Shell Voicings as Arpeggios

In this lesson I want to demonstrate how you can use the Shell Voicings as arpeggios to get some nice more open interval structures from some shapes you might already have in your fingers.

I already talked about Shell Voicings used for comping in an earlier lesson:  Jazz Chord Essentials: Shell Voicings

The main thing is of course that it is a voicing containing the root, 3rd and 7th of the chord. When using it for soloing the nice thing is of course the fact that it as a melody contains a 3rd interval  and a 5th interval so it will open up the melodies a bit.

There’s a famous Pat Metheny line that uses this type of voicing, but it’s so Pat Metheny that nobody else can really use it (yet anyway..) so I’ll be taking a different approach.

All the examples in this lesson are in the key of Eb, so let’s first look at two exercises to get more used to using this sort of arpeggios.

Example 1 is the Eb Major scale played in shell voicings on two sets of strings:

Shell Voicings as Arpeggios - ex 1

As I suggest in the video you should probably try to arpeggiate them in a few ways. Since they are 1 note per string that’s a very healthy exercise for your right hand.

Example 2 is the B minor melodic or Bb altered scale in shell voicings.

Shell Voicings as Arpeggios - ex 2

For the B minor you probably want to check some arpeggiations too of course.

Don’t forget that picking patterns like this with arpeggios that have one note per string are really good exercises for alternate picking and right hand precision in general.

Putting it to use

When looking for “shell arpeggios” to use over a chord the best bet is to take one that is in a distance of a 3rd or a 5th away from the root of the chord you are improvising on. They work well because they share many notes with the chord that is being played under your solo. For the Fm7, you might try AbMaj7 and Cm7 shell voicings.

When it comes to the Bb7alt it is a bit more free because there are quite a lot of alterations and since we’ve already established the sound on the Fm7 chord, you can be more free. That said it is still better to stay fairly close to the root to avoid making a line that sounds like another chord than what you intend.

Shell Voicings as Arpeggios - ex 3

In the first example I start out with an AbMaj7 shell voicing on the Fm7. The G is then resolved chromatically to f which in turn is part of a chromatic enclosure leading to D the 3rd of Bb7alt.

On the Bb7alt I play a Dmaj7 shell voicing. In the scale it would actually be a Dmaj7#5 chord, but since a shell voicing does not have a 5th it seemed weird to call it that. After that I descend down a BmMaj7 arpeggio that resolves to the 5th of Eb(Bb)

Shell Voicings as Arpeggios - ex 4

The 2nd example opens with an arpeggiation of an Fm7 shell voicing. For me this arpeggiation pattern for 3 note/3 string arpeggios is very useful. Probably because it emphasizes the highes note in the arpeggio. The line continues with an Fm triad that continues stepwise up to the 7th

of Bb. On the Bb7alt I then play an BmMaj7 shell which is resolved stepwise down to the 9th of Ebmaj7 via the D.

Shell Voicings as Arpeggios - ex 5

In the 3rd example I start out with a Cm7 shell. In this line it works really well as a sort of suspension of the 3rd of F (Ab). After  that I play an Fm7 arpeggio that is then lead into an arpeggiation of a Dmaj7 shell and an E triad before resolving to the 5th of Eb.

I hope you can use these examples as a way to get an idea about how I use voicings like these, and then make it part of your own playing.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here:

Shell Voicings as Arpeggios

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.