Guitar Lesson - Arpeggio Basics, by John McCarthy

By John McCarthy

Arpeggio Basics

What is an arpeggio? It sounds hard….seems like a lot of work…These are some of the responses I get from students when I say let’s learn to play arpeggios today.

What I am going to do is make it as painless as possible to get started on the arpeggio express and give you all the information needed to start playing them today. You’ll see that it isn’t as hard as you thought.

Let’s start with the origin of the word, arpeggio stems from the Italian word, arpeggiare, to play the harp, and from arpa, harp, of German origin.Arpeggios were commonly used in classical music throughout history. By definition “arpeggio” means “The sounding of the tones of a chord in rapid succession rather than simultaneously”. Now let’s get into the fun stuff and play some music!

Fret the “A” Minor bar chord in Figure 1 by just fretting the black notes.  Now go to Figure 2 and play the notes of the pattern one at a time, remembering not to hold down any notes. Good news…you just played an “A” Minor ARPEGGIO! Pretty simple, isn’t it? Now don’t get me wrong, there are many ways to play “arps” that may take months to master, but we’ll save those for later.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Most guitarists think of Arpeggios as a 80s technique that was found ripping through almost every guitar solo.  Contrary to popular conception, Arpeggios have a much broader spectrum of use.

First I’ll go through exactly what an Arpeggio is, and then Iet’s explore the many Arpeggio uses. I’m sure you’ll be spicing up your playing with a little dose of Arpeggio in no time.

Definition:  An Arpeggio is the notes of a chord picked out separately.  So let’s say you have a “D” Major chord.  The notes that make that chord are D-F#-A (don’t be confused if you didn’t know that.  I will go through how to find the names of the notes for chords in a future lesson).  So, if I play the notes D-F#-A separately in succession it would be a “D” Major Arpeggio.

Now for this lesson I’m going to show you three Major and minor Arpeggios and the chords that they are formed from.  Remember in the chord charts the black dots are the chord while the white dots are the notes we add to make a complete Arpeggio. These are probably the most common Arpeggios used.  First, I’ll show you the chord, then the Arpeggio that is created from it.

Make sure to memorize these arpeggios and practice them with alternate because in part 2 we’ll delve deeper into creating your own Arpeggios, but for now sink your teeth into these. 

Bon appetite!

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©2009 - 2011 Fred Russell Publishing, All Rights Reserved. This article can not be used without permission from the Author. To Contact the Author email curt@RockHouseMethod.com

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