Arpeggios are great things to make you start understanding chords and the notes within them. A lot of guitarists spend most of their time worrying about lead playing, using licks and solos and trying to play faster and faster (I don’t blame you, it’s fun!!). However it is really important as a guitarist to think about chords and you will actually find your lead playing improves as a result.
So what is an arpeggio? An arpeggio is playing all the notes from a chord in sequence. Lets look at some chord formulas...
1. CHORD FORMULAS
Let's learn some chord types in C major as the C major scale has no sharps or flats so you are only using the white notes on a piano.
Major – 1 3 5
Minor – 1 b3 5
Dominant – 1 3 5 b7
Diminished – 1b3 b5
If you have read our article on the major scale, you may have already seen some of these numbers and understand what they mean. Head over there now and take a look.
Next let's learn these chords on the guitar. This time listen to how each chord sounds. The major chord should sound happy, minor is sad, a dominant chord wants to resolve and a diminished chord should sound dark! But make your own mind up!
C major – A C# E
C7 – A C# E G
C minor – A C E
C Diminished – A C Eb
2. LEARNING THE CHORDS – Key of A major
If we are in the key of A major (which has 3 sharps - F#, C#, G#), we can us the chords A major (CHORD I), C#minor (CHORD iii), E7 (CHORD V) and G#diminished (CHORD VII).
The first thing we should do when learning arpeggios is to learn how to play the chords. There are many places to play each of these chords, but I have decided to stick to one section of the neck. This is a great way to start really understanding the different areas of the neck, by singling out the sections.
E dominant 7
(QUICK TIP- Diminished chords can be moved up 3 frets on a guitar and the chord is the same!)
Make sure you use your ear and really listen to each chord and how it sounds.
The first arpeggio we will learn is the A major arpeggio, notice I have added the chord before each of the examples, make sure you play the chord first and then the arpeggio whilst you are learning these shapes!
Exercise 1 - A major arpeggio (E Shape)
Exercise 2 - C# minor arpeggio (A Shape)
Exercise 3 - E7 arpeggio (C Shape)
Exercise 4 - G#diminished arpeggio (E Shape)
4. CREATIVE Ways to practice Arpeggios
The following exercises are to get you playing around these arpeggios in some creative and cool sounding ways! Give them a go...
Exercise 5 - Ways to Practice Arpeggios (Pattern 1)
Exercise 6 - Ways to Practice Arpeggios (Pattern 2)
Exercise 7 - Ways to Practice Arpeggios (Pattern 3)
Exercise 8 - Ways to Practice Arpeggios (Pattern 4)
Exercise 9 - Ways to Practice Arpeggios (Pattern 5)
5. PLAY ALONG WITH THE BACKING TRACK
I have created a backing track with the chords in this article in the key of A major. Play through the following example and listen out for the changes and it will hopefully aid your improvisation!
6. FINALLY IMPROVISE!
Your final challenge is to improvise over the backing track. Use what we have learnt in this lesson to inspire your solos. Feel free to add in extra notes and play around the arpeggios. The main idea is to make it sound good! Here is my attempt:
Hopefully this has given you some things to think about with arpeggios and now you can start using these shapes in your playing. Record yourself playing over the backing track and tag #BristolHouseofMusic when you do so we can watch your solos!
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