Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 8 (Arpeggios)

Many players completely rely on scales for soloing, but forget that they are soloing over a chord, which can be implied by an arpeggio. Here's a few arpeggio shapes and exercises that can get you started to have a broader approach to improvisation.

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 8 (Arpeggios)
12
This is Lesson 8 of "Improvising With Knowledge" on Ultimate Guitar. These lessons are designed to get you accustomed to improvising with multiple pentatonic scale and arpeggio shapes, and following the chords through a chord progression. All exercises, examples, and solos from these lessons are taken from my book, "A Guitarist's Guide to Improvising With Knowledge."

Here's what we've covered in the previous lessons:

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 1 focused on the Minor Pentatonic Scale Shape E1, notes across the E-string, moving the Min Pent E1 shape across the neck, and soloing over a minor chord.

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 2 focused on the Major Pentatonic Scale Shape E4, understanding flats and sharps, moving the Maj Pent E4 shape around the circle of fifths, and soloing over a major chord.

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 3 focused on alternate picking eighth notes to increase your speed, and incorporating rhythmic and melodic motifs into your improvised solos.

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 4 focused on learning how to solo over a major chord progression or a minor chord progression by FOLLOWING the chords and using different scales for each chord, rather than just using a single scale throughout.

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 5 focused on soloing over a chord progression containing both major and minor chords by FOLLOWING the chords and changing the pentatonic scale as the chord changes. It involves more thought, but produces excellent results.

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 6 focused on adding a new pentatonic scale shape to your repertoire, allowing you to have 2 major pentatonic scale shapes and 2 minor penatonic scale shapes to use when soloing.

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 7 focused on how to improvise using 2 major and minor pentatonic shapes while following the chords through the chord progression.

Improvising With Knowledge: Lesson 8 (Arpeggios)

So far, I have focused on using major/minor pentatonic scale shapes for soloing, and moving those shape around the neck to solo over a set of chords. As the last lesson started to show, the more shapes you have, the less you have to move your hand. Just as a review, here are the pentatonic scales that have been introduced and applied to the lessons so far:

Maj Pent E4
(low root is played on the E string with the 4th finger)
e |-O-|---|---|-R-|
B |-O-|---|---|-O-|
G |-R-|---|-O-|---|
D |-O-|---|-O-|---|
A |-O-|---|-O-|---|
E |-O-|---|---|-R-|
Min Pent E1
(low root is played on the E string with the 1st finger)
e |-R-|---|---|-O-|
B |-O-|---|---|-O-|
G |-O-|---|-O-|---|
D |-O-|---|-R-|---|
A |-O-|---|-O-|---|
E |-R-|---|---|-O-|
Maj Pent A4
(low root is played on the A string with the 4th finger)
e |-O-|---|---|-O-|
B |---|-R-|---|-O-|
G |-O-|---|-O-|---|
D |-O-|---|-O-|---|
A |-O-|---|---|-R-|
E |-O-|---|---|-O-|
Min Pent A1
(low root is played on the A string with the 1st finger)
e |-O-|---|---|-O-|
B |---|-O-|---|-O-|
G |-O-|---|-R-|---|
D |-O-|---|-O-|---|
A |-R-|---|---|-O-|
E |-O-|---|---|-O-|
Pentatonic scales are not the only tool that can be utilized for soloing, however. Major and minor chords are both considered triads, since they each contain three notes. Those notes may be repeated numerous times when playing a chord, but there are still only three notes. When these notes are played simultaneously, it is considered to be a chord. But, when these notes are played separately, they are considered to be an arpeggio.

Arpeggios are great to use when soloing, because they link perfectly with the chord, since the notes are exactly the same. First, we will discuss the major arpeggios based upon the pentatonic scale shapes that we have already covered.

Major Arpeggios

Major arpeggios must consist of three notes: the root, the third, and the fifth. Here are the diagrams for two major arpeggios. The roots, thirds and fifths are labeled within the diagrams as "R" "3" and "5." Notice that the arpeggios are just selected notes from the major pentatonic scales, not really a completely new shape.

