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Arpeggio Madness!

Three examples using legato and string-skipping trad sequences.

OK, shred heads, let’s get down with some arpeggio madness! This month I have three examples for you, all using legato (a term which, for guitarists, can be thought of as hammer-ons and pull-offs in some situations) and string-skipping triad sequences. We will be using both minor and major triads.

Example 1 is something I wrote for a song for my new band, Day of Reckoning. This example is in the key of Bm. The first arpeggio is Bm (B–D–F#). The second arpeggio is F#m (F#–A–C). On this one, I pivot between the F# and G at the 14th and 15th frets, adding in the %9 sound. The third arpeggio is Em (E–G–B). The fourth arpeggio is D major (D–F#–A). The last is Bm again. The rhythm is sixteenth-note triplets; every arpeggio gets two full beats except the last two, D and Bm, receiving one beat each.

Example 2
is a cool Em arpeggio sequence. This one starts off similar to Example 1, however when it gets to the third beat of measure two, we shift into a pattern that normally would be a sweep-picking shape. I keep the legato rolling for the whole thing and as a result we get a lot of hammer-ons from nowhere (that’s where you hammer on without picking at all—check out my “Fierce Guitar” compadre Greg Howe’s column about this in the October 2009 issue). The 22nd and 24th frets are taps that use two fingers on your right hand to do a roll.

Example 3
is a three-octave Am (A–C–E) arpeggio sequence using hammer-ons and pull-offs. Some of you might recognize this sequence—I borrowed it from the traditional classic rock pentatonic sequence. However, when applied to arpeggios it becomes a little more troublesome.

The bottom line is these are all challenging licks. Take them slow, warm up properly and then have some fun. If you like this stuff I have two new instructional DVDs coming out in June on Rock House Method titled Arpeggio Madness.

Rusty Cooley has been playing and teaching for over 20 years, and has recorded as a solo artist, with his band Outworld, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. He has six instructional DVDs and a signature model 7-string guitar, the RC7 by Dean Guitars. Visit Rusty online at