Soloing Basics. Part 4 - Arpeggios

This lesson revolves around an of 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.

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Today's lesson revolves around an oft 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 nth 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----------------]

41 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Magic Noden
    Nice job, I was looking for a way to write solos, this is really simple and qick, thx
    breaknahabit
    i see a bit of that fab and cheesey crossroads guitar duel in there good article anything remotely to do with steve vai is kewl
    Reggy
    Ugh...losing the will to live...youre all gonna hate my ass soon....same as the last 3 or 4 or however the hell many lessons this guy has done, straight from a book by Joe Bennett... HEY!! Is your name Joe Bennett???
    Jlambertguitar
    now this is a truly amazing lesson and nobody has had a debate over arpeggios. i tried explaining this to ma mate that arpeggios are different than sweeps lol but he wouldnt have it.. now that is truly a good lesson =] thanks dude XD
    miskatsu
    hoah... Im so frustrated with my "Soloing skills"... I can't even focus on this lesson... I am depressed... Played half a year guitar, and I think I demand too much from myself... How long have you played guitar? How long it take to go soloing?
    Xylon701
    Really good lesson! i knew all this but as for those who didn't know this i can see how it would be a lot of help. i'm glad to see some people still make good lessons
    MetalFTA
    this is a good lesson but i need more help. in my first year of playing to my 2.5 year i was thinking i was making alot of progress. just recently i have been trying to get better and i have gotten into sweeping rippid hammer and pulls and scales. though ive done this ive seemed to flat plain is there any advice any one can give me ...besides practise practise practise
    gamejokerr
    [02/09/2007 - 02:49 pm] by gamejokerr : | artist: My Chemical Romance Tabs Print this tab tabbed by: f1f2 [ 66 votes ] [11/14/2006 - 05:40 am] by f1f2 : | wooops this one was the non-updated one in my pc.. nahh... sorry, i updated it immediately... [11/14/2006 - 10:46 am] by Mathamology : | Is this the updated version? I'll give you permission to put my tab (House of Wolves) in here, if you credit it to me But its up to you, if you want to keep it all your own work then that's cool. However, if you want my House of Wolves in there, send me a PM/email and I'll check it over once and send it to you [11/14/2006 - 03:10 pm] by Guitarmaster12 : | Finally, someone tabbed the album, thanx, 5 stars :} [11/14/2006 - 03:41 pm] by vmanoman : | wow. i deem you god [11/15/2006 - 06:19 am] by f1f2 : | Thanks to all [11/15/2006 - 06:30 am] by geminivenom : | the WTTBP here is better among the others [11/15/2006 - 03:10 pm] by pirate_jessus : | Well done, this is way over due. =] [11/15/2006 - 03:49 pm] by ed182 : | yes people, come one and all, look at my amazing chords, they are amazing [11/15/2006 - 04:57 pm] by Jawkster : | wow, you got my grats because you actually had time to put this together :o well done! 5 star! (plus i was waiting for it too for some time lol) [11/15/2006 - 070 pm] by KileManA7X : | Great tab. Very, very good. Thanks for tabing the whole album! [11/16/2006 - 077 am] by f1f2 : | alright!!! i'm just gonna make a guitar pro tab for Cancer! [11/18/2006 - 106 pm] by vmanoman : | dude, i need to say that ur amazing at tabbing and i hope that one day i can tab as acurrately as you rock on [11/19/2006 - 12:36 am] by f1f2 : | thanks [11/19/2006 - 07:19 am] by Yawdim : | Yea, My congrats for tabbin "dead" to, 5 stars 4rom me man [11/20/2006 - 12:18 pm] by therubberduck : | amazin well done m8, thnx alot 5* [11/20/2006 - 12:58 pm] by lil-miss : | this is a great tab. well done. isnt there 14 tracks on the album though. i thought ther was a track called heaven. help us. might not be though. 5* rating [11/21/2006 - 05:19 am] by f1f2 : | ^ there is a MCR track called "Heaven Help Us" but it's not in the album It's a WTTBP B-Side. [11/21/2006 - 110 am] by gothic-punk-kid : | the extra track is called "kill all your friends" it says in the book you get with the limited edition cd case thingy. -x- [11/21/2006 - 111 am] by gothic-punk-kid : | most just think its called "blood" even though its not! great tab though! -x- [11/22/2006 - 04:22 am] by f1f2 : | ***** UPDATED: added Cancer ***** [11/22/2006 - 09:31 am] by stuart_cowan90 : | very good work 5 monkeys, i mean stars [11/22/2006 - 03:11 pm] by lil-miss : | i thought "Heaven! Help Us" was on the album. oh well. Yay "Cancer"'s a great song. I thougth "Kill All Your Friends" was called "Blood". Thanks for telling me the real name. [11/23/2006 - 01:39 pm] by The Spoon : | Kill All Your Friends is actually Teenagers. (The names connect see?) And Heaven Help Us is a b-side as someone said. and i think the little bridge thing in Dead!, (The part where he's like omg! theres a complication in ur heart!) is just like the verse [11/23/2006 - 01:39 pm] by The Spoon : | oh yea, great job! [11/23/2006 - 01:48 pm] by The Spoon : | damn i wish it would let me erase comments, forget my earlier statement about Kill All Your Friends. According to Wikipedia, it might be a b-side to the Famous Last Words single. They've already finished shooting the video!!! sorry for spamming up these boards [11/24/2006 - 044 am] by f1f2 : | oh my my.. thanks for looking in my tab [11/27/2006 - 10:53 pm] by universal_man : | well well...look who's tabbed it if isn't f1f2 [12/01/2006 - 048 am] by f1f2 : | ***** UPDATED: Added Teenagers' Solo! ***** [12/11/2006 - 01:47 am] by mdwallin : | umm... is the teenagers chorus correct? other then that it sounds almost puurrrrrfect [12/13/2006 - 032 pm] by gd_ddev : | Amazing tab! wish i could tab a whole album... and in the time you have! Great job! ***** [12/14/2006 - 010 am] by punk_isntemo12 : | ummm...you know, on the normal album(nt the spesh one WHICH I WANT SO BAD!!!) it sez on the lyrics booklet thingadodge that the extra track is called Blood. but if your sure....*shrug* i s'ppose your right. !! POST A COMMENT !!
    vendetta_born
    Yeh, the start of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" is an arpeggiated A minor to G |-----0-1-----3----- | |-----1-----1-----3--- --| |-----2 -----0-----| |----2-----| |--0-----3 ~~~~-2-3--| |-----3--- -- | PM |-----|
    awkggrocker
    nie i had no idea what the fork arpeggios were but now these should liven my songs up a bit. thanks hombre
    ensaepit
    Great article. Very useful... I'll be playing a lot more Apreggio-based solos from now on... I was getting tired of the regular ol' pentatonic scales.
    biglee525
    hey thanx before i read thsi i didnt know or understand arpeggios were but know i think i wnderstand them thanx for the help
    alice_and_cat
    this may sound real stupid, but in the beginng of aint talkin bout love from halen, is it an arpeggio that is muted? i feel stupid already... aac
    C3_Rocka
    it was worth it foe the can halen part. over the ***ing moon, good job.
    Remebol
    well, u gave me another ways to look at appegios. this happens to be another (rare) thread that every one understood..
    Feelthevayne
    how do you pick them E--19p15----19p15----19p15----20p15h19---- 20p15---- B -----17-----17-----17----- 17-----17- G-----15-----15-----15 ----- -----15-----15 D----- ----- A----- ----- E----- -----