Watch the Working on a Riff online guitar lesson by Rich Maloof from Guitar 201: Breakthroughs

What is a riff, anyway? Ask three guitarists and you’ll get three different answers. It boils down to a big instrumental hook, and if you’re going to present it on guitar you’ll want to play it like you mean it.

We have a few words on how to practice a great riff: Slow. It. Down. Listen carefully to understand how each element should be played, because it's often the little nuances — ghost notes, attacks, syncopations — that make a riff interesting. Said another way, if it were easy, it wouldn't sound so cool.

Riffs come in all shapes and sizes. Over the next few clips we’re going to look at a few familiar types and give them a try.