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Home > Theory / Scales > Arpeggios

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Arpeggios on Guitar - Arpeggio Patterns & Technique

Note: if you know the basics (i.e. what arpeggios are) and just want to learn the patterns and techniques, head down to arpeggios on guitar contents.

Welcome. This series will introduce you to arpeggios on guitar, their patterns on the fretboard and techniques you can use to play them.

Arpeggios can be seen as just another way to navigate the fretboard during your solo. As you'll see and hear, they can really help you "connect the dots" as your improvisation skills develop.

Arpeggios only use chord tones, so there's less risk of tredding "outside" into dissonance.

Before we delve right in, a short introduction to arpeggios on guitar and their function.

We'll then move on to learning some essential arpeggio patterns and how to use them in solos.

Video introduction to arpeggios on guitar

Guitar arpeggio basics

Arpeggios are chords played one note at a time. In other words, each note of the chord is cleanly separated, one after the other, rather than letting them ring out together. It's therefore often referred to as a broken chord or arpeggiated chord.

The diagrams below show a standard E minor chord followed by its arpeggio equivalent in the same position...

E minor chord and arpeggio on guitar

This means if you already know some chord forms on the fretboard, you'll automatically know their arpeggios.

Also, if you know some scale patterns, you'll be able to pull arpeggios out of those scales. We'll cover this process in a separate lesson.

So remember: Where there's a chord or scale, there's an arpeggio!

However, there are more economical fingerings we can use especially for arpeggios. I'll show you some key patterns throughout the arpeggios series below.

Just as we have major and minor chords, we also have major and minor arpeggios. There are also 7th arpeggios just as there are 7th chords. So, it makes sense that learning arpeggios goes hand in hand with learning how chords are constructed (covered in the chord theory section).

The function of arpeggios on guitar

When used in solos, arpeggios create phrases just like standard scale runs. The only difference is we're being more selective of the key tones that make up a particular chord flavour (major, minor, major 7th, minor 7th etc.).

Whereas regular scale phrases tend to "noodle" and glance over non-chord tones (often referred to as passing tones) in a linear movement, arpeggios move in a more harmonically defined way, as you're only touching on those key chord intervals within the scale.

Playing arpeggios is like "connecting the dots" to build up the picture of a chord.

The arpeggio can lead in to, or out of a fuller scale phrase and it can connect phrases within the solo. It can span just one string or all 6 strings. You can sweep pick them, tap them or alternate pick them in a more traditional fashion.

Arpeggios can also help you negotiate chord changes. For example, if the chord changes from C major to F minor, you could play a C major arpeggio followed by an F minor arpeggio.

We'll look at the different ways you can weave arpeggios into guitar solos in the lessons below.

Guitar arpeggios series contents

Work through the lessons below in the order they're presented. Take your time (there is no exam deadline!). There are backing tracks to help you practice the patterns you learn and encourage you to try out your own ideas. It won't be long before you're including arpeggios in the solos you write almost as second nature. It's simply another soloing tool at your disposal...

Patterns...

small chevron Major Arpeggios

small chevron Minor Arpeggios

small chevron 7th Arpeggios

Technique...

small chevron Arpeggio Technique

small chevron Tapping Arpeggios

small chevron 3 String Sweeps

small chevron 4 String Sweeps

small chevron 5 String Sweeps

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