Monday, November 7, 2011

Reading Notes: Arpeggios

One of the daunting tasks guitar students face is learning to connect notes on the staff to positions on the fretboard.  It is particularly difficult when the notes are not scale based, since there may be an irregular pattern in both the notation and the fretboard.

The notes shown on the staff in the diagram below – including the a few notes above and below the five lines of the staff which are attached to short additional lines (called leger lines) – are the notes which will be used in the exercises which follow;
The notes are simply in alphabetical order from the bottom up as you go from line to space to line to space; C-D-E-F-G etc.
The lowest note shown here (C) can be played on the 3rd fret of the 5th string, or the 8th fret of the 6th string. The highest note (B), can be played on the 7th fret of the 1st string or the 12th fret of the 2nd string;

One way to open the door to reading non-scale patterns is by reading arpeggios, which are simply chords which are played note by note. The simplest chord forms are just sequences of 3rds; C-E-G-B etc.

This exercise covers a wide span of the fretboard, from the 8th fret of the 6th string - across to the 1st fret of the 1st string and ending on the 5th fret of the 1st string.

By positioning a series of 3rds starting with C in such a way that the notation and the strings of the fretboard align, you can see the relationship between the staff and the fretboard note positions. The total set of notes comprise a C major 13th chord arpeggio. Notice that all the notes fall on lines of the staff, not the spaces. Whenever you play a series of 3rds, they will all be on either lines or spaces, depending on the specific set of notes - but there will never be a mix of lines and spaces.

Follow the fingering  (italic numbers) carefully;
The grey numbers below the fretboard are fret positions. Numbers in squares are chord degrees; R is the chord root, 3 is the 3rd above the root, etc. The piano keyboard shows the sequential relationship of the notes from left to right. (If you play piano, you'll notice that the notation for the guitar sounds an octave lower than the same notation written for the piano.)

Memorize the positions of these notes on the staff and the fretboard. Say them aloud as you play them They can serve as reference points to find other notes.

Here's a similar exercise based on D, the second step in the key of C major;
This is a D minor 13th arpeggio. Notice that all the notes are in spaces on the staff, not lines.

An interesting thing about these arpeggios, is that each contains all seven notes of the key of C.  Hopefully these two examples will give you some insight into the relationship between standard notation and the fretboard. More to come.

All contents of this blog are © Mark Newstetter

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