Embedding Arpeggios Into Your Solos

This follow-up to Linking Pentatonic Scale & Arpeggios will explore how to incorporate arpeggios into your guitar solos, using the most efficient and innovative method yet.

Embedding Arpeggios Into Your Solos
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This is a follow-up to my last lesson, Linking Pentatonic Scales and Arpeggios. Every major and minor pentatonic scale contains an embedded arpeggio, and these arpeggios can be utilized in your improvisation and guitar solo creation. I will be using the pentatonic scales and arpeggios listed below to show how you can find all of the available arpeggios within a chord progression, and then use these arpeggios throughout a solo. If you are unfamiliar with these pentatonic and arpeggio shapes, please check out Linking Pentatonic Scales and Arpeggios for a clear description and multiple exercises.

Major Pentatonic Scale & Arpeggios Review

Here is the Major Pentatonic Scale Shape E4, which has the low root played on the E-string with the 4th finger (hence the name "E4"). Next to it is the Major Arpeggio E4, which contains only the notes of the chord (the Root, 3rd and 5th).
Maj Pent E4                  Maj Arp E4         
                                                
e |-O-|---|---|-R-|          e |---|---|---|-R-|
B |-O-|---|---|-O-|          B |-3-|---|---|-5-|
G |-R-|---|-O-|---|          G |-R-|---|---|---|
D |-O-|---|-O-|---|          D |-5-|---|---|---|
A |-O-|---|-O-|---|          A |---|---|-3-|---|
E |-O-|---|---|-R-|          E |---|---|---|-R-|
Here is the Major Pentatonic Scale Shape A4, which has the low root played on the A-string with the 4th finger (hence the name "A4"). Next to it is the Major Arpeggio A4, which contains only the notes of the chord.
Maj Pent A4                  Maj Arp A4         
                                                
e |-O-|---|---|-O-|          e |-3-|---|---|-5-|
B |---|-R-|---|-O-|          B |---|-R-|---|---|
G |-O-|---|-O-|---|          G |-5-|---|---|---|
D |-O-|---|-O-|---|          D |---|---|-3-|---|
A |-O-|---|---|-R-|          A |---|---|---|-R-|
E |-O-|---|---|-O-|          E |-3-|---|---|-5-|

Minor Pentatonic Scale & Arpeggios Review

Here is the Minor Pentatonic Scale Shape E1, which has the low root played on the E-string with the 1st finger (hence the name "E1"). Next to it is the Minor Arpeggio E1, which contains only the notes of the chord. The flat 3rd is represented by b3.
Min Pent E1                  Min Arp E1         
                                                
e |-R-|---|---|-O-|          e |-R-|---|---|b3-|
B |-O-|---|---|-O-|          B |-5-|---|---|---|
G |-O-|---|-O-|---|          G |b3-|---|---|---|
D |-O-|---|-R-|---|          D |---|---|-R-|---|
A |-O-|---|-O-|---|          A |---|---|-5-|---|
E |-R-|---|---|-O-|          E |-R-|---|---|b3-|
Here is the Minor Pentatonic Scale Shape A1, which has the low root played on the A-string with the 1st finger (hence the name "A1"). Next to it is the Minor Arpeggio A1, which contains only the notes of the chord.
Min Pent A1                  Min Arp A1         
                                                
e |-O-|---|---|-O-|          e |-5-|---|---|---|
B |---|-O-|---|-O-|          B |---|b3-|---|---|
G |-O-|---|-R-|---|          G |---|---|-R-|---|
D |-O-|---|-O-|---|          D |---|---|-5-|---|
A |-R-|---|---|-O-|          A |-R-|---|---|b3-|
E |-O-|---|---|-O-|          E |-5-|---|---|---|
Now the big question: How do you take these pentatonic scales and arpeggios and figure out how to play efficiently over a chord progression? My answer: The 3-Step Method from my book, "A Guitarist's Guide to Improvising With Knowledge." 1) Play the Arpeggios, 2) Play the Scales, and 3) Create A Solo. Here's an example of how this method can be applied, using the following chord progression:
| D   |     | Bm   |     | G    |     | A    |     |

Step 1: Play The Arpeggios

Using the above arpeggio shapes, every major and minor arpeggio may be played in 2 places on the neck (before reaching the 15th fret). One will be located in a lower hand position and will allow you to play lower notes, while the other will be located in a higher hand position and allow you to play higher notes. To play the arpeggios through the chord progression, play the chord progression 2x. The first time, play arpeggios that are available using lower hand positions, and the second time, play arpeggios that are available using higher hand positions. Use quarter notes the entire time and leave one beat of rest between each arpeggio. Constantly alternate starting arpeggios from low roots and high roots to ensure that you are comfortable with different starting points (this will also help the arpeggios to flow better, in a more melodic way). All arpeggio shapes that are being used are listed underneath the chord names.
    D                                 Bm                               
   (Maj Arp A4)                      (Min Arp A1)                      
E |----------------|--2--5--2-------|----------------|----------------|
B |-----------3----|----------------|----------------|----------------|
G |--------2-------|----------------|--4-------------|----------------|
D |-----4----------|----------------|-----4----------|----------------|
A |--5-------------|----------------|--------5--2----|-----2--5-------|
E |----------------|----------------|----------------|--2-------------|

