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Playing Arpeggios Correctly?

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(@Anonymous)
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Well like I metioned in my other reply..if you spend your time practicing the scales and understanding chord construction then arpeggios will be automatic...no more thinking than playing a solo in the Am pentatonic scale...what notes are in the scale and where are they...Am arpeggio...what notes are in the chord and where are they..

No special practice...just learn the fretboard and know how chords are made.


   
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(@davidhodge)
Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4472
 

*sigh*

Let's try this:

Form an E7 chord. Now play it this way using all eighth notes:
E - - - - - 0 - - - - - - - - - -
B - - - - 3 - 3 - - - - - - - - -
G - - - 1 - - - 1 - - - - - - - -
D - - 2 - - - - - 2 - - - - - - -
A - 2 - - - - - - - 2 - - - - - -
E 0 - - - - - - - - - 0 - - - - -

That's an arpeggio in the style you recorded. Now play it this way, making all of them eighth notes again except the first hit of the D note at the third fret of the B string (marked with an "*" if I[ve done this correctly), which you play as a quater note:
*
E - - - - - 0 - - - - 0 - - - - -
B - - - - - - 3 - - - - 3 - - - -
G - - - 1 - - - - - 1 - - - - - -
D - - 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

That should sound like the opening to CCR's Born on the Bayou. And that's a riff that is no more than (as you see) an E7 arpeggio. No more, no less.

The ability to playing arpeggios allows you to play your strings in a seemingly random order to produce specific patterns. But it's not at all random. A better explanation is that you're fingerpicking without your fingers.

The idea is to get to the point where you know what strings you're hitting. Where you create the arpeggio pattern you want. To do this you need to be able to do two things - (1) form the chord and (2) pick the strings. That's it. There's nothing magical or mystical about the basics. The magic comes from spending enough time to be able to pick the strings in a specific pattern - and the specific patterns are a matter of both notes and timing, as I've hopefully demonstrated using this simple example.

Don't make it more of a task than what it is. Getting the basics of something like this does take time and effort, mostly because it's not something one is used to doing. But it's not rocket surgery either, as they say. :wink: This is one of those techniques that, more often than not, the comfort grows out noodling around with it. Noodle to get used to it and then give yourself specific tasks to work on.

What to practice? There are lots of songs based on arpeggios, ranging from slow to fast. TIcket to Ride and (Don't Fear) The Reaper come immediately to mind for some reason this morning. But (only speaking for myself here) it brings the point home more to write out a bunch yourself and then work on them. This is how a songwriter often comes up with musical hooks and riffs for songs.

Again hope this helps.

Peace

PS - Oh! And a personal favor? Could you kindly work on not quoting entire posts, particularly when they are immediately above the one you're replying to. Not only does it seem silly to have to read an entire post seven or eight times in a row, but it keeps me from having to spend hours needlessly editing things. Most people reading these forums are capable of figuring out what's being addressed in a reply. If there's any real doubt, quote only what you need.

Thanks.


   
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(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

No special practice...just learn the fretboard and know how chords are made.

What's up with the 'special practice' anyway? An appergio is an appergio, nothing more or less, and if you practice *something* that helps you play them you're practicing playing appergios. You seem to know what an appergio is, you seem to have an idea of what would help you play them, so I don't get the fuss. Just do whatever you think is the right thing to do.


   
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(@Anonymous)
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*sigh*

What "sigh"? I have not received an answer to my question so I continue to probe. Maybe your students will "settle" for what they are told but mine will not...(sorry to be harsh but the sigh was uncalled for David.)

The ability to playing arpeggios allows you to play your strings in a seemingly random order to produce specific patterns. But it's not at all random. A better explanation is that you're fingerpicking without your fingers.

The idea is to get to the point where you know what strings you're hitting. Where you create the arpeggio pattern you want. To do this you need to be able to do two things - (1) form the chord and (2) pick the strings. That's it. There's nothing magical or mystical about the basics. The magic comes from spending enough time to be able to pick the strings in a specific pattern - and the specific patterns are a matter of both notes and timing, as I've hopefully demonstrated using this simple example.

