Have you ever come across the term “arpeggio” since you have started playing the guitar?
Did your guitar instructor tell you about what guitar Arpeggios are and how to use them to take your playing to an advanced level?
Maybe or maybe not, but today we will discuss guitar Arpeggios, also known as broken chords.
Nevertheless, first things first.
What is a Guitar Arpeggio?
The term Arpeggio is derived from an Italian word arpeggiare, meaning ‘playing on a herp’
Arpeggios often known as ‘broken chords‘ are basically notes of a chord played one at a time instead of strummed together.
Working on arpeggios for beginner guitar players will unlock the space between running scales and strumming chords. This will give you a better understanding of musical harmony, in its widest sense. It is a way where two or more notes can be combined in a single guitar composition.
If you are a rhythm guitarist, your playing will somehow sound more compassionate and specific.
When you are playing the lead, your solos will create a more meaningful story by better corresponding the passing chords of the song.
When you start practising an arpeggio, you would usually start with playing the notes in order; for e.g., Root note, 3rd note, 5th note, and 7th note for a major 7th arpeggio.
Most arpeggios consist of 4 notes each, so it is possible to play 9th, 11th and 13th arpeggios but they are not that common and moreover there are other simple methods to use the 4 note type that will give you all the notes.
What are the 5 things you need to know about this pivotal soloing technique?
How would arpeggio help you?
Arpeggios basically create a fast and flowing sound, and while using them for speed in playing, arpeggios can improve your improvisation skills.
Since all the notes of arpeggios are held in its chords, you can merge them in your solos in the chord structure beneath to generate cool-sounding licks.
Arpeggios are not only going with jazz, but it can also go very well with playing basic melodies and blues.
Arpeggios, Scales and Chords
Hopefully, in your guitar lessons, you might have already hit the scales, involving the major scale and the pentatonic scale, sequences that are used in pock, rock, and soft rock music.
Scales are basically a precise arrangement of notes, which is separated by a formula of intervals, which fall under a specific key and broaden from the root note to the next octave.
For example, a G major scale starts with its root, “G” and extends through the note A,B,C,D,E and F#, going towards the G, an octave beyond the root.
Whereas, Arpeggios are a series of notes played individually (one by one) consisting of the notes with a specific chord. For instance, G major arpeggio would be G,B,D. Like a scale, the arpeggio is precise, and it is just a set of notes that you play one at a time.
Unlike a scale, when an arpeggio’s sequence is taken together, it forms a chord.
Which Arpeggios to learn first?
According to me, the best guitar arpeggios to start learning with are the major triad that is 1, 3 and 5 flawed by the minor triad which is 1, b3 and 5. The major & minor triads are known to be the most used and common guitar arpeggios in music.
A triad contains only three notes, whereas an arpeggio can be extended with chords of major 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th etc., offering endless possibilities.
There are five arpeggios shapes for each chord. But, rushing to learn lots of arpeggio shapes would be a waste of time and energy if you do not use it all.
The best practice is to learn them as you need them.
Apart from the general five CAGED shapes for each arpeggio, there is a 7th shape for which there is just one arpeggio.
Start learning arpeggio in different positions on the neck. So, you eventually become used to the shapes of the arpeggio rather than concentrating on which frets to put your fingers in. Do not rush while learning the shape and try to master each one at a time.
Although you must get all five shapes down, it is better to learn one shape perfectly than to play five shapes imperfectly.
To master the shapes practice moving from one shape to another, back and forth.
Different Picking Styles
You can play guitar arpeggios in several ways such as legato, alternate picking, sweep picking, hammer-ons and pull-offs.
Nonetheless, when it comes to experienced players, you should know about the lead techniques. Alongside, you must have confidence while playing arpeggios at a higher speed such as finger rolling and string skipping. Try experimenting with each way of playing the arpeggio and observe which one goes best for you and your style.
Fingerpicking chords can be technically said arpeggios as the chords are broken up; the individual notes are not typically silenced after they are played. Thus, it rings in sync. The one who is listening can literally hear the entire chord from the vibrations of every individual note.
While you play an arpeggio, you should remember muting each note instantly after picking it by lifting the fretting finger. This will prevent the notes from melting into one another and sounding like a strummed chord.
You should keep in mind that every note should sound individual. Before you speed up your play, slowly perfect your form. This is essential because you do not need to create a bad habit which needs to be corrected later.
If you are fairly new to guitar arpeggios, you should always mind starting and ending on a root note. It means the note upon which a chord is built. This will help you train your ears perfectly to hear the scale. Learning to play arpeggio is not rocket science. The above-mentioned points will help you to learn and grow your arpeggio playing style slowly.
This is a guest post by one of the finest guitar instructors, Billy Boissonneault. He has been a music enthusiast and professional instrumentalist for the last 20 years. Currently, he is Edmonton, Canada with having 26,000 lessons taught. He owns a music blog that runs on the name of the Guitar Instructor. Billy provides guitar training in Edmonton for all ages and abilities both online and offline.
Hi Billy, I appreciate this great article on the techniques I can use to improve my guitar arpeggio technique. one thing that I’m really interested in is getting the shapes/patterns down but I’m confused about how to find these for the keys. Can you elaborate?