This blog will take you through the arpeggios of the Major scale. We will look at the following topics:
1) What is an arpeggio?
2) What is the Major scale?
3) The Chords/Arpeggios of the Major scale
3) The three main arpeggio shapes
4) Playing all of the arpeggios of the Major scale in one flowing exercise.
I do expect you to have some basic understanding of guitar before we start. The understanding of intervals (tones and semitones), the sting, fret and finger numbers and some comfort with basic scale/chord graphs and tab.
What is an Arpeggio?
An arpeggio is where we take the notes from a chord and play them individually. We can to this by holding a chord and playing one note at a time (like the guitar playing in house of the rising sun) or in a more theoretical format of following the notes in scale order.
If we take the notes of an A chord from theory we would get the following:
A C# E which could be repeated in other octaves in this order
If we however take the notes of an A chord from the standard way of playing it we get the notes in this order:
A E A C# E
For the sake of this exercise we will be focusing on playing the notes of the arpeggio in scale/pitch order over two octaves.
A C# E A C# E
What is the Major Scale
The Major scale is a sequence of intervals with the following pattern.
Root, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone
So if we were to play the E major scale on just the 6th string we would get the following fret numbers:
0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12
these notes can be played over a variety of strings and will give us various scale shapes. With this exercises we are going to be using the D major scale on the A string. This will mean that the starting position for each arpeggio run will be as follows:
5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17
The chords/Arpeggios of the Major Scale
Due to the notes available in the Major scale and the spacing/intervals between them, we get the following available chords from each of these positions.
Root/1st note = Major Chord
2nd note = minor Chord
3rd note = minor Chord
4th note = Major Chord
5th note = Major Chord
6th note = minor Chord
7th note = Diminished Chord
8th note/ root = Major Chord
Therefore we get the following collection of chords or arpeggios for our exercise in D Major starting on the 5th string.
5th fret – D Major
7th fret – E minor
9th fret – F# minor
10th fret – G Major
12th fret – A Major
14th fret – B minor
16th fret – C# Diminished
17th fret – D Major
note how we come back to the Major root to round things off at the end.
The three main Arpeggio shapes
Well technically there are loads more than three, and which ones are the main ones depends on the styles and influences you have as a guitarist. However these are the three main arpeggios of the Major scale, and therefore three main fundamentals of music theory. These three are:
For this exercise we are going to look at the 5 string shapes. The three shapes are shown in the same style as a chord. However they should be played one note at a time and not as a chord together. The arpeggio graphs are as follows:
Note that all the notes fall behind the root note on the 5th string. Therefore we should start each shape using our little finger to allow our other fingers to fall in place. In the minor and diminished shapes we should cover 2 frets with our index finger but keep the other fingers to a one finger per fret pattern.
Due to the stretch it may be worth trying these shapes up near 7th or 9th fret at this stage and not down at 5th due to the fret sizes.
Playing all of the arpeggios of the major scale in one flowing exercise
So now it’s time to take the root notes we look at earlier:
5, 7 ,9 ,10 ,12 ,14 ,16 ,17
and the chord/arpeggio types: (M=Major, m=minor, dim = diminished)
M, m, m, M, M, m, dim, M
and put these together.
Below will be the tab to help you out, but here is an explanation and if you want to help the theory side of things settle in it might be worth reading this and working it out without using the tab unless you get lost.
Here is the full exercise
- Starting on the 5th fret or the 5th string with the little finger do a Major arpeggio run down and back up the strings
- Slide up to the 7th fret on the 5th string with the little finger and then so a minor arpeggio run down and back up the strings
- Then slide up to the 9th fret on the 5th string with the little finger and then so a minor arpeggio run down and back up the strings
- Slide up to the 10th fret on the 5th string with the little finger and then so a Major arpeggio run down and back up the strings
- Then Slide up to the 12th fret on the 5th string with the little finger and then so a Major arpeggio run down and back up the strings
- Slide up to the 14th fret on the 5th string with the little finger and then so a minor arpeggio run down and back up the strings
- Then slide up to the 16th fret on the 5th string with the little finger and then so a diminished arpeggio run down and back up the strings
- Finally slide up to the 17th fret on the 5th string with the little finger and then so a Major arpeggio run down and back up the strings.
The Exercise as tab
The first four arpeggios shown above are great for exercising on any type of guitar. However for all the electric guitarists out there try playing the patterns shown above followed by the patterns shown below in one continuous run.