To me this is nothing more than taking the fretboard (scale) knowledge and chord knowledge and then just noodle with it. There aren't any "set" patterns as there is with strumming.
Don't make it more of a task than what it is. Getting the basics of something like this does take time and effort, mostly because it's not something one is used to doing. But it's not rocket surgery either, as they say. :wink: This is one of those techniques that, more often than not, the comfort grows out noodling around with it. Noodle to get used to it and then give yourself specific tasks to work on.

It appears to me that all of you are making more out of arppegios...lessons are written on them, there are books on them...yet there really isn't any structure to follow. I make up my own pattern and then play it...to me that's songwriting.
What to practice? There are lots of songs based on arpeggios, ranging from slow to fast. TIcket to Ride and (Don't Fear) The Reaper come immediately to mind for some reason this morning. But (only speaking for myself here) it brings the point home more to write out a bunch yourself and then work on them. This is how a songwriter often comes up with musical hooks and riffs for songs.

Again hope this helps.

Peace

I don't mean to sound unappreciative of all the explanations you all have given me. I understand WHAT arpeggios are and I understand HOW they are used. What I don't understand is why do teachers tell students to PRACTICE them when there really isn't anything to practice unless I am writing a lick or song or playing someone else'd lick or song. That's song WRITING and song LEARNING. The only real "rule" I see is to use the notes from a chord...and if played over a backing track play the right arpeggio with the right chord combination.

I am only trying to justify my practice time. I have only been playing a year and there is a TON more I need to learn. I really don't want to waste that time practicing something that I can learn practicing something else. All of you seem to accept that arpeggios NEED special practice time...I still have not accepted that.

Thank you again...I really do appreciate your effort AND patience. 8) 8) 8)


   
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(@josephlefty)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 373
 

*sigh*

What "sigh"? I have not received an answer to my question so I continue to probe. Maybe your students will "settle" for what they are told but mine will not...(sorry to be harsh but the sigh was uncalled for David.)

Now you are getting nasty with David. These guys do everything to help everyone with their knowledge and time and give it freely.

Hard to believe you are a Teacher. Your social 'skills' need more help than your guitar playing.

If it was easy it wouldn't be worth doing.


   
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(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

Let's chill out guys before this spins way out of control.

Mike: we are not in school, and noone is forcing you to learn or do anything. You seem to be interested in appergios so many have given advice as to how to use it. You are absolutely free to consider it usefull or useless advice, and you have all the right to practice whatever you want. From personal experience I can say that following David's advice, for one, is quite a usefull thing to do. In any case, pretty much anything has been covered and I guess it might be best for all to just get back to practicing whatever each of us feels like practicing. :)


   
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(@davidhodge)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4472
 

The sigh comes from having an awful lot of work to do which is being neglected by being here for the past three hours. If you're going to make that about you, I can't help you there. It's totally me being self-indulgent.

Now let's get on track and get this all civilized again.

Mike, you don't have a guitar teacher, if I recall correctly. Therefore all this worrying about apeggios is coming from you. When you say
What I don't understand is why do teachers tell students to PRACTICE them when there really isn't anything to practice unless I am writing a lick or song or playing someone else'd lick or song.

what teachers, specifically, are you citing?

When I teach a student arpeggios, the underlying idea is to give them the confidence to play around with picking the strings with a pick, thus freeing them from relying on strumming for all their rhythm work. This becomes very important, for hopefully obvious reasons, when (1) playing with others and (2) recording multiple guitar parts. Using arpeggios can give a song arrangement more depth, particularly when dealing with more than a single guitar.

Part of the reason I don't teach it to all my students, at least not immediately, is that I have to wait until they have enough musical knowledge to appreciate what, exactly, they are doing the arpeggio work for. That, too is something that comes more from listening and curiousity more than book smarts.

