How to Play Guitar Arpeggios In Under 15 Minutes

Arpeggios are a great way to bring micro-structure to your songs – they are simply part of a chord with the notes picked out in sequence, rather than struck together to ring out at the same time. The use of arpeggios can be found in classical tunes, rock ballads and slower songs.

playing arpeggios

Now, there are a hundred different ways to create an arpeggio and they follow very closely to the notes you use for creating various chords. For your convenience, I had listed the formula below and you can derive the notes of the arpeggios from the major scales. The notes in brackets are optional, but they can add color to an arpeggio:

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Major: 1 3 (5)
Minor: 1 b3 (5)
Aug: 1 3 #5
Dim: 1 b3 b5
dom7: 1 3 (5) b7
Maj7: 1 3 (5) 7
m7: 1 b3 (5) b7
Aug7: 1 3 #5 b7
Dim7: 1 b3 b3 bb7
m/maj7:1 b3 (5) 7
m7b5: 1 b3 b5 b7
m7#5: 1 b3 #5 b7
m7b9: 1 b3 (5) b7 b9

An Example of a Guitar Arpeggio in C

If you want to play a C major, your notes would be C-E-G

If you want to play a C minor, your notes would be C-Eb-G

If you want to play a C major 7, your notes would be C-E-B

If you want to play an augmented C, your notes would be C-E-G#

Arpeggio Ex 1

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Playing in One Stroke And a Single Picking Direction

Playing arpeggios in this manner can help you achieve faster speeds on the guitar as your finger movements are minimized. This combination of arpeggio and technique is also commonly known as economy picking.

arpeggio technique 1

arpeggio technique 2

arpeggio technique 3

arpeggio technique 4


Playing Arpeggios With Your Fingers

arpeggios 2

When using your fingers, the thumb plucks notes on the top 3 strings (bass notes) while the rest of the fingers are used to play the bottom 3 strings individually.

Other Ways of Playing Your Arpeggios

Arpeggios can also be played using the tapping technique and this can open up a whole new world of interesting sounds. Here’s how you can play a tonic triad arpeggio (1,3,5 pattern):

  • Put your finger on the root note of your arpeggio close to the nut, on the G, B or E strings
  • Hammer on to your 5th note with your right hand
  • Pull off to your root note
  • Hammer on to your third note with your left hand
  • Hammer on to your fifth note again with your right hand, and repeat the 1,3,5 pattern

You can also play arpeggios with string skipping by mapping out your notes with the following steps:

  • Finding the root note, the second and third notes of your arpeggio on ascending or descending adjacent strings.
  • For example, you might find your root note on the sixth string, your third on the A string, and your fifth on the D string.
  • You can string-skip either the second, third or fourth notes in your arpeggio.
  • Instead of playing your arpeggio where you usually would on the adjacent string, skip that string and find the same note on the next highest string.
  • Continue on the adjacent string for the next note.

Arpeggio Exercise Using A Chord And D Chord

In this exercise, you should attempt to play the arpeggios with and without a pick.

Arpeggio Ex 2

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Practicing Arpeggios Using Songs

In my opinion, one of the best ways to practice your arpeggios and have fun at the same time is to learn songs. Here’s a list of songs that utilize lots of arpeggio playing.

  • Civil War, Guns n Roses
  • Everybody Hurts, REM
  • If I Close My Eyes Forever, Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne
  • Beast and the Harlot, Avenged Sevenfold

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