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Style Guide: All About Arpeggios

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So where does that leave us mere mortals? Well, we’re probably not going to play as fast as Jason Becker, and we’re probably not going to learn our arpeggio shapes across the neck well enough to pull that off in this single lesson, but there’s a ton we can do with just a few simple arpeggio ideas. Let’s start out with the chord progression. This isn’t a long progression, but here are the chords looped a whole bunch of times so you can practice along.

And here’s Fig. 2—our first example over that backing track.

I tried to connect the arpeggios without jumping around. The whole idea was to stay on the top strings and not move around too much. I also wanted to avoid sounding like I was trying to play arpeggios. It’s meant to be simple, but you can hear how it can be a great starting point.

Now in Fig. 3, let’s dress it up a bit more to see where we can take the idea.

I still have the original arpeggio in there, but I added a few scale tones here and there to connect the arpeggios. The idea is to make music, not to just play something for the sake of playing it. If you start from the framework of the arpeggios and then fill in the blanks with scale notes or passing tones, you can generate some pretty neat phrases.

Fig. 4 takes the same notes from the arpeggios in the last few examples and goes the other direction by making it less complex. We’ve removed the scale tones and cut the arpeggios down even further. We’ve also moved it down the neck a bit to change things up.

I’m playing only two notes from each arpeggio, and while it isn’t technically a full major or minor arpeggio (which should have three notes in it), that’s fine because the lick was generated from the full arpeggio. Note that I’m creating melodies and licks using arpeggio shapes. I’m just not playing every note in a given arpeggio, which is fine because we’re generating ideas—spinning out new phrases from simple materials.

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