11 August 2010

How To Play Cool Rhythm Guitar Riffs With Double Stop 4ths

When I sat down to write this first tutorial in my series on double stops for guitar I was stuck for a while. I hesitated about which double stop interval to start with. Double stop 4ths seemed to be the easiest to start with but I had nagging doubts.

I doubted the interest of the topic I'd chosen. I mean, the fretboard shape to play 4ths is really simple and doesn't take much explaining (Well, almost, there is one trap where the exact same shape becomes a 3rd interval instead of a 4th on the second and third strings).

I also doubted that I had enough knowledge of this topic to really create a useful lesson. One of my main motivations for writing this series is that I haven't been making a lot of use of double stops in my own playing. So who am I to be showing you how to play them?

My Favourite Double Stop 4ths Licks

But that got me thinking a bit about what I use double stop 4ths for and I discovered that I can in fact create a few nice sounding things with them. So that's what I'm going to share with you today.

My two favourite way to use double stop 4ths are little melodic fills in slower songs and riff style rhythm patterns that sound great in blues, rock and funky songs.

So, now that I finally clarified what this lesson on double stop 4ths is going to be about, let's get on and see how to play some riffs...

Melodic Rhythm Fills

Fourths on the top two strings sound great in slower ballad style songs. You can use them to create some nice melodic movement in your rhythm guitar parts instead of banging away on the same old chord for ages.

To play these I use two or three 4ths double stops along the top two strings of the guitar. I also frequently use slides to move between them. The example below gives you a feel for the kind of fill this creates.

Melodic rhythm fills example on G chord

The example fills above are shown over a G major chord. The chosen double stops all use notes from the G major scale along the 2nd string. The figure below shows all of the double stop 4ths for this scale.

Double Stop 4ths - Major Scale Degrees On 2nd String

If you know your major scale formula of whole and half steps then you'll recognize it as the basis of this pattern on the fretboard. If you can identify a few "key" notes from the scale to figure out whereabouts you are on the fretboard you can experiment and make up riffs of your own using two, three, or more double stops.

This pattern can be used on any chord by simply shifting it up or down the fretboard. For example, to play over an A major chord you move the pattern up two frets.

Double Stop 4ths Rhythm Riffs

Another way to use double stop 4ths is on the lower strings of the guitar as part of a rhythmic riff. This kind of riff works well for blues or funky rhythm guitar parts.

Here are a couple of examples that should give you the idea. They combine a minor pentatonic lick with double stops.

Experiment with other double stops based on the pentatonic scale notes to create some riffs of your own.


This lesson has shown you two ways to integrate double stop 4ths into your rhythm guitar playing.

1. Using major scale 4ths on the top two strings you can create fills for ballads and slower songs.

2. Using 4ths on the low strings you can create great sounding blues or R&B riffs.

Both of these techniques make a nice change from playing straight chords. Why not give them a try?

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You might also enjoy:

Introduction To Guitar Double Stops


Alby said...

In the picture "Double Stop 4ths - Major Scale Degrees On 2nd String" there is an error I think:

the fourth note of a major scale (F in the case of C major scale) has a 4rd note that is not inside a major scale (for example the 4rd note of F is A#), it is not playable on the major scale

Gary Fletcher said...

Hi Alby, Thanks for your comment. You're right that the top notes of the 4ths double stops are not all part of the major scale. What I try to show here is that you can use any of the notes of the major scale as the "double stop root" and play the note that's a fourth above it to create the double stop.

In your example, A# is actually the b7th of the C. It's not part of the major scale but it works well in a lot of music styles.

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