Learn To Play: Arpeggiation on Guitar

In this Learn to Play two-part lesson, Joe talks to us about arpeggios and all their many forms: major, minor, major seventh, minor seventh, and dominant seventh. Check out the first video above for arpeggiation 101, which covers what an arpeggio is and how to practice major and minor arpeggios. Once you’ve mastered the basics, take a look at the video below on seventh chord arpeggiation to add more color to your arpeggios.

The first installment of this lesson covers basic theory regarding major and minor chords, and how to practice those chords as arpeggiation. Major chords are comprised of a tonic, a third, and a fifth, while minor chords are built with the root, a flatted third, and a fifth. Arpeggiation is just playing the notes in those chords one by one in sequence, rather than all at once.

To practice arpeggiation, try starting on the tonic, then on the third or flatted third, and finally on the fifth. Once you have the form down, arpeggiation is a great way to spice up your music by adding variation. Joe shows us some popular songs that use this technique, including Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” and the Beatles’ “And I Love Her.”

Seventh chords can add different kinds of color and ambience to arpeggiation. There are three different kinds of seventh chords: major, minor, and dominant. Major seventh chords take a major triad and simply add a seventh on the top. In a similar fashion, minor sevenths take a minor triad and add a flatted seventh. Dominant chords are a little trickier; they mix the two, taking a major triad but adding a flatted seventh at the top. Each of these arpeggiated chords has a different feel that can really affect the tone and mood of your piece and are used frequently in popular music, such as in “Pretty Woman” and Chet Atkins’ “Mr. Sandman.”

Check out more Learn To Play videos for step-by-step lessons on music theory, exercises, and songs on our Learn To Play page.

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