Riff Scramble

A fun game of reinventing and deciphering classic rock guitar themes.
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Last year I had big fun deconstructing a handful of classic rock riffs, by turning them inside out, upside down, and every which way, in order to illustrate the mechanics of power chords. It was a great way to show how great riffs stand on their own, no matter how you slice them up, and it also facilitated a way to hint at music we usually don’t have access to, but the process also became very gamey. So, in the spirit of April Fools’ Day, here we go again.

The following well-known two-bar riffs have been sliced and diced beyond recognition, and the results are analogous to “word scrambles” and anagrams. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to decode and unscramble each notated riff along with its artist and title, both of which are presented as anagrams.

GROUND RULES
1. All pitches and rhythms, including rests, from the original riff must remain intact, regardless of where they are repositioned in a measure.
2. All pitches must remain in the same octave as the original riff. (No octave displacement.)
3. All articulations and note ornaments from the original riff, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and vibratos—must remain intact, although a hammer-on can reverse to a pull-off and vice versa.
4. All rhythms must add up to equal the same number of beats as those in the original riff. 

HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
We’ll illustrate the concept with two bars of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” attributed to the Rolling Stones (!), first notated in Ex. 1a in its original form. (This would be the solution to the riff scramble.)

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig1a

Ex. 1b establishes a template for all of the scrambles that follow. Each begins with a pair of anagrams, which, when solved, reveal the song title and the name of the artist. The adjacent blank spaces denote the number of words and how many letters each contains. The scrambled riff transcription follows, captioned with a few valuable clues designed to help you solve the puzzle. You can start with the anagrams, but the most musical approach would be to play the example first and try unscrambling it before revealing the artist and title. 

Ex. 1b
A HARDBALL MAY MELT IT - _ _ _ _   _ _ _   _   _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _
LONELIEST THRONGS - _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ 

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig1b

Clues: Kids love it; Covered by Brit quintet named after a Muddy Waters song; Band gathers no moss; Play it behind your head. 

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig1cd

Figures 1c and 1d show two more scrambles of the same melody. Note how a displaced dotted quarter note can appear as an eighth note tied to a quarter note (its notational equivalent). Any note and its original rhythm is eligible for displacement. Get the idea? Well, okay then. Game on! 

Ex. 2
ROMANCING NIL - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _
- ONLINE GUY - _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ 

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig2

Clues: Renowned for one-note solo; Gretsch semi-hollowbody electric through a cranked Fender Deluxe played by a loner; Break out the fringe jacket!

Ex. 3
YOU FEVERISH SOLO NUN - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _   _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ - MR. ACE - _ _ _ _ _

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig3

Clues: Worldwide blues-rock hit that defined the power trio genre—state-of-the-art in ’68. A neck-position humbucker with a rolled back tone control through a cranked Marshall gets the job done properly. 

Ex. 4
A FLATLAND HATH YODELLING - _ _ _   _ _ _   _ _ _   _ _ _   _ _   _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ KENS KITH – _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig4

Clues: Title is equally diurnal and nocturnal; Page-toned bridge humbucker and honking Vox overdrive; Power pop antecedents to the Who sported sparring siblings (not Oasis).

Ex. 5
TARDY PIPER - _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ - BE ATHLETES – _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig5

Clues: Rite-of-passage for throngs of budding guitarists by four Anglophiles, a.k.a. the OAR BUFF (_ _ _   _ _ _ _). A Gretsch or Rickenbacker solidbody feeding a Vox amp will do just fine. Bar 1 looks good in a mirror.

Ex. 6
SAGGY ZIT TURDS - _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ - DEW DIVA BIO – _ _ _ _ _   _ _   _ _ _ (with CONK MINORS – _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _)

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig6

Clues: Epic tale by Rock’s first sci-fi character; Signature power chording courtesy of a Rat from Hell whose nickname rhymes with Bono; Distinctive midrange boost emanated from a Les Paul, cocked wah, and Marshall Major 200 watter.

Ex. 7
FLY YO AXED - _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ - MIRED HIJINX – _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig7

Clues: Title is often misspelled; West Coast expatriate who struck terror in the hearts of his Brit contemporaries; Nothing but a Strat, Marshall, and Fuzz Face will do.

Ex. 8
TWO TOW WORM MUTILATION - _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ - MIRED HIJINX – _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ 

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig8

Clues: Same artist and gear specs as Ex. 8, but with fuzz off and a clean neck-pickup tone to die for; Grace-hammered triads appeared in many subsequent guitarist’s bag of vocabularies (Think “Long Train Running” and “Free Ride.”); Useful for seeing if bassists and drummers are on their toes. (“Ba-bump!”)

Ex. 9
FELINE SATAN ELF HIT - _ _ _ _   _ _   _ _ _   _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _
STAGE HEEL – _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ 

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig9

Clues: ‘70s So-Cal favorite, featuring three guitarists, one a former Measle who once ran for President; Original relied heavily on rhythmic displacement; Dry and gritty rectified bridge humbucker tone highly recommended; Double it! 

Ex. 10
THE MALE TITS - _ _ _   _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ - SNEERING SLOTH LOT – _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ 

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig10

Clues: Early 60’s effort from the English fearsome five-some mentioned earlier; The riff everybody plays wrong; Appropriated by The Verve; Sounds best on a white teardrop Vox Phantom. 

Ex. 11
NOTE ACHE - _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ - DEEP ZEN PILL - _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

GP4.18RiffScram.Fig11

Clues: Heavy British quartet rose from the ashes of HYBRID DATERS (_ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _); Riff contains partial paraphrasing of Tower of Power’s “Down to the Nightclub” (“Bump-ty, bump-ty, bump!”); Can be counted as one continuous bar of 15/8. 

GAME OVER!
The solutions are up to you, but I’m sure you’ll find enough clues to eventually crack the codes. Let us know if you’d like to see a monthly Riff Scramble. 

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