- Rig Rundowns
- Pro Advice
There are seven notes in most common scales, so the only way to put emphasis on certain notes is simply to either play them more often than others, or to play the others less often. Comprised of only certain notes of a scale, arpeggios can be very helpful in assisting with this task. By laying an arpeggio and its tonality over the top of whatever chord is being addressed, we are putting emphasis on specific notes.
For example, if you liked the tonal color of a Dm6 chord, you could achieve that quality either by overemphasizing the 6th of a D minor scale or by playing an arpeggio that automatically delivers the appropriate notes. In this case, an ideal arpeggio would be Bm7b5, as it consists of the exact notes (B–D–F–A) that form a Dm6 chord.
Superimposing is a great melodic tool. However, the complaint I occasionally hear from players new to this idea is that switching seamlessly between scales and arpeggios sometimes proves to be a bit cumbersome. But this is only a complaint when the intent is misunderstood. Playing arpeggios is not actually the goal here. The goal is to produce colorful passages by emphasizing select notes within a scale. The blatant use of arpeggios is one way to achieve that goal, however more subtle approaches are often more effective.
The 5th-string root arpeggio shapes that I’ve covered in the past are ideal for modifying, and we did so last time by adding notes to them. This time we will modify them by eliminating the 4th- and 2nd-string notes entirely and adding notes to the 1st-, 3rd-, and high 5th-strings. By doing this, we will have essentially transformed these shapes into three-note-per-string ideas that still enable us to take advantage of the tonal qualities that the unmodified arpeggios would have delivered in the context of superimposing.
Examples 1–7 illustrate the new three-note-per-string shapes that result from modifying all seven arpeggios from the G major chord scale. The nice thing about this concept is that you can apply almost any three-note-per-string sequence you may already be comfortable with to these new shapes.
Examples 8 and 9 feature typical three-note-per-string-type sequences being applied to the new shapes. Try
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