I have to go teach a lesson right now (student just drove up), but I'll try to write more on this in a couple hours.

Peace


   
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(@greybeard)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

Will you please calm down, mike. David has given you everything you need to know, all you need to do is go and try a few things out.
Whilst we're on the subject of not getting what you want, David asked "PS - Oh! And a personal favor? Could you kindly work on not quoting entire posts, particularly when they are immediately above the one you're replying to." - which is what YOU ignored.
"Maybe your students will "settle" for what they are told but mine will not"
David is not one of your students and you are not one of his. If you expect more from him than he has already given you, then I suggest that you book a few lessons with him and, then, you can make all the demands you want. Until you do (and he accepts you), I suggest you take what he offers in good grace and stop badgering him.
*sigh*

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@fretsource)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 973
 

Mike, as you said, what's essential is knowing the notes of chords. And I'm sure you'll agree that it's not enough to know them only in theory. You have to develop the physical ability to play them in succession accurately smoothly and as fast as you need.

And I hope you'll also agree that physically practising playing those chord notes is the only way to acquire that skill. I'm talking about just the chord notes. Scales won't help you here. they'll only distract you with irrelevant non-chord notes. You want to develop the ability to play chord notes in succession as that is an important feature of music. So, using your knowledge of chords, you practise playing just the chord notes in a wide variety of ways. - That's arpeggios.

A sports analogy
If I'm a boxer but my left hook is a bit weak, then I will want to practise that separately. I don't want some coach telling me, "Just box and your left hook will automatically improve through boxing". It's true that it will improve, but not nearly as fast as it will if I take time to practise that specific skill.

Can I just repeat what I think is the essence of my point? Practising scales won't help you develop an impressive ability to play arpeggios. In fact they'll hinder that ability. Your fingers will always be trying to move by scale steps, not chord intervals.

Of course if you argue that you don't need to practise scale notes consecutively, but can play their notes selectively as would be required to produce chords, then I will counter that doing that means you are in fact practising arpeggios and the discussion will have reached its natural conclusion :)


   
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(@stormymonday)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 429
 

I'm horrible at explaining things, but I'll give it a shot. There are a couple of different ways to think of arpeggios. Arpeggios can be used as the rhythm for a song, right? Just like strumming with a certain strumming pattern can be used as the rhythm. Well, one way to think of arpeggios is as just another strumming pattern. There are many different strumming patterns, and you practice them because you want to be able to play them because they sound good. You would practice arpeggios so you could play them as another "strumming pattern" as you would anything else. It's just another (very valuable) way to spice up your rhythm.

Also, another way to think of arpeggios is as another way to play within a scale. Rather than just playing a scale in the key of the song you're in, playing only the notes that are within the chord you're playing over sounds really good. Just grabbing the chord form and playing an arpeggio in your solo to me is a lot easier than trying to memorize what notes a certain chord I'm playing over are, and where they are located.

One thing that I don't think I've seen mentioned is that practicing arpeggios will greatly improve your picking hand accuracy. Unlike playing within a scale where you tend to go from one string to the one right next to it, arpeggios lend themselves well to string skipping, which isn't so easy.

I think the best advice I can give you is to listen to as many songs as you can that used a lot of arpeggios. Notice how if the arpeggios were replaced by simple strumming or your normal scale soloing, it would have a much different effect. Arpeggios sound good, right? If it sounds good, you would want to be able to play it. In short, you practice arpeggios, I think, in order to add another dimension to your playing. More depth, if you will.

Hopefully I haven't confused you more.


   
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(@davidhodge)
Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4472
 

Okay, sorry to have not finished writing this out the last time.

The ability to playing arpeggios allows you to play your strings in a seemingly random order to produce specific patterns. But it's not at all random. A better explanation is that you're fingerpicking without your fingers.

