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Using Arpeggios in Guitar Solos


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Q: I want to Pimp up my soloing to become much more melodic and I want to clearly paint those chord sounds in my solos, (Maj7, Min7, Min7b5,...Dom. 7).

I learned about modes and I'm able to figure out modes, chords and arpeggios by ear and their intervallic structure all over the fret board, but could you please make a video on ARPEGGIOS: (specifically) How to creatively use them in soloing, because I don't want to just shred scales up and down, I want to get the tone and the voices out of every harmony.
Tim - Hamburg, Germany

Thanks for writing in! Arpeggios are one excellent way to do exactly what youre after. Because arpeggios are chord tones, by playing arpeggios - you actually are covering the notes of each chord. This pulls out the rich color of the chord of the moment and allows you to have a very connected sound when the one chord changes to another.


Arpeggios are the notes of a chord played one at a time. Think of it this way, a chord sits on the fingerboard according to how we can physically finger it. This is great for strumming or plucking through the chord. However, it does not address the other notes that are possible around the chord. Take a look at the diagram below:
c major 7

In the fingerboard diagram above, the CMa7 chord sits perfectly on the neck for an easy fingering. The layout does not include several tones around the area that are related to the structure of CMa7.

In the next diagram, the arpeggio layout shows how many extra tones are available when we play through the chord tones using an arpeggio approach.

c major 7 arpeggio

F7 - Bb7 Modal Jam

For many guitar players, the initial use of arpeggios can often be somewhat unsuccessful. Because arpeggios have wide intervals, (and they are exclusively chord tones), they tend to be difficult to phrase with. However, what can be helpful is working with varying the rhythm of your lines and using repeating phrases. Also, keep in mind that arpeggios are very close to pentatonics. There is only a one note difference between them. Look at the diagrams below which compare the Minor Pentatonic to the Minor 7th arpeggio.


The handout (for download below) contains the arpeggio exercise featured in the video lesson. Take note of the phrasing. Focus your attention on how the arpeggio lines contain repeating notes and varied rhythmic durations. These two areas are particularly important in developing solid lines with arpeggios. Another important point to consider are fingerings. The arpeggio lines often function differently from scale lines. Scale lines keep tones in close proximity and are often linear. Arpeggio lines tend to have tones further apart and/or more vertically aligned.

Arpeggios are just as important as scales in the tools necessary for creating great solos and for writing composed melodies. The main idea to keep in mind is that they work well alongside of the appropriate scale to create space through wider intervals. The scale can offer one concept, and the arpeggio can offer an entirely new concept. As time goes on and guitar players practice both of these tools - eventually, next to no thought is placed upon whether to play either one. We simply have the control in our hands to perform them technically and our minds are free enough to apply them more by intuition alone. Once we can naturally play the music we hear in our head, the scales and arpeggios are only tools for us to get the music out. This is why practice of every quality of arpeggio is vital. Technique practice combined with improvisation and composistion will yield great results. If you do it, you'll get it - if you don't - you won't.



Arpeggios in Solos Tab Chart
(Adobe PDF Document)
Arpeggios in Solos Tab Chart
(Powertab Document)