My knowledge of music is almost nonexistent but, the way I understand the definition, a riff
is a short, simple melody which can be used as part of a larger composition but which has its
own identity and can be played and recognized on its own. For instance, the well-known
Chinese / Asian riff. I suppose other examples of riffs
would be the first few notes of some well-known songs like Jingle Bells or Happy
What I don't know is if an even simpler composition, with only one note and some rhythm would
qualify as a riff. I guess we could call it a "one note riff". One example I have
in mind is the "Let's Go!" used by cheerleaders and fans at sports events worldwide --
you can hear it here-- and which can be heard from the horns of cars
in Spanish cities after the local team has won a match.
Wikipedia says it was created by a musical group called
The Routers (!) in 1962
although it is so simple I suspect it may have existed earlier and they just used it in their
I had a look at the rhythm and found out it is very simple. Clap or tap on the table
fifteen times in a row spaced 1/4 seconds and you get this (download
Listen to it one or two times and you can reproduce it without counting the taps.
Our minds are very good at looking for patterns (and rhythm is one kind of pattern) and,
even though it is just 15 taps all spaced evenly, it mentally grouped them into three groups
of four taps and one last group of three taps. You can easily reproduce the sequence
without need to count the taps as you go along. Just follow the "rhythm".
Now, keeping the timing, remove the second, fourth, eighth and thirteenth taps and
this is what you have. The Let's Go one note riff.
The note separations are 2,2,1,1,2,1,1,1,2,1.
As the brain tries to find melody in the rhythm it may seem like all the notes are not
exactly the same pitch and some are higher than others and sometimes one note riffs are
played by musicians using different notes.
Shave and a haircut
This is another well-known one note riff. In case you do not know what I'm referring
to you can hear it here. This is originally a single note
riff as it is tapped or knocked on any surface but musicians will play the first and two
last notes higher.
This page gives the notation illustrated at right.
I easily made the WAV file using the following parameters:
7 taps separated 2,1,1,2,4,2 units, basic separation unit 150 ms.