a youtube rabbit hole, ending up looking at what Ceriatone is up to lately in amps, listened to a video of one of their AFD amps (pretty dang good sounding), which lead to widdling on the outro lick from GnR Night Train. Day 2 on it so far. Longest I have spent on a lick is probably close to a month. And I failed to get it up to speed, but my picking got way better at the time (use it or lose it).


And by the way, there could be a much more featured and streamlined app than Reaper for learning things by ear. Reaper has most of the pieces and is definitely usable, but there could be something much better.

Also, my biggest obstacle when learning licks is memorizing them when the rhythms of the lick are non-linear, i.e., mix of odd groupings, odd note times.

Yep, and esp if doing vocals simultaneously. I’ve got a near 40 song repetoire worked up, remembering lyrics also is a chore when doing dozens of covers from scratch.

If a lick has more than 8 or 10 notes and is quite unique in fretting combinations it can take me a lot of repetitions, hundreds if not thousands, over weeks to really hardwire it. There’s some big distance between playing it until can get it right, versus playing it until ×can’t× get it wrong.

A new difficult lick ought to be repeated a bunch of times a few times per day, every day imo

It may just be a terminology thing, but I think licks and riffs are different than solos. I think of licks and riffs as those interesting little fills you play during solos that help spice things up a bit.

Solos for me take awhile depending on how accurate I’m trying to be to the original recording. Most leads or solos that I do never sound verbatim, I always end up winging a few things because I’m just not as talented as those guys are.

One that comes to mind is Stevie Rays Pride and Joy. I played that in the band I was in awhile back, took me two or three weeks just to get it close so I could play it during rehearsals. Still work on it from time to time, but I’ll never be able to do it the way Stevie did.

That song is how I learned bending and vibrato. Hours and hours of bending and shaking. Sometimes maybe an hour spent on a bend with vibrato.

I would kick back on the recliner with my strat and just play sections over and over again.

You’re right about that bend with vibrato, that takes some work.

Were you tuned down half a step? That was pretty standard for Stevie, Jimi, and others. Makes those bends a lot easier.

I don’t remember how I would have been tuned, but most likely 1/2 down to the cd. I would have killed to had one of those fancy Marantz tape machines with a speed control, but they were $700 that I didn’t have. Nowadays it’s super easy to tune the song to the guitar instead of dropping the pitch of the guitar. And slowing down the recording while keeping the tuned pitch is great and helps a lot in hearing what is going on.

I remember being hunched over my guitar, pushing strings, sweating hands, super sore fingers, over and over and over again. It was addictive, and I was going to make it sound right. Bend a string slowly up to pitch, give it some slow vibrato, then bend it at correct speed and same for vibrato. It was a lot of work in a relatively short amount of time. And although I didn’t fully nail it at the time, after quitting practicing that specific thing it gradually came into it’s own because my ear was tuned for it after having practiced the hell out of it.

SRV was a helluva player, his records will stand the test of time.
‘Riffs’ as opposed to ‘licks’ or ‘solos’ that require a lot of technique imo are such as e.g the three part rhythm figure of Nothing Else Matters [Metallica] and the Rhythm figures of Cat’s in the Cradle [Ugly Kid Joe version] both of which I do and lead vocal simultaneously. I’ve known the guitar to those for years, the US Guitar Player family of magazines, Guitar World etc. were the single most accurate and brilliant transcriptions of so much great modern guitar compositions, wonderful resource, helped me tremendously.

I spent a lot of time in early years learning from those mags (Guitar World, Guitar Player), but more time in the books. I forget who made the books. I was a Metallica addict (~16 years old), had every book for every album, and learned just about every song from those books. A few songs were beyond my playing ability at the time. Back to the mags, a friend had a ton of them when I started playing, I started buying them, and we would swap back and forth to learn the same songs, eventually starting a garage band from songs we learned that way.

By the way, having been a metal head as a kid, I consider a riff to be a repetitive rhythm passage, since that is what we called it. You learn the second riff today? And I think of a lick as being either a short fill, a shorter part of a long fill, or a shorter part of a solo.

I had a bunch of good books that I’ve absorbed good technique from, US publications, they appeared on racks in gtr stores here in the 90’s, not that many but they were all really good.

There’s an Australian company [Koala Publications] that did some deal with LA studio guitarists and produced a great series of gtr books, the publisher name sounds a bit naff but the books rock.

Tab was a good way to get started getting your hands working and working out difficult rhythms. And I suppose that I did get started with technique from those books, which had intros showing bends, slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and vibrato.

I remember the books from one publisher having sections of playing analysis in them. It might be worth revisiting some of those old books. At the time, all that analysis stuff was Greek to me. The only tab book I still own is a copy of And Justice For All. That’s a flash to the past. Ha ha. I remember my copies of Kill Em All and Master of Puppets literally falling apart from using them so much. And others got loaned out and never returned I suppose.

The best resouce I’ve found online is Ultimate Guitar Tabs,

The pro version costs around 39 USD, at least that’s what it was a few years back. It’s a one time charge lifetime membership. No ads, and no other gimicky crap.

Great resources with all instruments, tabs, chords, solos, playback, speed adjust, and looping.

Well worth the money.

When I’m learning a song these days, I do it by ear. It’s more direct going from listening to playing than using a middle man tab. And last year I started tabbing more difficult things out. But maybe doing that isn’t such a great idea. Supposedly forgetting and struggling to recall is good for memorizing things faster and deeper. A little on that here, in the context of memorizing scales:


Most of the accurate tabs that were available free on the internet for the Guitar-Pro platform undoubtedly were sourced from those Guitar World etc. transcriptions. Those transcriptions were accurate literally to the last pick scrape.

But as Tol was saying also, sometimes it’s best just to wing it, e.g Wild Horses [Rolling Stones] has a lot of arbitrary gtr noodling, and even though it sounds good, rather than memorise unnecessarily, why not do my own? E.g there’s a G Maj chord, play something G Maj Pentatonic; a Bm chord? -play some Bm Pentatonic noodling, anything ventured based on the/an appropriate scale will usually sound good for such a track.

I learned that lesson when I learned to strum from a tab. I learned every stroke, taking it all very literally, spending way too much time to memorize it. Next strummed tune that I learned, I looked at the chords and approximated the rhythm.

But to this day, if I’m trying to pick up on someone doing something great, I’m going to learn it note for note to try and have the best chance at understanding it, then improvise on it if wanted.

Running scales was something else I used to spend hours on the recliner doing.

The natural major and minors and the pentatonics, all along the neck.

Great dexterity training.

Learning your triads within those scales is a great way to help with improv for those times you get a little lost and need a quick way home.

I did that too as a kid. Somehow I ended up with loose pages of the modes from a guitar player friend. And for some reason I thought that I should have it memorized, which I spent many hours doing. Then I learned the pentatonic shapes and spent most of my time in those shapes learning to play freely. Years later I memorized triads. I never did a hell of a lot with the modes and triads lead wise. I’m a blues simpleton.

I never did get much into all the different modes. Being more of blues player myself, the extended pentatonic scales pretty much provided me with everything I needed.

That and knowing where the blues notes were within those scales.

I use Ultimate Guitar tabs a lot, the free version tabs are quite often all that’s needed imo, along with the original recording audio [youtube mostly]

Yeah, there’s some pretty talented folks posting tabs there.

The thing I like about the pro version is being able to loop a section of the lead and play along to that. You can even slow it down a bit.

It’s all good though, great tools. Beats the hell out playing those 45’s over and over again.