Arpeggios – Things To Get Right From The Beginning

When you start learning arpeggios then usually it is in positions and that is great for having an overview of all the chord tones of a chord but it is not immediately easy to use them and to add that to your playing in a way that sounds good, it is this separate pattern that you can’t really get to work.

This video will help you fix that so that you start playing better jazz solos and don’t waste time when you are practicing arpeggios.

Problems with Positions

Most of us start learning arpeggios like as complete positions, so something like this:

This is a great way to see where all the Cmaj7 chord tones in one position of the neck, but it is not immediately going to help you use this when you solo, mainly because it is a separate thing that is pretty big with a lot of notes and if you are playing a song with a Cmaj7 chord then there is a big chance that you end up just starting on the root and playing up the arpeggio

A few things are missing with this:

  • It isn’t flexible at all
  • It doesn’t really fit with what you play before
  • The melody is pretty predictable and boring

But there are some good things as well, you

  • Are Playing the Changes
  • You Do Know and Playing an Arpeggio

Let’s fix this! so that you can practice arpeggios in a way that makes sense and really get them into your playing. It is a lot easier than you might think.

And then later I am going to show you one exercise for arpeggios that really helped me open up my jazz playing and made everything a lot easier.

Arpeggios in their natural habitat

In the first example, it is clear that you can play a Cmaj7 and know the diagram, but also that it isn’t really something that is a part of your playing.

One really important part of making melodies with an arpeggio is to also use scale notes around it. Another important part of using an arpeggio is that you use that arpeggio but you also want to get to the arpeggio of the next chord, and that is also in the scale.

So try to see how we have a Cmaj7 arpeggio

and around that, we have the rest of the C major scale:

Right now this is about understanding where the arpeggio comes from and how it is a part of that scale, but later in the video, you will see how it is useful for a lot of other things.

Make It Easier To Create Great Lines

To get started using the arpeggios and also to become a little freer with them then it makes sense to not use the whole position, but instead use a single octave, making it just 4 notes.

In Jazz, you will actually find that this is also how we play arpeggios most of the time.

So let’s go from a full position to this simple 1-octave shape:

Now it is easier to make some melodies, and you can start to hear melodies, simple but strong things like this and add a little phrasing and dynamics:

Make It More Natural And More Free

Now you can start to add the scale notes around the arpeggio and this is really where you can use the material and start making music with it.

Here is an example of that

You can see how the scale notes are inserted between the arpeggio notes because you still won’t really nail the sound of the chord. The scale notes are extra notes in between HIGHLIGHT Arpeggio Notes

Similar to the previous example this is adding scale notes between the arpeggio notes but still creating a strong melody.

What to Practice and Explore

I think that it is a good idea to practice arpeggios in positions, it gives you an overview, and if you also can get used to seeing it in the scale around it then that is very useful.

Besides doing that it is very important that you also spend time composing lines using just a few notes and mixing that up with the scale. In the beginning, I would use a basic single octave as I did here, and then you can always expand on that. (Diagram again?)

In this position, you also have this complete octave:

The Best Exercise For Combining Scales and Arpeggios

One of the exercises that really helped me get better at making bebop lines and using arpeggios was to practice the arpeggios in the scale, so what you can call diatonic arpeggios.

This way of combining the chords and the scale is really great for having a library of things to use and also for connecting the scale with the chords you solo over.

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