Everybody practice scales and arpeggios and are doing exercises with them. But most of the time they can play the exercises but don’t get the material into their playing. In this lesson I am going to work on how to get an arpeggio into your playing.
It sort of goes without saying that to be able to improvise over chords you need to know your scales and arpeggios all over the neck. The problem is that you also need to learn how to use these things in your solos.
In this lesson I am going to take a one octave Am7 arpeggio, go over some possible melodies you can make with that and then demonstrate how I use it in 5 II V I lines where I also talk a bit about the melodies I make with it.
My approach to adding a structure to my solo vocabulary is based on composition. The goal with composing lines with the new material is not so much making great lines as it is to practice connecting the new material with the old under controlled circumstances. This is a step closer to actually using it while playing.
Somehow this always gets lost on a lot of people let me just repeat it:
The Goal is not to just compose great lines the process of composing with the new material is what you are practising!
What melodies can you make with an Am7 Arpeggio
In example 1 I have written out some of the possible melodies you can make with just the four notes found in the arpeggio. The first bar is the basic version of the arpeggio.
In this quite systematical way we already have 8 melodies that we can put to use in lines.
All the different melodies are simple ideas that you can apply to any scale or arpeggio that you want to work on. For me this is a great source of material for new lines where I use combinations to generate some melodies and take the ones I like.
Placing the Arpeggio in the context of a Key
The easiest way to use the Am7 arpeggio is probably to see it as a II chord in a II V I in G major. Since the arpeggio is in the 5th position we have this G major scale as a surrounding scale for it.
Composing with the Am7 arppegio
In the 5 examples I have made I will use some of the melodies I went over in example 1. You should of course see these as inspiration for the lines you should compose yourself. It is more important to observe how I describe the melody as trying to figure out how to play the lick.
In the II V I lines I am using an altered dominant for variation. It’s just a choice since the main focus here is how we apply the Am7 arpeggio.
In the first line I keep it really simple: I use the first ascending Am7 arpeggio and follow it with a descending scale run. In the video I show a few other basic options of how to use this Am7 run. This illustrates how I will work on composing lines with the arpeggio. The idea is to just start with the arpeggio and then improvising a line to follow it.
The basic form
The rest of the example is an altered scale run followed by an EbmMaj7 based descending run that resolves to the 5th(D) of G.
Splitting the Am7 in triads
The 2nd example is using a version of the Am7 where it is split in two descending triads (Am & C major). After this (6 note) figure the melody is an ascending scale run up to the 3rd(F#) of D. From there it skips up to a C. Descending from the C it encircles and resolves to the 9th(A) of G.
In this example it is maybe useful to notice that the first part is with larger intervals (the triad figure) which is creating some melodic tension. This tension is resolved by the scale run and a new tension is created and resolved when the line skips up to the C.
Two examples with skipping intervals
The 3rd example is using one of the skipping ideas on the Am7. In fact the whole bar only consists of Am7 notes.
As in the 2nd example the Am7 line is very active with a lot of larger intervals and therefore the D7alt line is much more scale like.
Another version of the skipping idea on the Am7 is used in example 4. Here I resolve it with a descending pentatonic line in the Am7 bar. This pentatonic fragement is then used as a simple motif that I can move around over the D7alt chord before resolving to the Gmaj7 chord.
The last example contains a melodic idea that I make a lot of use of. You have probably seen in many examples in my lessons. The idea is to chain together two arpeggios. I start with a descending Am7 arpeggio and continue down with an Em7 arpeggio. This creates a coherent line that has a fairly big range (a tenth from G down to E). Again the D7alt line is kept more calm and is mostly an ascending scale run.
I hope you can use the material and the ideas I went over here. It is important to have an efficient way to work on implementing new material in your vocabulary. I find that a lot of students waste their time with fairly meaningless exercises.
If you want some more examples of how I use arpeggios and other devices in the context of a standard you can check out this collection of lessons:
If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf here:
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.