Axe for 'guitar'?

Chuck Borsos sqeezbox at CRUZIO.COM
Sun Apr 23 08:02:25 UTC 2000

My perception of the difference between a "riff" and a "run" (and while we
are at it, why not throw in "lick"?):

A "riff" and a "lick" are a melodic segment, and are more essentially
melodic than a "run".  To my mind a "lick" is shorter and less specific
than a "riff".  An improvising musician is likely to have a lot of licks in
his bag of tricks, but if he becomes too dependent on them he begins to
sound stale.  So they are a bit like musical cliches.  "Riffs" are melodic
sequences upon which the instrumental portions of the song can be hung;
they are going to be more specific to the song, and a good riff can be the
basis for the entire structure.  Just about anyone is going to recognize
some of the riffs that make up the structure of the popular songs of their

A "run" although melodic in form, is more essentially harmonic.  It is more
rigidly based on arpeggios or a scalar passage, and is meant to act as a
transition between chords or as a sketchy harmonic underpinning in itself.

Just my opinion, and not an easy one to define at that.

By the way, there was an extensive discussion of "chops" a few months back
on this list, including its extension into non-musical areas of meaning.

Chuck Borsos
Santa Cruz, CA

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