What Is an Arpeggio?

A 3 sectioned lesson on arpeggios and ideas for playing them.

5
No theory from me today, my prerequisite is that you understand how arpeggios are built, how to read tabs and some sweep picking skill would make the least section a little more fun. Check out the other lessons here on UG for instruction on these. Firstly, what is an arpeggio? An arpeggio is the notes of a chord picked out individually, notes either bleed into each other or are played staccato. So take a Bm bar chord and strum it. Fig. 1
|-2-
|-3-
|-4-
|-4-
|-2-
|---
Now hold the chord and pick each note by itself, try letting them ring then muting them as you play them with your picking hand. Fig. 2
|---------2-
|-------3---
|-----4-----
|---4-------
|-2---------
|-----------
Well done, you just played an arpeggio. Besides playing the chord arpeggios I like to play single note arpeggios. Take a look at my first lesson here. This covers arpeggio sequences in different scales. It's useful just to learn the major and minor positions so you can grab a basic triad in any position of any key. Now I want to look at 7th arpeggios. Firstly my favorite shapes that are economy picked and then some tap ideas ala Guthrie Govan.

Economy Picked Arpeggios

Fig. 3
|----------
|----------
|----------
|-------4-5
|-----5----
|-3-7------
  u d d d u
  1 4 2 1 2
Major 7th arpeggio there crossing 3 strings. Below it we have the picking pattern and below that my suggested fingering. Now for a minor 7 arpeggio following the same line of thought: Fig. 4
|----------  
|----------  
|-------3-5  
|-----5----  
|-3-6------  
|----------  
 Same picking
  1 4 3 1 3  
Minor 7th arpeggio. These 2 shapes are interchangeable on the E and A strings. Simple quick arpeggios to throw in and lead well into most other kinds of ideas, maybe do one starting on the E then another starting on the A while you're up-picking from the D. GM7, Am7 to DM7 sounds like a fun exercise (try play it with some phrasing).

2 Note Per String Arpeggios

2 notes per string is the order of my next 7th arpeggios. First I want to show you the shapes, then the Guthrie inspired shapes. So from the root in 3 arpeggios: Fig. 5
|-----------------------10-14-
|------------------8-12-------
|-------------7-11------------
|---------5-9-----------------
|-----5-9---------------------
|-3-7-------------------------
First the major arpeggio in G. The idea for playing this is from a video Guthrie Govan did and explained how he took a 2 note per string approach for his 7th arpeggios and how he used them in one of his songs. So the example as follows: Fig. 6
  T  T        T  T       T  T      T T      T T    
|-14----10-----------------------------------------
|----12----8--12----8------------------------------
|----------------11---7--11---7--------------------
|---------------------------9---5--9---5-----------
|------------------------------------9---5--9---5--
|---------------------------------------------7--3-
I seriously hope I tabbed that properly. Basically high notes on 2 strings then low notes on the 2 strings. The high notes you tap with your picking hand and the others you can hammer on from nowhere for this method. Next the minor version of the arpeggio: Fig. 7
|-----------------------10-13-
|-----------------8-12--------
|-------------7-9-------------
|---------5-8-----------------
|-----5-8---------------------
|-3-6-------------------------
So I am not going to tab out the second example for you because it's the same as the last, just your tapping hand is a fret closer to your fretting hand. Play them how you will though, whatever works for you.

Sweep Arpeggios

I am not doing the mechanics of sweep picking. I just want to go over a tired shape and throw in my 5 cents. Our old friend, the minor sweep arpeggio: Fig. 8
|-------------10-14-10---------
|----------12---------12-------
|-------11--------------11-----
|----12-------------------12---
|-14------------------------14-
|------------------------------
Explaining the ideas; if you sweep only the first 3 notes, you can lead away with a slide or some single note picking. Or when you get to the top at the hammer on pull out your Van Halen taps: Fig. 9
             T        T                   
|------10h14h17p14p10h17p14p10------------
|---12-------------------------12---------
|-11-----------------------------11-------
|-----------------------------------12----
|--------------------------------------14-
Descend the taps and go out with a descending scale run if that's your thing. Play around with it. That is it from me. Another long and probably confusing read and I do apologize. I hope this was useful to everybody in some way or another. If you guys want I can go further into the 2 note per string arpeggios and share what I found after seeing the example and looking into them. But that's all from me for now. Until next time, keep rocking!

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    fahriar akash
    i am a beginner...plz tell me what i need to learn to learn the arpeggio properly?
    ayush123ism
    You need to learn how chords are created. Learn a little about harmony, it is the main method that is used to create chords. They are really easy. Cheers