The idea is to get to the point where you know what strings you're hitting. Where you create the arpeggio pattern you want. To do this you need to be able to do two things - (1) form the chord and (2) pick the strings. That's it. There's nothing magical or mystical about the basics. The magic comes from spending enough time to be able to pick the strings in a specific pattern - and the specific patterns are a matter of both notes and timing, as I've hopefully demonstrated using this simple example.

To me this is nothing more than taking the fretboard (scale) knowledge and chord knowledge and then just noodle with it. There aren't any "set" patterns as there is with strumming.
There are set patterns, Mike, just like in fingerpicking, which is why I wrote:
The magic comes from spending enough time to be able to pick the strings in a specific pattern - and the specific patterns are a matter of both notes and timing...

Because there are all sorts of patterns, it becomes important to decide which pattern you want to play and this is why I asked you what you meant by "correct" in your original question.

It appears to me that all of you are making more out of arppegios...lessons are written on them, there are books on them...yet there really isn't any structure to follow. I make up my own pattern and then play it...to me that's songwriting.

It's more about technique and arranging than songwriting. If you're playing with someone (or a backing track) that's just a strummed rhythm guitar, chosing to use arpeggios creates a different depth to the track. For a good example of this (even though it's old), take Paul Simon's The Sounds of Silence. It was originally released on Simon and Garfunkle's first album, just two voices and an acoustic guitar. It wasn't until someone added an electric guitar playing pretty much nothing but arpeggios on top of the first arrangement that it got really popular. That wasn't songwriting. It was adding texture to the existing song, which is what I mentioned earlier.

I also said last time:
Part of the reason I don't teach it to all my students, at least not immediately, is that I have to wait until they have enough musical knowledge to appreciate what, exactly, they are doing the arpeggio work for.

And this ties into that last example. Knowing the chords is the obvious part of playing arpeggios, but coming up with the pattern of which strings to hit (nicely covered by Fretsource, Sport and StormyMonday) and when. Ideally, arpeggio patterns totally compliment the song in which they're being used. Think about the Beatles' I Want You / She's So Heavy. The song couldn't have the spooky, plodding feeling it has if someone were speeding through those arpeggios (in the "She's So Heavy" part) at say 140 BPM.

Like a lot of aspects of the guitar, playing arpeggios seems very easy until one tries to do it. For some people, it does come very easily. They are comfortable enough with their guitars and knowing what strings to pick in what order and can come up with arpeggios on the spot.

But other people find them frustrating and that is indeed why there are books on them (which, I would assume, give you specific things to practice). Saying "there really isn't anything to practice" is like telling a kid not to practice spelling out just words because he or she isn't using them in a sentence or a story. We all know that school isn't like that.

As far as justifying your practice time or taking up your practice time with arpeggios, I can't do that. I know many guitarists who rarely use them, if at all. I know many others who don't practice them because they come fairly easily to them. But if they are something you want to be able to do and to use at the drop of the hat, then they are something you need to work on to the point that you're happy with what you can do.

And I have to apologize because, reading your last note:
All of you seem to accept that arpeggios NEED special practice time...I still have not accepted that.

I didn't realize that this is what the post turned out to be about. My original comments were born from (1) your original post, (2) your recording and (3) your note to Lee when he made reference to timing and you got defensive about it. Timing is an important part of arpeggios and a big reason people practice them.

If you haven't accepted that you need to practice them, that's fine. As I said, lots of people don't use them.

Again, sorry that I had to run off and leave my last post before finishing it.

Peace


   
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(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5582
 

Mike

I think you are worrying about arpeggios too much. Arpeggios are not more important than scales, or strumming chords.

As David said, arpeggios come easy to some. I have always played arpeggios and it is probably one of the better things I do. But I never saw them as complicated in the first place. To me, an arpeggio is just picking the notes of a chord versus strumming a chord. Where other players would strum their chords, I would just pick single notes. That's it. That's all there is to it.

But arpeggios are useful, especially when playing with another guitarist who is strumming chords. Why strum the same thing? So I would pick the notes single. Now, you are both playing the same chord, but you can hear each player independently. And this works well when you have more than one guitarist.

