What is a guitar arpeggio?
A guitar arpeggio is just the notes of a chord played individually. If you were to play a basic C major chord on the guitar and pick out each note one at a time, you have a C major arpeggio.
Often when talking about an arpeggio on the guitar, there is more involved than just taking a basic chord form and picking out the individual notes. First let’s look at a basic D major chord.
Sure, I could just play those notes one at a time, and that is done all of the time in thousands of songs. But if I look at the notes that make up a D major chord, and put them in order starting with D…..I have the notes D, F#, and A.
But if I was to just play the notes of that basic D major chord, they are not in order. Starting with the 4th string I have a D, then an A, D, F#. Often when playing an arpeggio on the guitar, you want to play all of the notes in order and not skip any. That means that sometimes you will have 2 notes on the same string. Something that isn’t possible if you are playing all of the notes at once.
Here is a basic D major arpeggio on the first 4 strings. You are not going to hold down your fingers on more than one note at a time. You are just going to play each note individually and not as a chord. So here you are thinking melodically rather than just thinking about arpeggiating the notes in a basic D chord form.
So the best way for you to think of a guitar arpeggio is this. A guitar arpeggio is all of the note possibilities of a chord played individually in a particular area of the neck. Arpeggios can definitely span multiple positions, but you are still playing the notes of a chord in order.
Here is a D major arpeggio in 2nd position on the guitar. In this arpeggio form you are actually starting on an F# note. Why? Because this is the lowest note possibility of a D chord in this position. Again, a D chord contains the notes D, F#, and A. So this is all of the D’s, F#s and A’s in 2nd position.
What is the purpose of a guitar arpeggio?
So now you know what a guitar arpeggios is. But what are they good for? The answer is they are going to be very important for improvisation and/or songwriting.
If you are improvising over a D major chord, knowing were all of the chord tone possibilities are in a particular position is going to come in handy. This helps you create a melody that will sound like a particular chord. You may still play other notes, but emphasizing the notes in the arpeggio will help your melody have a strong chord sound.
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