Lessons and Training

Making Arpeggios More Interesting – Lessons by Adam Ironside


As we all know, arpeggios are cool. And as we all know, arpeggios are even cooler if they
sound unique, exciting, and unusual. We all get quite bored of the same old three string
arpeggio shapes repeated over and over again. They still have their place in music but as we
develop as musicians and guitar players our ears begin to seek something a little more fresh
and exciting.

So that brings us to this lesson, more interesting arpeggios.

For those of you who read my e-book this sort of idea will be familiar to you. Those of you
who haven’t read the book, but know how to construct and play basic arpeggios, should still
be able to use this lesson.

Example One – E Major 9
The E Major 9 arpeggio consists of 5 notes. These notes are – E, G#, B, D#, and F#. The
arpeggio is called an E Major 9 because it has all of the notes of a Major seventh chord, plus
the major ninth degree.

Here it is tabbed out.

Arpeggio Tabs

The arpeggio can appear quite difficult to start with but as you play through it you will
realise all the notes seem to fit nicely under your fingers. The fingering is just a suggested
fingering and is the way I would usually play it, however, it is up to you to find whichever
fingering you feel most comfortable with.

The arpeggio has a nice, flowing, almost scale like sound. It sounds great over a variety of
chords, particularly, Major 9ths, Major Sevenths, and standard Major chords.

Example Two – E Major 9 Idea

The great thing about arpeggios, especially ones that contain more than three notes, is that
you don’t have to play all of the notes in order to get a nice sound. In fact, quite the
opposite, the best and most unique sounds are usually achieved by adding or removing
notes throughout the arpeggio. Here is an example demonstrating what I mean.

Let me talk you through what is happening here.

Example number two is included along with the first in the .pdf of this lesson – the link is at the bottom of the lesson.

We start off our arpeggio with a simple root, third, fifth, and then add in the major seventh.
We then come back down the same path. Next time we ascend we miss out the octave and
hammer straight onto the ninth degree (F#). Then we apply a string skip (skipping over the
third (G#)) and begin again on the fifth of the arpeggio (B). Next I cheated a little and added
in a thirteenth (C#) which flavours the arpeggio a little differently. The arp ends on a major
seventh note (D#) which gives a subtle, kind of unfinished feel before heading back down
through the full arpeggio (excluding the third due to the string skip on the b string).

I personally think this kind of movement gives a much more unique feel and taste to your
playing. Applying subtle changes to your note choice is what will make you different from
the next guy.

That said, you should go away and apply these kind of ‘patterns’ to other arpeggios and see
what unique sounds and arpeggio structures you can come up with.

– Adam Ironside


June 11th, 2010

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