Thursday, February 4, 2016

Master Arpeggios

Seven extreme arpeggio forms can be played starting on the 6th string with the 1st finger and finishing on the 1st string with the 4th finger and each comprising 11 notes. They are presented here with Roman numerals so they may be played in any key. The fret positions are variable depending on the particular key you choose to play in. They are described in the key of G, in which they can be played on an electric guitar or acoustic steel string with a cutaway.

A classical guitar fretboard joins the body at the 12th fret and lacks a cutaway making it impossible to play all of these patterns in one key, though they are each playable in a small range of keys.

The layout of the diagrams is based on the potential to play any of the patterns in any key, however because the patterns span 11 or 12 fret spaces. If you are playing a cutaway guitar with 22 or more frets, you can play all the patterns in every key.

Notice that in each case, the lower pattern spans the three lower strings (Lower String Group) and the higher pattern covers the upper four (Upper String Group). The green shapes of the arpeggio patterns which are connected by red or orange ellipse shapes. The ellipses represent hand position shifts, which are either minor 3rds (red) or major 3rds (orange). Remember that these are all series of 3rds, so you will not play the note in the center of each ellipse.

Finally, an important detail is that these arpeggios span one note short of 3 full octaves, each one ending on the 7th of its root note. Adding the root at the high end competes the 3 octave run.

Starting with the tonic pattern, lets play the first pattern in the key of G. It will run from the 3rd fret of the 6th string to the 14th fret on the 1st.

(More about the underlying symmetry of these arpeggios HERE - HERE - HERE - HERE and HERE.)

The notes are:  I (G) - III (B) - V (D) - VII (F#) - II (A) - SHIFT - IV (C) - VI (E) - I (G) - III (B)  V (D) - VII (F#). 
Tonic and Subdominant
(In the key of G, the lower form is G Major 9th, the upper form is C Major #11.)

(key of G)

Once you've gotten the hang of playing it in G, try it in other practical keys.

The next pattern can be played in the key of G as well. In that key it will run from the 5th fret to the 16th fret at its highest fret position on the 4th string, but the last note will be the tonic on the 15th fret of the 1st string.

Supertonic and Dominant
(In the key of G the lower form is A minor 9, the upper form is D Dominant 11th.)

(key of G)

If you stay in the key of G, you will play the next pattern starting on the 7th fret. (In the key of C, it begins on the open 6th string) ...

Mediant and Submediant
(In the key of G the lower form is B minor 7 (b9), the upper form is E minor 11th.)

(key of G)

In the key of G, the next arpeggio begins on the 8th fret and reaches to the 19th ... continue in the key of C if you have an acoustic guitar ...

Subdominant and Leading Tone
(In the key of G the lower form is C Major 9th, the upper form is F# minor 11th (b5 b9).)

(key of G)

Dominant and Tonic
(In the key of G the lower form is D Dominant 9, the upper form is G Major 11th.)

(key of G)
... now we shift back down to the open position, where the open E string is VI ...

Submediant and Supertonic
(In the key of G the lower form is E minor 9, the upper form is A minor 11th.)

(key of G)
... and finishing with the 7th degree (F#) on the 2nd fret ...
Leading Tone and Mediant
(In the key of G the lower form is F# minor b9 (b5), the upper form is B minor 11 (b9).

(key of G)
Helpful hints:

1) Play slowly and with rhythm. Give all the notes equal time.

2) Be aware of your picking pattern. If you're using a pick, try alternating the pick direction on each note. Also, "sweeps" may be preferable when crossing strings.

3) Be consistent with your left hand fingering and play the patterns using the same fingering ascending and descending. Ideally, the first note of each form is played with the 1st finger (except where the first note is an open string) ... and the last note of each form is played with the 4th finger.

4) Remember which patterns are most effective in a particular key.

5) Name the notes out loud as you play them. Staying aware of the note names in any pattern is always a good idea.

6) Write down the patterns in standard notation. Start with the key of C.