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by JazzMaverick

6 Nov 2008
Views: 25364

"An arpeggio is a broken chord, where the notes of the chord are played in succession."

In this lesson we'll be covering how arpeggios are used in jazz guitar music and how to play arpeggios on a guitar.

Note: I thank Dirk Laukens for giving me permission to use some of his notes for this excellent lesson. He is an incredibly amazing musician - one I recommend to all of you to check out!

Arpeggios are a good base for improvisation over chord progressions. This is because you are complimenting the chord. By playing the chord tones in your guitar solo you reflect the harmony of the tune in your solo, something that makes your improvisation interesting to listen to.
It's important that you know every arpeggio in all positions on the guitar fret board. This can be a bit disheartening in the beginning, but with regular practice you can play any arpeggio without thinking. In this lesson we'll be starting with some basic positions, no need to learn them all at once.
Please make sure you practice regularly! You’ll get no where if you play video games or hang about on Myspace/facebook/msn and just expect yourself to know everything. Practice is hard work! You should know that now.

II V I Position

We're going to learn the basic arpeggios by looking at some common chord progressions. The most common chord progression in jazz is the II V I. In this example we'll be working in the key of G major:

|Am7 |D7 |Gmaj7 |% |
|II |V |I | |

But how would you play over this chord progression? You’ll need three kinds of arpeggios: minor, dominant and major. Here's the arpeggio for the Am7 chord:

Am7 - A C E G
1 b3 5 b7

E |---A---|-------|--------|---C---|
B |---E---|-------|--------|---G---|
G |---C---|-------|--------|-------|
D |---G---|-------|---A----|-------|
A |-------|-------|---E----|-------|
E |---A---|-------|--------|---C---|
5 7

So, to practice this minor arpeggio, you should play it like this until you're ready to let it jump out of your fingers without needing to think about it:

Make sure you understand why this is an Am7 arpeggio. Relate them to the chord, the notes within the chord and the note values. You can also practice it by first playing the chord and then the arpeggio, a good exercise for your ears:

Now, let's move onto the D7 chord. Remember; this is a dominant chord.

D7 - D F# A C
1 3 5 b7

E |-------|-------|---A---|-------|-------|---C---|
B |-------|-------|-------|-------|---F#--|-------|
G |-------|-------|---C---|-------|---D---|-------|
D |-------|---F#--|-------|-------|---A---|-------|
A |---C---|-------|---D---|-------|-------|-------|
E |-------|-------|---A---|-------|-------|-------|
Fret: 3 5 7

So, let's practice it like this:

Same thing that I said above, you can play the chord before you play the arpeggio.

Next chord: Gmaj7!

Gmaj7 - G B D F#
1 3 5 7

E |---F#--|---G---|-------|-------|
B |-------|---D---|-------|-------|
G |-------|-------|---B---|-------|
D |-------|-------|---F#--|---G---|
A |---B---|-------|-------|---D---|
E |---F#--|---G---|-------|-------|
Fret: 3 5

You know the drill now, practice it the same way as before. Make sure you start on the root.

So now, the goal is to merge them. Ready?

So I'm sure you've gathered by now that this isn't very musical at this point, but being able to play it like this is necessary in the learning process.

Now, let's start on a different place...

Now that you've learnt that, it's time to ride the bike on your own. Start improvising over these chord changes - make sure you know exactly when they change! - For educational purposes it's better to play a long stream of 8-notes like in the examples. To make sure you change chords at the right place you can use software like Band in a Box (or you can do the hard work yourself and record the changes with a metronome).

Don't forget!

All chords and arpeggios are movable!


Also, check out my music listed on Sound Cloud (link below) if you like it follow me on facebook! :)

JazzMaverick on Sound Cloud
JazzMaverick Music




Thanks that's a great lesson with a very good approach.

So with learning all the arpeggios in all positions it got me thinking....which can be dangerous....is it best to learn them all in every positions or to under stand that a Am7chord is composed of the same notes as a C6. So by learning this one arpeggio, I've actually learned two.


I suppose for beginners, learning in positions is easier. But then gradually come to understand that these aren't seperate positions, rather, it's one whole position across the fretboard.

During that time you'll also naturally come to learn the notes everywhere. It takes a lot of natural time, so don't push yourself. :)

As long as you know the difference between each chord/arpeggio, you'll find that it's a lot easier than you thought it would be.


bueno!!! i like the sound!!!


Glad it helped!


it's hard !!!!

but it's one position and i think that's a proplem becuse now i used to play on that position

what do u think?


Well, this is just a guideline... but it's best to follow them until you know what you're doing.

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