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What the heck is an Arpeggio?


Arpeggios are chords that are broken up into single notes.

There are two basic types on the guitar: chord based arpeggios and scale based arpeggios. Both types share the same chord symbol notation as the chords they are derived from.

Chord Based Arpeggios:

The first are chord based arpeggios. You hold down the chord form and execute what amounts to a slow motion strum so that each note can be heard individually.

They are most commonly heard played as rhythm parts in the open position (think House of the Rising Sun). Although not simple for the absolute beginner, most all experienced guitarists can play these without much difficulty.

They are also used for leads (typically with partial chord forms up higher on the neck).

Scale Based Arpeggios:

These have the same notes as the chords they are derived from; but they are laid out in the numerical or alphabetical sequence of the notes that make them up (e.g. R, 3, 5, 7, or A, C#, E, G# etc.) rather than in the voicings of the various chord grips like the chord based arpeggios. They may start on any scale degree depending on which hand position you are in.

  • These are typically more difficult than the chord based types. Especially because very few players practice them, and they are largely ignored in most books that come out.
  • You should practice them using your regular pick technique and practice patterns from the lowest note in the hand position to the highest.
  • When these are played picking only once per string (using hammers and pulls for strings with multiple notes on them) they are often referred to as sweeps.
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