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Vocal Riffs and Runs for Beginners

January 4, 2024

Riffs and runs are so fun, but they can be intimidating. That’s why we’re starting out easy, with a simple 3-note run. We’ll add on one pitch at a time, ending with a 5-note run pattern you might recognize. I’m Camille van Niekerk, here today with 30 Day Singer, and I invite you to follow along!



The first pattern is just 3 notes, descending.


First we’ll sing on numbers. If you know solfege, this is “mi re do”; if you know scale degrees, this is 3-2-1. But for beginners, we’ll count forwards on 1, 2, 3. Listen and repeat as we gradually speed up. 


Same pattern, now on “oo”. Notice, we’re still keeping each pitch separate. Give it a try, and we’ll gradually speed up. 


Last step: remove the separation between pitches. Again, speed up gradually. 


Adding on one pitch at the end, our next pattern sounds like this. We’ll follow those same steps from before. Experienced musicians, you’re now singing MRDL, or 3216; everyone else, sing 1234.


You might recognize our final pattern from a number of songs; the one that comes to mind for me is “Always be my baby” by Mariah Carey. 


Solfege folks, this is MRDLS; scale degree folks, this is 32165. Everyone else, sing 12345. Same steps as before.


Leave a comment if you recognize these riff patterns from other songs!


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