What Is an Arpeggio?

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

Ultimate Guitar
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
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
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
  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
 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
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    
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
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
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                   
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!

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    fahriar akash
    i am a beginner...plz tell me what i need to learn to learn the arpeggio properly?
    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