Soloing Basics II. Part 4 - Arpeggio

This lesson revolves around of the misunderstood entity known as the arpeggio.

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Today's lesson revolves around of the 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 ninth 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----------------]
So there you have it. See, that wasn't such a chore. Notice that we haven't even touched the myriad of arpeggios available in classical music. But check them out for your own research. Figure out your own arpeggios and try them. Just take the chord formula that you want to arpeggiate and figure out a way to finger it.

41 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    METALLICA2K9
    good lesson u put apreggios into a simple definition and gave us great examples of easy and intermediate ones 4 stars (notice how i do not act like a moron by saying oh yay i am 1st)
    Ead
    Awesome lessons Just wanted to point out that in Stairway to Heaven.. the chord named as Bm7 could also be D first inversion couldnt it
    sentoroney
    great..it can exercise ir finger...nice lesson dude... HI 2 all frend hir n davao like my "ATEH"..i luv u!!!!
    ace_brendan
    it worked great and iam only 15 i had the best guitar solo for my school talent show it was a standing o
    ThePartyBoy
    Good lesson, except, isn't E major E---..4- B---..5--- G---..4---.. D---6 ---.. A-7---.. E---.. E minor, not major? But then again, I'm really new with guitar and chords n' all that good stuff, so please correct me if I'm wrong.
    silentdud
    well somoene should mention that a solid grounding in basic theory is necesary to understand this, triads etc. archepegiating is just playing the firsts thirds and fifths in the major scale...
    JadeFalcon5
    nice lesson, i dont quite understand all the theory (mainly because i havent memorized all of the chord formulas but i can play most arpegios pretty fast and well, so this was also good practice for me good job!
    Insanity207
    Hey everyone, i read these lessons and stuff and i do the exiresizes but i never really bothered to learn them for one reason, what if this isnt the RIGHT way do to this or how do i know this isnt some random person that really doent know what there doing or playing? and should i get lessons from a prossional rather then going through the internet and learning myself? just message me if you reply im not going to check this later thnx for the help
    Danny7
    Wow, you didnt say "I am first", you must be some kind of hero.. I knew arepggios, but this takes it one step further. If there were 3 1/2 stars I'd give it.. but you get 4.
    distraught
    Awesome lesson, thank you! For anyone else out there, I'd definitely recommend getting "the gig bag book of arpeggios" and using as part of your practice routine. It'll definitely add flavor to your playing no matter what style you play!
    fernyherrera
    It was a good lesson man, i just dont really understand what is the whole point of using apreggios, but your explaining was good
    zeusplayer44
    yah i sort of agree with fernyherrera, whats the point? i mean i know the point, i use arpeggios, they sound really cool, listen to metallica for god sake but you dont really need a lesson on it....you just strum a chord slowly, maybe play with the notes a little.....its somthing you should mess around with not buy a book on
    NoNeed4aName
    still dont get it....i readet all the lessons now and played them as good as could.. kept reading it over and over agin and agin...still donsent get anything else than the basic part 1.
    GayPower
    Good lesson, except I thought that a an arpeggio was a series of consecutive notes ie like a,a#,b,b# and the melody for example e--1 b--0 g--0 d--0 a--0 e--0 the n e--5-- b--5--6 g--0---..7 d--0---..9 a--0-- -..10 e--0---..11---etc etc etc then e ---5~~~..
    hotttmale
    but you dont really need a lesson on it....you just strum a chord slowly
    WRONG!!
    Comet
    Exellent, really good indeed, just got a bit confused in the difference between a 3 note arpeggio and a triad...
    Arcaobord
    battleaxe wrote: Arpeggios, way way way easier to perform on pianos rather than guitar,
    no shit! ya think!?! lol great lesson! but i think i prefer just playing notes in a key and mess with them until they sound good, i dont like memorizing all the different patterns...