Now, we can’t keep looping like this indefinitely. We’re going to run out of room if we take the Bbmaj7 arpeggio up the neck like this, so we’re going to have to be flexible with the pattern. We still want to keep the cycle of fourths going, but we can’t continue the exact pattern. Thankfully, we can just drop one half of the arpeggio pattern down an octave and keep moving (Ex. 6).
Now that we moved to a lower place on the neck, we can use the earlier pattern to take us from Fmaj7 to Bbmaj7. You basically have only a few shapes: one with a 6th-string root and two with roots on the 5th string.
Now it’s time for you to learn to fish. I’m not going to write out any more of the patterns—you have enough building blocks to complete this. What I will provide is the full pattern of the cycle of fourths, so you can play the right arpeggios in the right sequence to loop this around. Here it is:
The pattern of fourths is symmetrical. The goal is to be able to start anywhere, in any key, and loop your arpeggios through the cycle of fourths. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to loop this endlessly.
Beyond just learning the examples above, there are a couple of things to take away from this set of exercises.
Ditch the Patterns
If you watch the video a few times, you’ll quickly realize that Pat isn’t playing a set pattern. It’s not a specific etude that he’s practicing, but rather he’s generating music within some simple boundaries. Pat has created an algorithm for generating practice material: Play a measure of a major 7 arpeggio, smoothly transition to another major 7 arpeggio in the cycle of fourths, and repeat.
He’s jumping around the neck, changing octaves, sometimes playing some scales to connect. It doesn’t matter that it’s morphing and changing a little over time. What matters is that he’s sticking within the harmony for some set period of time and being creative about how he generates materials. And that’s the trick. The building blocks allow for tons of flexibility, especially in jazz. Next time, instead of thinking about this as a strict practice exercise, imagine this is a jazz standard that only has one chord per measure, but the tune is just major 7 chords that ascend in fourths. How can you take these arpeggios and add some passing tones to make them into jazz lines? (Hint: “Autumn Leaves” has two major 7 chords a fourth apart in the changes.)
It’s the Notes, Not the Shapes
You have to learn the notes in the arpeggios. To players at Pat’s level, they’re not just fingering patterns—they are collections of notes. It’s totally fine to start with shapes and refine as you go, but if you want to operate at this level, you’re going to have to know the names of the notes on the fretboard and the notes that belong in any arpeggio, chord, scale or key. This is just a single exercise to help you get there.
Move Beyond Major
You can now easily take the major 7 arpeggios and morph them in minor 7 and dominant 7 concepts to generate additional material to practice with. This lesson is just one example of arpeggios you can move in the cycle of fourths; dominant 7 arpeggios work exceptionally well in this context.
Now it’s up to you to generate your own musical materials. This lesson was just a single example. But go back to the video for inspiration. Could you just play freely for seven minutes like Pat did? Could you play in a structured enough way that you’re improvising ways to practice and generating material like he can? Not everyone can do this for that long, but you’ll hear Pat joke that he could continue for hours ... and I totally believe him.
Find the elements that make up your own style and find interesting ways to apply them to the neck. Constraining yourself to a single measure per key and shifting in the cycle of fourths is a super fun way to give yourself just enough structure to follow, while staying loose enough to create something. Pat has been doing this for over 40 years, so we all have a lot of catching up to do!