Maj Arpeggio E4
(low root is played on the E string with the 4th finger)
e |---|---|---|-R-|
B |-3-|---|---|-5-|
G |-R-|---|---|---|
D |-5-|---|---|---|
A |---|---|-3-|---|
E |---|---|---|-R-|
Maj Arpeggio A4
(low root is played on the A string with the 4th finger)
e |-3-|---|---|-5-|
B |---|-R-|---|---|
G |-5-|---|---|---|
D |---|---|-3-|---|
A |---|---|---|-R-|
E |-3-|---|---|-5-|
The video below contains exercises with scrolling TAB that can get you accustomed to playing these major arpeggio shapes. Here are the same exercises as text if you prefer:

Here is the A major arpeggio using the Major Arpeggio E4 shape. It is first played from the low root, and then played from the high root.
E |----------|----------|----------|--5-------|----------|----------|----------|
B |----------|----------|--2--5----|-----5----|--2-------|----------|----------|
G |----------|-----2----|----------|----------|-----2----|----------|----------|
D |----------|--2-------|----------|----------|----------|--2-------|----------|
A |-----4----|----------|----------|----------|----------|-----4----|----------|
E |--5-------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|--5-------|
--5-------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|--5-------||
-----5----|--2-------|----------|----------|----------|--2--5----|----------||
----------|-----2----|----------|----------|-----2----|----------|----------||
----------|----------|--2-------|----------|--2-------|----------|----------||
----------|----------|-----4----|-----4----|----------|----------|----------||
----------|----------|----------|--5-------|----------|----------|----------||
Here is the A major arpeggio using the Major Arpeggio A4 shape. It is first played from the low root, and then played from the high root.
E |----------|----------|--9--12---|--9-------|----------|----------|----------|
B |----------|-----10---|----------|-----10---|----------|----------|----------|
G |----------|--9-------|----------|----------|--9-------|----------|----------|
D |-----11---|----------|----------|----------|-----11---|----------|----------|
A |--12------|----------|----------|----------|----------|--12------|----------|
E |----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|-----12---|--9--12---|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|-----9----|
----------|--10------|----------|----------|----------|----------|--10------|
----------|-----9----|----------|----------|----------|-----9----|----------|
----------|----------|--11------|----------|----------|--11------|----------|
--12------|----------|-----12---|----------|-----12---|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|--12-9----|--12------|----------|----------|
--12-9----|----------||
----------|--10------||
----------|----------||
----------|----------||
----------|----------||
----------|----------||
Here is a combination exercise that has you play the B major pentatonic scale and arpeggio in each available hand position. First use Maj Pent E4 and Maj Arp. E4, then use Maj Pent A4 and Maj Arp. A4.
E |----------------------------|-----4--7--4----------------|
B |-----------------------4----|--7-----------7--4----------|
G |-----------------4--6-------|--------------------6--4----|
D |-----------4--6-------------|----------------------------|
A |-----4--6-------------------|----------------------------|
E |--7-------------------------|----------------------------|
----------------------------|-------|----------------|--------7-------|
----------------------------|-------|----------------|--4--7-----7----|
----------------------------|-------|-----------4----|----------------|
--6--4----------------------|-------|--------4-------|----------------|
--------6--4----------------|-------|-----6----------|----------------|
--------------7--4--7L------|--7----|--7-------------|----------------|
----------------|-------|-------|-----------------------11---|
--4-------------|-------|-------|-----------------12-14------|
-----4----------|-------|-------|-----------11-13------------|
--------4-------|-------|-------|-----11-13------------------|
-----------6----|-------|-------|--14------------------------|
----------------|--7----|-------|----------------------------|
--14-11---------------------|----------------------------|-------|
--------14-12---------------|----------------------------|-------|
--------------13-11---------|----------------------------|-------|
--------------------13-11---|----------------------------|-------|
----------------------------|--14-11----------11-14L-----|--14---|
----------------------------|--------14-11-14------------|-------|
----------------|--11-14-11------|----------------|----------------||
-----------12---|-----------12---|----------------|----------------||
--------11------|----------------|--11------------|----------------||
-----13---------|----------------|-----13---------|----------------||
--14------------|----------------|--------14------|--------14------||
----------------|----------------|-----------14---|--11-14---------||

Minor Arpeggios

Similar to major arpeggios, minor arpeggios must also consist of three notes. These notes are a bit altered, however, as they contain the root, the flat third, and the fifth. This flat third is what makes the minor chord (and arpeggio) sound different from the major. Here are the diagrams for two minor arpeggios. The roots, flat thirds and fifths are labeled within the diagrams as "R" "b3" and "5." Again, the arpeggios are just selected notes from the minor pentatonic scales, not really a completely new shape.