And arpeggios just sound pretty. I don't know if you know the old Ten Years After song, I'd Love to Change the World. That song is played with simple arpeggios. Beautiful. Later in the song, the same exact chords are strummed. So you get a contrast, it breaks up the monotony of simply strumming chords all the time. Another great example of arpeggios is the bridge in Badge, or the intro to It Don't Come Easy by Ringo Starr. These are just regular open chords played one note at a time.

Some other famous arpeggios songs:

Color My World - by Chicago (played to death at weddings in the 70's)
Love Hurts - Nazareth (one of the most beautiful and recognized arpeggio songs in Rock)

I think the problem is that you are seeing arpeggios as more than they are. You have probably read about Metal players sweep picking arpeggios up the neck. Now that is great and all, really more of a show-off thing than musical IMHO. But when you pick regular chords slow, now that is very musical and beautiful to listen to. Forget about that speed sweep picking stuff for now.

As far as someone saying that arpeggios need to be a big part of practice, well that is because you are going from one string to another in various patterns (you can play any pattern you personally choose). So this takes good picking hand control. If you are picking the 6th string, then have to go to the 1st, then 4th, then 2nd, that takes practice to do well without looking and without making mistakes. It is even more difficult if you are singing at the same time. So this is more difficult than simply strumming a chord and so needs more practice.

But's there's nothing mysterious or magical about arpeggios. Look at it simple like I do. It is just picking chords one note at a time. That's it.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5582
 

Here you go, Nazareth playing Love Hurts back in '75. This song is all regular open chords played arpeggio style. Nothing fancy about this at all. Easy.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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(@matteo)
Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 557
 

Hi Mike

as better guitarists than me have already said arpeggios are useful in at least two sides of playing: rhythm and lead

I've started to use them in rhythm (i do not play leads) as an alternative to strummin the chords (as both David Hodge, Wes Iman and Stormy Monday explained): in this case it is fundamental to be able to play them with a steady timing (like if you play a strumming pattern) And yes there are some set patterns for arpeggios but just like with regular strumming once that you've decided what kind of rhythm to follow you can improvise and choose your own arpeggio pattern.

I mean if I have to play a 4/4 song with eight notes resolution I could play it with any of the following strumming pattern

du/du/du/du

dd/dd/dd/dd

d/du/u/du

d/du/d/du

and several more

The same goes with arpeggios. If I decide to play a regular eight note arpeggio I could play

T,I,M,R twice a measure

or

T,I,M,I twice a mesure

or

T,I,M,I

T,I,A,I

or

T,I,M,I

T,I,T,M

or whatever way I'd like exactly like in strumming

Matteo


   
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(@dustdevil)
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 99
 

Ok, I'll jump into the fray, here uninvited.....
As a fellow beginner (almost a year...) I can add a few things...

1. Take advice from older guitar players with careful consideration. They are further down the road than you are and they can see/have seen what is ahead for you on the horizon.

2. As far as I can tell, this is what arppegios do for you:
a. They help you learn to hit specific strings at specific times. This helps you play alt. base lines more cleanly and probably makes a transition to fingerpicking easier too.
b. Arpeggios can "break up" a song, waking up a listener whose mind is beginning to drift from constant strumming.
c. Arpeggios give you a certain flair or style which differentiates you from every other strummer out there.
d. As stated earlier, arpeggios can add something different to the mix when playing with others.
e. Learning arpeggios might make learning some tabs easier as many complex looking parts in a tab are probably just arpeggios.

3. If you just really hate practicing arpeggios, try learning a song. David Hodge's "Hurt" on this site is a great arrangement. Another great song is "Everybody Hurts" by REM. You can find this on the internet. Pretty, but good luck trying to sing it.

John A.

They say only a pawnshop guitar can play the blues. An eBay one does it better. A guitar's bound to feel unloved if her owner plasters pictures of her over the internet for all to see and then sells her off to the highest anonymous bidder.


   
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