Soloing Basics. Part 4 - Arpeggios

author: UG Team date: 07/31/2003 category: soloing
rating: 9 / votes: 42 
Today's lesson revolves around an oft misunderstood entity known as... the arpeggio. The first quesion that pops into everyone's mind at the mention of this enigmatic term is, "What's an arpeggio?" The fact that it sounds like a type of pasta does not diminish in the least its tremendous usefullness in the world of soloing. What's an arpeggio? An arpeggio is essentially a chord that is played one note at a time. Simple as that. See, this isn't so tough. If we analyze this to the nth degree we can say that a strum is also a chord played one note at a time... just with very little time between each note. My response to this is that if the time interval between the notes does not fall to within a quantized amount (16th note, 32nd note, 64th note etc) then we call it a strum. You can differ on that point if you like... but let's continue. Let's start with some examples of easy arpeggios to get a better idea of what one is. Here are a few in TAB form:
   D major
E--2-------
B----3-----
G------2---
D--------0-
A----------
E----------

   A minor
E--0----------
B----1--------
G------2------
D--------2----
A----------0--
E-------------

   Bm7
E--2---------
B----3-------
G------2-----
D--------4---
A----------2-
E------------

   E major
E---------4-
B-------5---
G-----4-----
D---6-------
A-7---------
E-----------

   Em7/11 (I didn't say they had to difficult)
E-----------0--
B---------0----
G-------0------
D-----0--------
A---0----------
E-0------------

   Am13
E-------------7-
B---------5-6---
G-------5-------
D-----5---------
A---5-----------
E-5-------------
The current shredding movement has made the use of arpeggios seem a daunting task. What with full 6 and 7 note arpeggios played with a single sweep at blazing speed. But we needn't think of arpeggios in these terms. Arpeggios can be played slowly and deliberately to make a wonderful statement and outline the underlying chords. Arpeggios can also be just a few notes. A simple triad arpeggiated during a solo can be most effective and can really help soloists get away from the diatonic or pentatonic scale runs. Compare two descending runs: Fast descending pentatonic run (triplets over eighth notes)
   Am                                                E
   1     +     2     +     3     +     4     +       1
E--8-5---5-----------------------------------------]---
B------8---8-5-8-5---5-----------------------------]---
G------------------7---7-5-7-5---5-----------------]---
D------------------------------7---7-5-7-5---5-----]---
A------------------------------------------7---7-5-]-7-
E--------------------------------------------------]---

Apeggiated Chords

   Am                Am7         Amsus4        E
    1    2     +     3     +     4     +       1
E---8----8--5--------------------------------]----
B--------------5-----8--5--------------------]----
G-----------------5--------5-----7--5--------]----
D-----------------------------7--------7-----]----
A-----------------------------------------5--]-7--
E--------------------------------------------]----
   C     C  A  E  C  G  E  C  A  D  C  A  D    E
Now both these examples are totally useful. Each starts high on the third of the scale (C) and ends on the fifth (E). The first one has been heard in a thousand tunes and is in every blues/rock players repertoire. It makes a statement of speed and destination... "I'm up, and I'm showing you how fast I can get down... " The second example uses an arpeggiated A minor chord with a few variations. It is played more slowly so that the sound of the underlying A minor chord may be heard, and therefore complimented. Notice how an arpeggio is just a scale with some of the notes missing? Hey... good for you. Just like a chord is made up of selected notes from the scale (Root, third, fifth, seventh etc... ) So an arpeggio will just be selected notes from a scale too. In fact... look at the example of the arpeggio for the Am13 chord above. Can you see the scale for that chord? That's right... it's:
A--B--C--D---E--F---G
r--9--3--11--5--13--7
  (2)   (4)     (6)  
remember that 9=2, 11=4 & 13=6. So just playing an A minor scale is arpeggiating an Am13 chord! Let's look at a few more arpeggios. An obvious arpeggio sequence would be the opening chords to Stairway to Heaven. We all know it but I'll write it out anyway for example (Actually I stole from the net this morning).
  Am      *Am       C       Bm7       Fmaj7
E-------5-7-----7-|-8-----8-2-----2-|-0---------0-----|-----------------|
B-----5-----5-----|---5-------3-----|---1---1-----1---|-0-1-1-----------|
G---5---------5---|-----5-------2---|-----2---------2-|-0-2-2-----------|
D-7-------6-------|-5-------4-------|-3---------------|-----------------|
A-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-2-0-0---0--/8-7-|
E-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
*Am= Am/maj7add9
A good soloing example is in David Gilmour's solo in "Mother" from "The Wall". The final line of the solo is a Gsus4 kind of arpeggio that goes:
E--8-7-8-7---------------
B----------8-------------
G------------7-----------
D--------------10-9------
A-------------------10---
E------------------------
   C B C B G D C  B  G
Another example is in Mark Knopfler's first solo in Sultans of Swing. (Selected arpeggios)
  A                       Dm               C
E-------5--9--12b(13)--]--10-----------]-/13-12--------------------]
B-----5----------------]-----10--------]--------13-----------13-13-]
G---6------------------]--------10-----]-----------12--14p12-------]
D-7--------------------]-----------12--]---------------------------]
A----------------------]---------------]---------------------------]
E----------------------]---------------]---------------------------]