Min Arpeggio E1
(low root is played on the E string with the 1st finger)
e |-R-|---|---|-b3|
B |-5-|---|---|---|
G |-b3|---|---|---|
D |---|---|-R-|---|
A |---|---|-5-|---|
E |-R-|---|---|-b3|
Min Arpeggio A1
(low root is played on the A string with the 1st finger)
e |-5-|---|---|---|
B |---|-b3|---|---|
G |---|---|-R-|---|
D |---|---|-5-|---|
A |-R-|---|---|-b3|
E |-5-|---|---|---|
The video below contains exercises with scrolling TAB that can get you accustomed to playing these minor arpeggio shapes. Here are the same exercises as text if you prefer:

Here is the F minor arpeggio using the Minor Arpeggio E1 shape. It is first played from the low root, and then played from the high root.
E |----------|----------|----------|--1--4----|--1-------|----------|----------|
B |----------|----------|-----1----|----------|-----1----|----------|----------|
G |----------|----------|--1-------|----------|----------|--1-------|----------|
D |----------|-----3----|----------|----------|----------|-----3----|----------|
A |----------|--3-------|----------|----------|----------|----------|--3-------|
E |--1--4----|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|-----4----|
----------|--1-------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|-----1----|----------|----------|----------|----------|-----1----|
----------|----------|--1-------|----------|----------|----------|--1-------|
----------|----------|-----3----|----------|----------|-----3----|----------|
----------|----------|----------|--3-------|----------|--3-------|----------|
--1-------|----------|----------|-----4----|--1--4----|----------|----------|
--1--4----|--1-------||
----------|----------||
----------|----------||
----------|----------||
----------|----------||
----------|----------||
Here is the F minor arpeggio using the Minor Arpeggio A1 shape. It is first played from the low root, and then played from the high root.
E |----------|----------|-----8----|----------|----------|----------|----------|
B |----------|----------|--9-------|--9-------|----------|----------|----------|
G |----------|-----10---|----------|-----10---|----------|----------|----------|
D |----------|--10------|----------|----------|--10------|----------|----------|
A |--8--11---|----------|----------|----------|-----11---|--8-------|--8-------|
E |----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|-----8----|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|--8-------|----------||
----------|----------|----------|----------|-----9----|-----9----|----------||
--10------|----------|----------|----------|--10------|----------|--10------||
-----10---|----------|----------|-----10---|----------|----------|----------||
----------|--11-8----|-----8----|--11------|----------|----------|----------||
----------|----------|--8-------|----------|----------|----------|----------||
Here is a combination exercise that has you play the D minor pentatonic scale and arpeggio in each available hand position. First use Min Pent A1 and Min Arp. A1, then use Min Pent E1 and Min Arp. E1.
E |----------------------------|--5--8--5-------------------|
B |--------------------6--8----|-----------8--6-------------|
G |--------------5--7----------|-----------------7--5-------|
D |--------5--7----------------|-----------------------7----|
A |--5--8----------------------|----------------------------|
E |----------------------------|----------------------------|
----------------------------|-------|----------------|-----5----------|
----------------------------|-------|----------------|--6-----6-------|
----------------------------|-------|-----------7----|-----------7----|
--5-------------------------|-------|--------7-------|----------------|
-----8--5-----------5L------|--5----|--5--8----------|----------------|
-----------8--5--8----------|-------|----------------|----------------|
----------------|-------|-------|----------------------------|
----------------|-------|-------|----------------------------|
----------------|-------|-------|--------------------10-12---|
--7-------------|-------|-------|--------------10-12---------|
-----8--5-------|--5----|-------|--------10-12---------------|
-----------5----|-------|-------|--10-13---------------------|
--------10-13-10------------|----------------------------|-------|
--10-13----------13-10------|----------------------------|-------|
-----------------------12---|--10------------------------|-------|
----------------------------|-----12-10------------------|-------|
----------------------------|-----------12-10------------|-------|
----------------------------|-----------------13-10L-----|--10---|
----------------|--------10-13---|--10------------|----------------||
----------------|-----10---------|-----10---------|----------------||
----------------|--10------------|--------10------|----------------||
-----------12---|----------------|-----------12---|----------------||
--------12------|----------------|----------------|--12------------||
--10-13---------|----------------|----------------|-----13-10------||
The next Improvising With Knowledge Lesson will cover how to incorporate these arpeggios into your improvisation so that they may soon be used in solos as well. Be sure to practice them thoroughly so that you have total control when applying them to soloing. PLAY WITH KNOWLEDGE!!!

Use the following video to practice all of the different exercises listed above, with scrolling TAB so you can play along. 


About the Author:
By Greg Studley, author of "A Guitarist's Guide to Improvising With Knowledge," "Speed, Accuracy & Technique for Guitar," and "Essentials of Rhythm Guitar." You can also download PDF versions of the exercises and play with free jam tracks at www.ImprovisingWithKnowledge.com.

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    bicini
    Thank you for doing this. I've been using your course and its been helping me. When I get famous,I'll give you a plug.