One of the most popular tunes at jam sessions and pick up gigs is the Herbie Hancock classic Cantaloupe Island. While you can learn the chord progression, melody, and check out soloing on this tune, many guitarists skip the main riff of the tune. Though it’s originally played on piano, you can easily adapt that riff so it sits comfortably on the fretboard, adding it to your comping on this tune.
In this lesson you learn two positions for a slightly simplified version of the riff, the left hand of the piano is left out to allow this riff to be played by any level guitarist.
Check out both positions, get them under your fingers, then bust them out at your next jam session as you nail the full scope of this tune in your playing.
Cantaloupe Island Riff Position 1
To begin, here’s the first position for the piano riff on guitar to learn and play over the backing track. Go slow with each phrase, learning the Fm7 riff, then the Db7 riff, then the Dm7 chord before fitting it all together.
There’s a formula that you can use to memorize the Fm7 and Db7 chords:
- In each of those riffs, there are 3 different chords.
- If you number them 1-2-3, the first 3 shapes under each of those chords, the riff goes 1-2-3-2-1.
Once you know the order of the chords, and the shapes, you just need to add the rhythm. To do that you can count the rhythms, or listen and play along to the demo track below and grab the rhythms by ear. Either way is fine, so go with what’s easiest and best for you.
After you learn the chords below, work them with a slow metronome before playing them along to the demo track. When you can do that comfortably, play the riff over the backing track.
Listen & Play Along
Cantaloupe Island Riff Position 2
You can also play this riff in a second position, though here you have a big stretch to navigate that may make this position unplayable for some guitarists.
Check out the second chord over Fm7 (10-8-6), that’s the one with the big stretch. If you can play that chord with your pinky-middle-index fingers, then this position will be fine for you to play. But, if you struggle with that chord, not a problem, stick to the first position for now. Over time your fingers will be able to stretch more across the fretboard and that chord will become playable.
Once you have both positions down, play them back to back over the track to hear how they sound the same, but have slightly different tonal qualities.
Listen and Play Along