I like to apply arpeggios to an actual song rather than spend too much time on separate arpeggio exercises, but a good way to get familiar with the arpeggios is to play them over a standard such as the chord changes to Body and Soul. It can help you get the sound of the changes in your ear but there are other ways that I will discuss in the future (hint: just play individual chord tones over each chord – root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th).
This exercise attempts to stay in the general 5th fret area. As you play the exercise you’ll be able to see the simple 4 note shapes that each arpeggio makes. Many of the shapes are quite similar but due to the way the guitar is tuned you will get slight differences on different string sets. Knowing the notes on the fretboard helps as well so you are not just memorizing patterns.
Jazz guitar arpeggios can give you some confidence as they give you something to play, especially when you start to learn to play jazz guitar and for difficult tunes – the chord progression to Body and Soul has 2 or more chords per bar and some key changes that can cause difficulty.
You could play the arpeggios I showed in different ways, or play the arpeggio an octave above or below where I show it. But go through this exercise until you are comfortable. Note the shape of each type of arpeggio – minor 7th, major 7th, dominant 7th, minor7b5, and diminished 7.
Each time you decide to play something over a chord progression you will have to make decisions on the fly. I had decide where to start the exercise (5th fret), which octave to play if I had a choice, what to do with one chord per bar (I continued the arpeggio up another octave if I could reach or back down if I couldn’t), what to do with 3 or 4 chords per bar (I play two notes from each arpeggio). In the 2nd ending to the A section I decide to just play the A7 instead of Em7-A7. This happens a lot in jazz – you can turn a dominant chord into a ii-V7 or turn a ii-V7 into just a ii or just a V7.
You can download the Body and Soul Arpeggios here.
You should also play these descending and in different areas of the neck. You can also play inversions of the arpeggio so that you start on different chord tones not always the root or 7th.
Once you get familiar with this you want to quickly move on to more melodic uses for arpeggios. The reasons this sounds like an exercise is because there is a constant, never ending barrage of eight notes, we always ascend from the root, and we only play arpeggios (chord tones) and no other melodic cells (scales, etc) amongst other reasons.
When I improvise I like to target notes that I want to play, and approach them with arpeggios which is much more melodic than arpeggio exercises. I will discuss this approach in a future lesson so stay tuned!
What do you think about arpeggios? Post your comments in the section below.