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Arpeggios are 'broken chords'. We can take a chord & play the individual tones of them one at a time, whether the tones ring at the same time (over each other) or not.

  • Chordal [Harmonic] - fretting a chord & individually picking the notes while letting them ring out over each other. In this instance, the fretting hand can be static for a sounding chord while the motor hand is doing the actuation [whether with a pick or the fingers, or a combination].
  • Scalar [Melodic] - this is playing the tones of a chord as we would play a scale, one tone at a time. In this instance, both the fretting hand & the motor hand are active. They are moving in synchrony.

4 Types as Single String Arpeggios

These are melodic arpeggios [in that these tones arent' all played as a ringing chord] up a single string [any string]. By doing some basic math, we can see the intervals between each chord tone [for Major = 4-0 = 4, 7-4 = 3, thus 4-3, which equals Major]. Quality in music [in harmony] refers to the type of sound, whether Major, minor, diminished, etc.

4 Types of Triads on Any String

If we want to play these same types of arpeggios using more than a single string, we use finger logic.

Finger Logic

The scalar arpeggio shapes are determined by which finger we put on the root. We can start an arpeggio with the 3 or 4 [a higher finger number], the 2 finger, or the 1 finger. Depending on which we choose, we get different shapes.

The # sign inside the circle means any string.

Example for A Major

To make sure we have a clear understanding of finger logic, let's apply this concept to some A Major triads [quality is consistent in every position].

Arps in A

These are the exact same tones, fingered differently, starting with the 3 or 4, the 2, & the 1 fingers.

A Arps Everywhere

All of these are ways to play A Major. We've built a long chain of A Major Arps. These aren't the only possibilities, yet demonstrate finger logic for one triad. These shapes are movable [can be applied to any root].

The numbers below the TAB are fingers. We have options for how to finger all of these.

A Major Arps

Arpeggio Shape Maps for Triads

Triads are 3-tone chords built in 3rds. 3rds are intervals either Major or minor. The Major 3rd is 4 half steps; the minor is 3 half steps. 1 half step = 1 fret on the guitar. We can play these tones in any order; low to high is a good place to start.

Starting with the 3 or 4 Fingers

Arps Starting with 3 or 4 Fingers

The 3's & 4's between the fretted tones are types of 3rds. 4 = Major 3rd; 3 = minor 3rd.

2 Finger

Arps Starting with 2 Finger

The arpeggio shapes are the same for the 6, 5, 4, & 2 strings starting with the 2. The interval [a Perfect 4th] is the same for all of these string sets, so the shapes are the same. The 3rd string is different because the interval between the 3 & 2 strings is a Major 3rd.

1 Finger

Arps from 1 finger

Like the arpeggios starting with the 2 finger, the 6, 5, 4, & 2 strings have the same shape.

Chordal Arps

The other type of arpeggio is harmonic [chords]. We fret & hold chords while picking each string [chord tone] one at a time. This is a very simple example using 4 chords. Hold the chords, pick each tone, & let the tones ring at the same time.

Harmonic Arpeggios