Riff (English riff, etymology unclear) in African American folk music and in some types of professional non-academic music is an ostinata melodic phrase and / or chord sequence that serves as a short refrain of a piece of music. Typical for African American cult music (gospel with its responsive structure), jazz and some varieties of rock music. Occasionally it is also found in other forms and genres of non-academic music, borrowing elements of jazz technique.
Melodic (also melodic-harmonic) ostinato have been used in academic music since the Middle Ages (color in isorhythmic motets), especially often in Renaissance music (see passamezzo, romanesque, folia, Ruggiero, etc.), in baroque music (for example , in Passacaglia c-moll by J.S.Bach), in the music of Viennese classics (a tune from the beginning of L. van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony), etc. (in a jazz ensemble and a jazz orchestra), and it is believed that it goes back not to the academic technique of composition, but to the responsive African American gospel.
In jazz since the 1930s. Riffs are used in a variety of ways, for example, in the form of a roll call of instrumental groups (theme vs. riff), in the form of a refrain interrupting improvisation from time to time, or as an obligatory phrase in the accompaniment, with a characteristic overharmonization during repetition. For the first time, riffs became widespread in jazz bands in the so-called swing era. A striking example of obligate riffs is the blues "One o'clock jump" arranged by Count Basie: at the end of the piece, orchestral groups of trombones, trumpets and saxophones perform three different riffs in counterpoint (recorded in 1943 starting from 2'22; see section " Links "). There are numerous examples of riffs in orchestral arrangements by Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, etc. From jazz, riffs migrated to some forms of rock music, for example, guitar riffs (often dubbed with an electric organ) became a characteristic feature of hard rock in his implementation by the Deep Purple group ("Smoke on the Water", "Rat bat blue", "Sail away", "Lady double dealer", and many others). Guitar riffs have been practiced by other rock bands