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      Hello again, and welcome to Master Class. This lesson will cover two basic arpeggio shapes. I'll graphically illustrate the shapes, and provide tips for playing them. I'll also give you tips for sweep picking these arpeggios. As I mentioned in Master Class #1, these lessons are intended for those who already have a few years' experience playing guitar. I'm going to dive right in without a lot of preamble, but I will try to explain things as clearly as possible. As always, you can email at: jeffrey@jrsmoots.com if you have questions.

Let's Number our fingers

Fretting hand numbering scheme        The arpeggios shown below have specific fingering suggestions for the fretting hand. The fretting hand fingers are numbered, one through four. You'll see the fingering suggestions shown inside the fingering circles.

Arpeggios

      A good definition for arpeggio would be, "Notes of a chord played separately". For example, if you want to play a C minor arpeggio, you would play the notes of a C minor chord, one at a time. Pretty straightforward. The art of playing arpeggios lies in choosing and mastering efficient arpeggio shapes on the neck.

Minor arpeggio 1       Let's start with a very basic minor shape. The figure at left shows a basic minor triad (with octave).This particular shape is one of the most widely used arpeggios around. You hear it all the time in classical, flamenco, and of course neo-classical rock. As you can see from the chart, it is fingered using the third finger and the first finger. While playing this shape, create a barre with your first finger, and let your first finger "roll" across the strings as you play the notes on the G, B, and strings.

      Note also that this is a movable shape. You can play it anywhere on the fretboard. The name of the chord is determined by whatever note your third finger starts upon. For example, if you play the arpeggio shape with your third finger starting at the fourth fret, then you are playing an F# minor arpeggio.
Major arpeggio 1       Next up is a basic major arpeggio. The figure at left shows a basic major triad (with octave). This is also a widely used arpeggio. As you can see from the chart, it is fingered using the the third, second and first fingers. While playing this shape, create a barre with your first finger, and let your first finger "roll" across the strings as you play the notes on the B and E strings.

      Note also that this is a movable shape. You can play it anywhere on the fretboard. The name of the chord is determined by whatever note your third finger starts upon. For example, if you play the arpeggio shape with your third finger starting at the fourth fret, then you are playing an F# Major arpeggio.

      Once you've got these two memorized, it's time to try sweep picking them. This is much easier than it may sound. The key is to start slowly, and build up your accuracy. Many people immediately try to sweep these as fast as possible and the usual result is a mushy sound, with no clear articulation of the notes.

      Begin by getting your fretting hand into the shape you'll be playing, with your fingers poised to fret the notes. Then slowly begin a downstroke with your pick, fretting each note individually as you pick it. Practice this method, and you'll soon be sweeping clearly and accurately.

      I practice these shapes while warming up before a recording session or show. I also play them while watching television. I think it's important to really nail this technique--give your body a chance to achieve "muscle-memory" on these shapes, so that eventually you can play them without much conscious thought. When you can play the arpeggios without having to think about them, then you will be ready to use them in your improvisation (solos). They will have become another lick in your "tool box", to be used as your creativity sees fit.

      Now go practice these shapes! The next lesson will show two more advanced shapes I use when playing arpeggios. I'll also cover more complex chords shapes (ie. 7ths, 9ths, etc.). But as I always say, get the basics down first before you move on to the hard stuff!


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Master Class: Lesson 2 - Arpeggios