 G                                 A                                
(Maj Arp E4)                      (Maj Arp E4)                      
----------------|--------3-------|--5-------------|----------------|
----------------|--0--3----------|-----5--2-------|----------------|
-----------0----|----------------|-----------2----|----------------|
--------0-------|----------------|----------------|--2-------------|
-----2----------|----------------|----------------|-----4----------|
--3-------------|----------------|----------------|--------5-------|

 D                                 Bm                               
(Maj Arp E4)                      (Min Arp E1)                      
----------------|--------10------|--7-------------|----------------|
----------------|--7--10---------|-----7----------|----------------|
-----------7----|----------------|--------7-------|----------------|
--------7-------|----------------|-----------9----|----------------|
-----9----------|----------------|----------------|--9-------------|
--10------------|----------------|----------------|-----10-7-------|

 G                                 A                                 
(Maj Arp A4)                      (Maj Arp A4)                       
----------------|--7--10-7-------|----------------|----------------||
-----------8----|----------------|--10------------|----------------||
--------7-------|----------------|-----9----------|----------------||
-----9----------|----------------|--------11------|----------------||
--10------------|----------------|-----------12---|----------------||
----------------|----------------|----------------|--12-9--12------||

Step 2: Play the Scales

Similar to the arpeggios, every major and minor pentatonic scale listed above may be played in 2 places on the neck (before reaching the 15th fret). One will be located in a lower hand position and will allow you to play lower notes, while the other will be located in a higher hand position and allow you to play higher notes. To play the pentatonic scales through the chord progression, play the chord progression 2x. The first time, play pentatonic scales that are available using lower hand positions, and the second time, play pentatonic scales that are available using higher hand positions (both of these will be the exact same hand positions that were used for playing the arpeggios!). Instead of quarter notes, use eighth notes and leave one beat of rest between each scale. Continue to alternate starting these scales from low roots and high roots. Lastly, be sure that you end each scale on a chord tone (note of the arpeggio), which may require repeating the last note. This will ensure that each scale has resolved with the chord (a great thing to keep in mind when creating solos!)
    D                                                        
   (Maj Pent A4)                                             
E |-----------------------2----|--5--2----------------------|
B |-----------------3--5-------|--------5--3--3-------------|
G |-----------2--4-------------|----------------------------|
D |-----2--4-------------------|----------------------------|
A |--5-------------------------|----------------------------|
E |----------------------------|----------------------------|

 Bm                                                       
(Min Pent A1)                                             
----------------------------|----------------------------|
----------------------------|----------------------------|
--4--2----------------------|----------------------------|
--------4--2----------------|-----------2--4-------------|
--------------5--2----------|-----2--5-------------------|
--------------------5--2----|--5-------------------------|

 G                                                        
(Maj Pent E4)                                             
----------------------------|-----0--3--0----------------|
-----------------------0----|--3-----------3-------------|
-----------------0--2-------|----------------------------|
-----------0--2-------------|----------------------------|
-----0--2-------------------|----------------------------|
--3-------------------------|----------------------------|

 A                                                        
(Maj Pent E4)                                             
--5--2----------------------|----------------------------|
--------5--2----------------|----------------------------|
--------------4--2----------|----------------------------|
--------------------4--2----|----------------------------|
----------------------------|--4--2----------------------|
----------------------------|--------5--2--5-------------|

 D                                                        
(Maj Pent E4)                                             
----------------------------|-----7--10-7----------------|
-----------------------7----|--10----------10------------|
-----------------7--9-------|----------------------------|
-----------7--9-------------|----------------------------|
-----7--9-------------------|----------------------------|
--10------------------------|----------------------------|

 Bm                                                       
(Min Pent E1)                                             
--7-------------------------|----------------------------|
-----10-7-------------------|----------------------------|
-----------9--7-------------|----------------------------|
-----------------9--7-------|----------------------------|
-----------------------9----|--7-------------------------|
----------------------------|-----10-7--10-10------------|

 G                                                        
(Maj Pent A4)                                             
-----------------------7----|--10-7----------------------|
-----------------8--10------|--------10-8--8-------------|
-----------7--9-------------|----------------------------|
-----7--9-------------------|----------------------------|
--10------------------------|----------------------------|
----------------------------|----------------------------|

 A                                                         
(Maj Pent A4)                                              
----------------------------|----------------------------||
--10------------------------|----------------------------||
-----11-9-------------------|----------------------------||
-----------11-9-------------|----------------------------||
-----------------12-9-------|--------9--12-12------------||
-----------------------12---|--9--12---------------------||

Step 3: Create A Solo

Now that you have a solid understanding of the arpeggios and scales that work with this chord progression, it is time to play a solo. The video below includes the arpeggio and scale exercises, along with a melodic solo that incorporates all scales and arpeggios. However, if you are looking to create your own solo, the options for how to arrange these available notes is nearly infinite. Remember to think ahead so that chord switches will not catch you by surprise, and try to incorporate the arpeggios into your solo so that your playing will link very well with the chord progression.
About the Author: By Greg Studley, author of "Speed, Accuracy & Technique for Guitar" and "Improvising With Knowledge." For more scale exercises, instructional videos, warm-ups, jam-tracks, and other resources to transform your lead guitar playing, please visit ImprovisingWithKnowledge.com.

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    ruggedstyleman
    This lesson is really an eye-opener. The video definitely helped me figure out how to apply this. Thanks!