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Fretboard Workshop: Flipping Arpeggios - Creating New Sounds with Old Shapes

Fretboard Workshop: Flipping Arpeggios - Creating New Sounds with Old Shapes

Fig. 6 is a way to force your mind to think of a superimposed chord as a starting point, rather than starting on Cmaj7 and working your way into different chords. Here, we start on the Emin7 arpeggio. I’m purposely avoiding matching downbeats with the start of a new arpeggio. The last sweeping Cmaj7 arpeggio resolves all the tension created by starting on an offbeat. We then end on the 9 (D) of the chord.

You can also apply the same theory to a minor tonal center and come up with new and interesting sounds. If we were in the key of D minor, the order of arpeggios would be Dm7, Fmaj7, Am7, and Cmaj7. Each arpeggio roughly follows the same pattern as before, but this time the extensions (9, 11, and 13) remain unaltered. If we combine all of these arpeggios into a scale, the result is D Dorian (D–E–F–G–A–B–C). Check out Fig. 7 for a “minor-ized” version of Fig. 2.

We start out in D minor pentatonic (D–F–G–A–C) in Fig. 8 before breaking into bits of an Fmaj7 arpeggio. Fig. 9 turns things around, starting on a Cmaj7 arpeggio before coming back into a minor pentatonic run.

Finally, Fig. 10 illustrates how to move in and out of both pentatonic positions and arpeggios, while navigating through chord changes reflecting different tonal centers. We start with a C major tonal center, with C major pentatonic going into an Em7 arpeggio. The tonal center then switches to Eb minor. We approach it with a Gbmaj7 arpeggio before finishing with Eb minor pentatonic and ending on a bend from the 9 to the 3 of the new C major tonal center.

The possibilities for exploring this concept are virtually limitless. While we played around with soloistic/melodic examples, chordal substitutions are also interesting, and of course feel free to use your own favorite arpeggio or chord fingerings. Just like many melodic and harmonic devices, you can choose to use it sparingly, as a spice to enhance an already existing flavor, or you can choose to go over the top, as an effect. Sometimes it is interesting to overload a dish with hot pepper sauce just for the experience of the heat itself. Explore your tastes, experiment with textures and find which sounds you like best.

Aurelien Budynek
In addition to being a regular sub on the Broadway shows Rock of Ages and Book of Mormon, Aurelien Budynek is an in-demand sideman based in NYC. He also performs around the world with Cindy Blackman-Santana, DareDevil Squadron, and The Dan Band. For more information, visit or follow him on Twitter @abguitar.