RE: the lick challenge - what is the difference between a lick and a riff?

Good description @Socio. To me a riff is a rhythmic part and a lick is a phrase in a lead part.

@Richard_close2u Justin does describe riffs and licks over a few different lessons although it’s not a clear defining point. But the beginner grades are definitely focused on chords and strumming/fingerpicking, not riffs or licks.

All I might see slightly differently is ‘back up part’. If I think about riffs, those classic most recognisable riffs, then ‘back up’ doesn’t really do it for.

I’m thinking contenders for the most recognisable of all time, dare I say GOAT riffs (have a natural aversion to all this GOAT talk). For example Smoke on the Water, Satisfaction, and (to show I’m not totally into boomer grandad rock) Seven Nation Army.


… still over 20 years old :rofl:


You got me, still dad rock, not getting into kiddie rock (is that an oxymoron?).


Absolutely, I presume it all depends on the context in the song.

Interestingly, I watched this youtube video this morning and f I recall correctly it covers smoke on the water with regards to licks and riffs.


Riff …

a repeating and recurring part of the song that is both rhythmic and melodic in structure … many songs have iconic riffs that are instantly recognisable

The Beatles - Day Tripper
Led Zeppelin - Black Dog

Lick …

a short phrase, mostly played as a lead guitar part within a solo or as a small fill between vocal lines … these can be the foundation of solos or strung together to create solos, they are often mixed with improvised sections and some players have ‘trademark licks’ that they use as a default home base to start from and return to when improvising

hard to give because they are not riffs … see Justin’s minor pentatonic lessons for five licks in each of the five scale patterns

Most riffs and licks are both played using notes from scales so that may explain some of the confusion.


You just couldn’t let that slide could you? :man_facepalming:t4::rofl:


But both a lick and a riff can. Slide that is…

You can remember the distinction if you think like a dog. Riff riff riffing is generally rhythmical and can go on for an extended period of time, whereas licking stops once the novelty or flavor wears off :laughing:


my immediate reaction is that you can construct a riff from one or more licks strung together and/or repeated, but not vice-versa

You’re doing well David, my kids think I never listen to anything recorded after 1985 (coincidentally the year my eldest “kid” was born!)

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