Tech Tip:Arpeggio 101

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The following tips for aspiring guitarists are courtesy of John McCarthy of The Rock House Method, publisher of video lessons for musicians at every skill level.


Jake Williams; Denver, Colorado



Q: What is an "arpeggio" and do I need to know these to play lead guitar?


A: An arpeggio is each note of a chord picked out separately. If you are serious about playing lead or rhythm guitar you will need to know how to construct an arpeggio and use it in the context of a song.


Let me start by explaining how to construct an arpeggio. Find a chord that you would like to use in a song context for either lead or rhythm sections. For this example, let’s say we wanted to use an A minor arpeggio. We must first know the names of the notes that make up this chord, which are A-C-E. By playing these three notes in succession in any order, you are playing an A minor arpeggio. You can also use chords that consist of more than three notes such as a C major 7th, which uses the notes C-E-G-B. Playing these four notes in succession will form a C major 7th arpeggio.


For lead playing there are various techniques that can be applied to arpeggios to make them very interesting. These include sweep picking and triplet patterns. But I suggest that you start at the beginning and just learn the basic arpeggios and memorize them so you can apply them to your playing quickly and expand your vocabulary.