Guitar Arpeggios: 9 Essential Must-Know Points

You can use arpeggios to improve your guitar playing, even if you’re just a beginner. Have you ever heard of a broken chord? That is an arpeggio. When you play an arpeggio, you play all the notes in a chord individually rather than strummed together. 

You have probably heard many arpeggios in your life. Now that you want to start learning and playing them, you should understand these nine essential must-know points for improvement and success in your musical journey. 

1. You Can Learn Arpeggios As a Beginner

They may sound advanced, but learning arpeggios can help beginners get acquainted with the guitar fretboard and all its notes. Start by figuring out where the C note is on your guitar fretboard. As you learn arpeggios, you will figure out the other notes’ position on the fretboard simply by counting up or down from C. It’s straightforward once you get started and take time to practice. 

There are five frets between C and G. So, for example, if you are on C, moving up by four frets will get you to an E note. As a beginner, practicing using arpeggios will give you a firmer grasp of chords and scales. It’s also a great way of better developing your sense of musical harmony. You will get a better understanding of how notes interact and grow in confidence as a developing musician. 

2. Arpeggios Aren’t Scales

If you’ve ever taken piano lessons, you know about scales. As arpeggios involve notes played consecutively instead of simultaneously, maybe you wonder whether arpeggios and scales are the same. They are not. Arpeggios and scales are two different things. When you play a scale, all the notes fit within a specific key signature. 

By contrast, an arpeggio is a series of notes not within a specific key signature but within a particular chord. One similarity between a scale and an arpeggio is that both are linear. You play the notes one at a time. Also, you can play both arpeggios and scales in ascending order, descending order, or even in random order. 

3. The Root Note is the Foundation

When you play guitar arpeggios, remember to begin and end on the root note. This is the note that is the foundation of the chord. When you do this, you will get your ears more attuned to the scale’s sound. Begin with the root note that has the lowest pitch. Then play upwards, go back down, and make your way up again. This is a great way to practice. In most cases, an arpeggio will have four notes. 

However, you can find arpeggios with several more. These are more advanced and harder to find. Also, four-note arpeggios are more versatile than you might imagine. Understanding this will come with practice. As scales you play within the same key signature, they are a little easier to understand and get started with than arpeggios. 

4. Arpeggios Are Used in Several Music Genres

You can find arpeggios used in a variety of music genres, including jazz and pop. When musicians use arpeggios on the guitar in pop music songs, they are generally an accompaniment. When it comes to jazz guitar, musicians usually use arpeggios in solo improvisation. 

In jazz, musicians will usually play guitar arpeggios using a plectrum, otherwise known as a guitar pick. The only exception is if they prefer to play fingerstyle guitar. To ensure the arpeggio’s various notes won’t ring together, jazz musicians will usually mute them immediately after playing. This gives the musician more control over how each individual note affects the rest of the musical piece. 

5. There Are Major and Minor Arpeggios

If you’re a musician, you know that there are major and minor chords. Similarly, there are major and minor arpeggios. In most cases, an arpeggio will have four notes. However, you can find arpeggios with several more. These are more advanced and harder to find. Also, four-note guitar arpeggios are more versatile than you might imagine. Understanding this will come with practice. 

Arpeggio A minor example (above)

You use minor notes to create minor arpeggios. You form them with specific components of the minor scale: the root, the 3rd, and the 5th intervals of the minor scale. The minor arpeggio and the major arpeggio’s primary difference is that the minor arpeggio has a minor 3rd for the 3rd interval. In a major arpeggio, a major 3rd interval would be there.

6. Master Playing a Scale in Key First

A scale is linear. An interval separates each note from the next, and a scale will have a pattern for its intervals. This will accord with a specific key. Intervals signify how chord tones relate to each other spatially. An example of this would be the position of the fifth relative to the root. 

Understanding intervals is essential for grasping arpeggio patterns. This is much more effective than trying to memorize arpeggios. Get to know intervals by studying chord shapes. You can conceptualize an interval as a specific spatial relationship. This is the best way to start thinking about it as a beginner. 

7. Both Rhythm Guitarists and Lead Guitarists Use Arpeggios

Arpeggios are fantastic tools for both rhythm guitarists and lead guitarists. Of course, these two kinds of guitarists use arpeggios in different ways. When the rhythm guitarist uses arpeggios, the music has a fuller sound. If you are a lead guitarist, arpeggios will bring your solos to a different level. 

The arpeggios you use should match the chords and progression of the song. When a rhythm guitarist uses arpeggios, they should support chords and progressions that the lead guitarist plays. This effect is why rhythm guitarists so often use arpeggios. 

8. Arpeggios Are Related to Triads

If you are familiar with triads, it will help you to understand that an arpeggio is a step more advanced than the triad. A triad is when you combine three notes, playing them together. You play the notes one by one, remembering to skip over alternate notes. The keys you press depend on the triad you are playing. 

Arpeggios are similar to triads in that you play the notes consecutively (as opposed to simultaneously, as you would with chords). Arpeggios usually have four notes instead of the three you find in a triad. However, one kind of arpeggio, the tonic triad, has three notes.

9. Arpeggios Create More Momentum and Flow

With an arpeggio, you achieve more momentum and flow in your music. Many musicians use them to create more speed in their playing. They also give you more breadth in improvisation. 

You can be inventive, as arpeggios feature every note in a chord. When you include them in a solo, you can connect them to the elements of the chord structure that is the foundation of the song. 

While you can find arpeggios that go both up and down, they usually go in the upwards direction. This means that as you sound the notes, you follow them going upwards. You will start with the lower notes and follow the designated notes in the arpeggio. 

Before you get started with arpeggios, get a firm grip on playing scales over the key of a song. After you’ve mastered that, use the chord progressions to start learning arpeggios. 

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