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How to Compose Your Own Prog-Rock Riffs

Shhhhhh… What you’re about to learn is not only a secret that seasoned prog-rockers don’t want you to know, it’s also privileged information. So don’t go blabbing about how you’ve now become an all-knowing progressive-rock god.

Prog-rock is probably the most intimidating style of music to write and play, mainly due to the technical prowess it demands. On top of that, however, the uncommon elements that make up an effective prog-rock riff can be difficult to master all at once.

I mentioned a secret, though, and that secret will let you navigate the grid of prog to create your own unique music that would make John Petrucci look down upon you and smile.

The secret lies in the polar opposite of what progressive music represents: simplicity. By forming your riffs from the simplest point, you’re able to construct the most devastating, powerful prog-rock riffs from the ground up, using your guitar like a mad scientist’s collection of lab beakers and your mind like the chemicals that fill those beakers.

Mixing and matching various techniques while embellishing certain aspects of your riff will be much easier through a step-by-step approach, rather than trying to compose a prog-rock riff all at once. It’s hard enough to play this music when it’s already composed, let alone try and hear the insanity in your head before it’s made it to your guitar strings. The video below will take you through the process of starting from scratch to erect a towering, titanic progressive rock riff. Just make sure to keep these new tactics a secret!

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.