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Develop your guitar playing with arpeggios

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Music > Guitar > How to get started playing arpeggios on your guitar

If you want to get better at guitar and one day play classics like Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven or the famous slow rock Still Loving You by Scorpions, you need to work on one guitar technique in particular – arpeggios.

But how do you get started? Are there guitar tutorials?

What are the basics you need to know before you start to learn guitar?

What are arpeggios?

Arpeggios are a basic guitar technique and one of the first things you should learn as you begin to play.

Lots of musicians use them, whether they’re playing rock, hard-rock (Slash), blues (Clapton), or french songs like those by Francis Cabrel.

Arpeggios are one of those tools that are great for jamming and improvising, because they consist of playing all of the notes in a chord three or four times on two or three octaves. Playing them also helps you to practice your guitar chords.

How to improve the quality of your guitar music? By learning the arpeggios and understanding music. Master guitar picking!

Arpeggios can sometimes be considered finger picking, since it’s a method that consists of playing the strings of your guitar one by one, instead of playing them all at once.

Why play arpeggios?

This is a soothing style that is great as a backdrop to singing, as the melody will stay soft and soothing.

Knowing how to play arpeggios means that you can play many different chords and tab sets – arpeggios complement the other combinations of notes and sounds with their melodious and harmonious background.

However, you can’t just play arpeggios on their own. Playing arpeggios is a great exercise to practice your guitar, but it will quickly become boring for you and your audience if they aren’t accompanied by other instruments, rhythms, or a singer.

How to play arpeggios

Arpeggios are often recommended to beginners as an exercise because they help to build up your experience playing guitar and help you to learn more about the instrument.

2 styles of playing arpeggios

There are two different styles of playing arpeggios on your guitar – the vertical and the diagonal method.

In the vertical method you play one or two notes per string.

In the diagonal method, you play at least two notes per string, which allows you to play arpeggios based on 4 note chords.

Why play arpeggios?

  • The loops in arpeggios are repetitive patterns on the neck of the guitar.
  • Playing arpeggios will help you play faster and more precisely in general – the speed of your playing is very important because each note is played back and forth in a range that goes up and down.
  • Your fingers will become quicker and more agile – think of the amazing Django Reinhardt who played arpeggios with only two fingers!

The basic rules of arpeggios

Arpeggios are intimately linked to learning your guitar chords and they are often taught along with the chords themselves.

With or without a pick

Normally you use a pick to play guitar, but an arpeggio can easily be played with your fingers.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages – playing with a pick will give you more control as you pick strings, while playing with your fingers will allow you to go faster.

There’s also the option of using a long fingernail – you’ll get a sound close to that of a pick, but with your fingers.

But you can’t just move your hand around willy nilly.

It’s all about using the thumb of your right hand to play the three bass strings – E, A, and D.

The different ways of placing your fingers on the handle of your guitar. Learn the secrets of the greatest guitarists!

Next, place each finger on a string.

  • Put your index finger on G
  • Middle finger on B
  • And ring finger on E.

Each finger goes in a specific order, and it will be numbered on the guitar tabs:

  • 1 for your index finger
  • 2 for the middle finger
  • 3 for the ring finger
  • and 4 for your pinky

The position of your hand

To gain flexibility and avoid a cramp, the position of your wrist is crucial.

It should be slightly bent, so that it almost makes a right angle from your forearm.

However, make sure that you don’t exaggerate the bend; the shape should stay natural.

What’s an arpeggio chord?

It’s simply a chord played in arpeggio.

If you want to improve your guitar playing technique, the arpeggio of a chord contains the same notes as the chord. Knowing the notes of the chord is a key part of playing its arpeggio. The base note of the chord will normally become the tonic note of the arpeggio.

However, there are as many variations of an arpeggio as there are notes in a chord.

Arpeggios and solos

There are two different types of chords – major and minor. A minor chord has a root or base note, minor third, and perfect fifth, while a major chord has a root, major third, and a perfect fifth.

So for either triad, an arpeggio would begin with the base note, followed by the third and then the fifth.

For example, in G major the dominant note is G, and it would be followed by B and D.

The best tips to learn guitar arpeggios. Learn all the secrets of guitar heroes!

By breaking down the chords and learning them arpeggio, it’ll be easier for you to learn the chords, point blanc.

But most of all, working on arpeggios will help your improve your jamming and composition. During an arpeggio you’re just playing up and down a sole chord, which is a great way to frame your solos.

Working on an arpeggio

Since arpeggios are based on scales, its easy to group them into exercises for practice.

We’ve defined 5 categories of arpeggio exercises:

  • Working on a set group of notes – these types of arpeggios sound great
  • Don’t hesitate to work on both major and minor chords
  • Try swapping different notes – it’s a difficult exercise because it demands a certain level of mastery of the guitar. However it’s possible when working on triads.
  • Try playing your arpeggio by substituting two notes with notes in another octave.
  • Try jumping strings
  • Play with triads! These are chords made up of three notes, which is all you need to make an arpeggio!
  • Extended arpeggios – another way to play an arpeggio is to do them all the way up and down your guitar neck.
  • How do you do it? Just try combining different arpeggio patterns
  • This technique is great practice – it will improve your dexterity and comfort with the whole range on your guitar, and it will help you prepare for improvisation.

Advice to improve your arpeggios

Just like anything else, learning arpeggios will take some training and practice.

Teach yourself

You can easily teach yourself arpeggios by following online tutorials on your computer or tablet.

Learn arpeggios with a teacher

Alternatively, you could sign up for private guitar lessons with a qualified teacher. Classes will take place at home over a set period and your instructor can walk you through arpeggios and all the main major, minor, and major seventh chords.

If you’re trying to find a guitar class, get in touch with a local music store or check out noticeboards in supermarkets and post offices – there’ll often be ads posted by professionals offering private guitar lessons.

Different techniques to boost your level with a guitar teacher. Different techniques to boost your level with a guitar teacher.

The advantage of taking private guitar lessons is that you can avoid picking up any bad habits and learn the proper way to sit and hold yourself.

A teacher can give you advice and appropriate exercises that will help you gain the dexterity and speed you need to master arpeggios. You can also find other guitar tutorials (like this article!).

Searching for guitar lessons London produces the most results on Superprof but there is a lot more choice if you’re willing to learn online.

A last bit of advice:

To succeed at arpeggios, here are a few final tips:

  • Work on the articulation of your thumb and fingers to gain agility and speed.
  • Don’t jump in at the deep end, but begin with easy pieces and gradually increase in difficulty.
  • Don’t hesitate to play with a metronome to help regulate your rhythm. At the beginning, you may have to slow down songs to learn them, and then gradually increase your speed to 100%.
  • Don’t limit yourself to just one piece of music – make sure you’re working on a few different pieces and styles of music so that you can really learn all of the different subtleties of arpeggios.
  • Sign up for guitar lessons near your home or office
  • Don’t struggle to find time to play – make sure you’re practicing regularly. Just 10 or 15 minutes a day is better than 2 hours all at once at the weekend.
  • An ideal breakdown might be spending 5-10 minutes working on your range and technique and then 10 to 15 minutes working on your pieces.
  • And finally, stay motivated and keep playing guitar!

For bass guitar lessons, see here.


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