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Arpeggios - Practice Pattern Summary

George with Guitar

This month we will summarize the practice variations used to learn the arpeggio fingerings. These are the patterns introduced in the articles on the different arpeggio types gathered into one place so that you need not look back through all the articles to remember them all. In addition, there will be some new variations. Each pattern may require some adaptation depending on the instrument that you are playing, but they all should work on any instrument.

The first pattern, and most basic, is to start on the lowest note of the arpeggio you are practicing that your instrument can play, and play up to the highest note allowed on your instrument. Most methods teach arpeggios by starting and ending on the root. By practicing in this manner, you not only learn where all of the notes for the arpeggio are on your instrument, but you get out of the habit of always looking for, and starting on the root.

Take this practice to the next level by using the same strategy starting the pattern on each note of the arpeggio. Taking a Major Seventh arpeggio as an example, play from root to root, then, third to third, fifth to fifth, and lastly seventh to seventh. Again, go from lowest to highest, but also try starting in various ranges of the instrument also. The point is to be able to start the arpeggio on any note that it contains. An added benefit, is that you will learn what each note is in the arpeggio, rather than playing a pattern without thinking about what you are playing.

Now try playing the notes in sequence, combining the above. Taking a Major Seventh arpeggio as an example again, the sequence would be 1, 3, 5, 7, then 3, 5, 7, 1, followed by 5, 7, 1, 3, and then 7, 1, 3, 5, starting over going as far as your instrument will allow. It should also be noted at this point, that all of these patterns should be played descending as well as ascending.

All of these patterns can be varied by approaching each note by a half step above or below. For example, instead of playing A, C, E, and G, try playing G#, A, then B, C, followed by D#, E, and then F#, G. Then try the same thing coming in from a half step above each note. When you are comfortable with this, try mixing up whether you come in from a half step above or below. Try doing this by slurring into each note, or if your instrument allows, hammer or slide into the notes.

Next try playing these in different intervals. Take a Cm7 arpeggio, C, Eb, G, and Bb as an example. Start by playing C, G, Eb, Bb for example. Or try octave skips on each note as you play it. Another example would be to play C, Eb, C, Eb, G, Eb, G, Bb, G, continuing upward, and then back down in a similar manner. There are all kinds of permutations on these that you can come up with. Try everything that you can think of.

Once again, remember to play all of these patterns both ascending and descending. And of course, in all twelve keys. Also do them in both duple and triple meters. For example first play them using eighth note patterns, then in eighth note triplet patterns. Play in every range of your instrument as well as from lowest to highest. Variations, variations, and more variations of everything here that you can come up will will make you more facile on you instrument with these patterns. You want to sound musical, not like you are playing exercises, so experiment, and practice these in a dedicated manner so that there is no longer any though process involved, and you are playing ideas that you hear.