  Bb                C
E----------------]---------------]
B-----3--6--3----]-----5--6/8-6--]
G---3------------]---5-----------]
D-3--------------]-5-------------]
A----------------]---------------]
E----------------]---------------]
And of course his arpeggios from the outro solo
  Dm               Bb              C
E--13p10----10--]--13p10----10--]--15p12----12--]
B--------10-----]--------11-----]--------13-----]
G---------------]---------------]---------------]
D---------------]---------------]---------------]
A---------------]---------------]---------------]
E---------------]---------------]---------------]
Here are a few more examples of arpeggiated chords. () = an optional note
Dm7  (D-F-A-C)

E----------5--8--5-----------
B--------6---------6---------
G--(5)-7--------------7-(5)--
D----------------------------
A----------------------------
E----------------------------

Emaj7 (E-G#-B-D#)
                    tp
E----------4--(7)--(12)--
B--------4---------------
G------4-----------------
D----6-------------------
A--7---------------------
E------------------------

  Asus4 (A-C#-E-D) or (Aadd11)
E-----------------
B--15p14----------
G--------14-------
D-----------14----
A--------------12-
E-----------------

   Dadd9 (D-F#-A-E)
              tp
E---------5--(10)--
B-------7----------
G-----9------------
D---7--------------
A-5----------------
E------------------

D minor (D-F-A)    (play Bb as grace note)
E--5h6p5---------
B--------6-------
G----------5/7---
D----------------
A----------------
E----------------
Arpeggios don't have to be played on different strings. In fact a good example of single string arpeggios would be the final tapping sequence in Eruption. Here Eddie just plays a series of arpeggiated triads
  C# minor   A major    D#dim      B major
E---------]----------]----------]----------]
B--2^5^9--]--2^5^10--]--4^7^10--]--4^7^12--]
G---------]----------]----------]----------]
D---------]----------]----------]----------]
A---------]----------]----------]----------]
E---------]----------]----------]----------]
  C# E G#    C# E A     D# F# A     D# F# B

   E major     C major     Em7       D major
E-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
B--5^9^12---]--5^8^13--]--5^8^15--]--7^10^15-]--
G-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
D-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
A-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
E-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
   E G# B      E G C      E G D      F# A 

    F#m7       E major     Em7
E-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
B--7^10^17--]-9^12^17--]-12^15^17-]-..etc...-]--
G-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
D-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
A-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
E-----------]----------]----------]----------]--
   F# A E      G# B E     B D E
As your playing gets more complex, so too can more intricate arpeggios be worked into your solos. Here are a few: (Try playing them forwards and backwards) (Try modifying them with altered notes to make new chords).
Am
E---------------------8-12--]
B-----------------10--------]
G-----------5--9------------]
D---------7-----------------]
A-------7-------------------]
E-0-5-8---------------------]
  E A C E A C  E  A   C  E

  E7
E------------11-]
B--------12-----]
G---------------]
D---------------]
A----11---------]
E-12------------]
  E  G#  B   D

C6/9b5
E----------------]
B----------10-12-]
G-------11-------]
D----14----------]
A-15-------------]
E----------------]
  C  E  Gb A  B

E9
E----------------]
B----------3--7--]
G-------4--------]
D----6-----------]
A-7--------------]
E----------------]
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