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Mastering Arpeggios and Picking Techniques on Guitar

Introduction to Arpeggios

Arpeggios are an integral part of music composition and performance, particularly in genres like jazz and rock where improvisation plays a key role. Arpeggios are series of notes played one after the other, comprising a chord.

In this article, we will explore the concepts related to arpeggios, and how you can incorporate them into your playing styles. We will also compare arpeggios with scales and highlight the differences between the two.

What is an Arpeggio? An arpeggio is a technique used in music composition and performance, which involves playing the individual notes of a chord in a sequence, rather than playing them simultaneously.

Arpeggios can be played in various ways, including ascending or descending order, or in patterns like broken or rolled chords. The use of arpeggios provides a unique opportunity to showcase the complexity of various chord progressions, and can be used to substitute scales in certain situations.

For example, if a musician is struggling to create a lead section for a particular chord sequence, they might use arpeggios to create a more layered melody.

Difference between Arpeggios and Scales

Scales, in music, are organized series of notes that follow a particular key. They are used to create melodies or harmonies in music.

Unlike arpeggios, scales involve all the notes present in a particular key, not just the notes that make up a specific chord. This is the primary difference between arpeggios and scales.

When and How to Use Arpeggios

As mentioned earlier, arpeggios can be used as a substitute for scales in certain situations. If you are struggling to create a lead section for a specific chord progression, try using arpeggios to create a more layered melody.

Additionally, arpeggios can be used to work around problem chords, which are chords that don’t fit conventionally in a specific key. With arpeggios, you can break apart the problematic chord into more manageable notes and build around those.

For jazz guitar, arpeggios are invaluable. They are used to create intricate solos, and provide a platform for improvisation.

Jazz guitarists often use arpeggios to outline the chord progression of a song, even when the song itself doesn’t use arpeggios.

Learning Arpeggios Using CAGED Shapes

The CAGED system of guitar playing is a systematic approach to playing chords on the neck of the guitar. It is based on the five basic open chord forms – C, A, G, E, and D.

By memorizing the CAGED shapes, you will have a solid foundation for playing arpeggios on the guitar.

Memorizing CAGED Shapes

The first step towards mastering arpeggios is to memorize the CAGED shapes. This will be key to understanding where to place your fingers on the fretboard.

Each of the CAGED shapes represents a particular major chord shape – C, A, G, E, and D. They are derived from open chord shapes, and have a triangular shape that repeats itself across the fretboard.

E-Shaped Arpeggio

The E-shaped arpeggio is based on the E-shaped barre chord. To play the E-shaped arpeggio, start by placing your finger on the root note (the lowest note on the sixth string) and move upwards.

The E-shaped arpeggio is one of the most common arpeggios, and is often used in rock music.

A-Shaped Arpeggio

To play the A-shaped arpeggio, place your finger on the root note of the chord (fret ten on the fifth string), and move upwards towards the higher strings. The A-shaped arpeggio has extra notes that can help you to explore more options in your playing.

Minor Arpeggios

Minor arpeggios are derived from minor triads, which are commonly used in classical music. In many cases, a minor arpeggio can simply be derived from a minor chord, by playing the root, minor third, and fifth notes in a sequence.

Learning arpeggios can seem daunting at first, but it is an essential part of guitar playing. By mastering arpeggios, you can take your playing to the next level, and add new dimensions to your compositions.

With the help of CAGED shapes, you can develop a strong foundation for playing arpeggios, and start exploring the infinite possibilities they provide.

Different Picking Techniques

Picking techniques are the foundation of a good guitar performance. The way you pick the strings determines the sound and rhythm of your playing.

In this section, we will explore different picking techniques, including alternate picking, legato playing, sweep picking, and tapping.

Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is one of the most fundamental picking techniques for guitar players. It involves a continuous down-up-down-up motion of your plectrum.

This technique allows for efficient playing, speed, and precision. To alternate pick, start by picking downward on the string, then lift your plectrum and pick upwards as you move to the next string.

Alternate picking is essential for playing complex solos and arpeggios that require speed and accuracy. It’s important to practice this technique regularly to build up speed and improve your timing.

Legato Playing

Legato playing is a technique that involves playing notes using hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides, without picking every note. The emphasis is on creating a smooth and connected sound.

This technique requires a lot more finger strength, as fingers must apply pressure to the fretboard to achieve the desired effect. To play legato, start with a fretted note, then hammer-on by tapping your finger onto the next note without picking it.

Similarly, to perform a pull-off, use your finger to “pluck” the string upwards from the fretboard, without actually picking the string with your plectrum. Sliding is another common legato technique which involves sliding your finger up or down the fretboard, from one fret to another.

Sweep Picking and Tapping

Sweep picking and tapping are advanced techniques that require a great deal of practice to perfect. Both of these techniques are used to achieve lightning-fast playing and intricate melodies.

Sweep picking involves playing a series of notes swiftly across several strings with a single picking stroke. This technique involves a combination of downstrokes and upstrokes.

Unlike alternate picking, where each string is separately picked, sweep picking uses one continuous motion. This technique is common in rock and metal genres, where lead guitarists need fast and complex clean runs.

Tapping is another advanced technique that involves using the fingers on your fretting hand to play notes on the fretboard. Unlike regular fretting, where you only need to press down on a string to create a note, tapping requires a much greater degree of precision.

Form and Speed

For many guitar players, achieving speed is a top priority, but speed alone is not enough to create great music. Good form is essential to play accurately and cleanly.

By practicing slow playing with proper technique, you can develop the precision and clarity needed to play at high speeds. To practice playing with good form, lift your fingers off the fretboard completely after playing each note.

This ensures that each note is played independently and cleanly. Additionally, use a metronome to practice timing, gradually increasing the tempo to build up speed.

Summary of Arpeggios

Arpeggios are a fundamental part of guitar playing. They are used as an improvisation tool and can be applied to all types of chord progressions.

Arpeggios consist of various patterns of notes, which can be played in different modes to create complex melodies. To play arpeggios accurately, good form is critical.

Start slow and work on building precision and accuracy before attempting to play at high speeds. Alternate picking and legato techniques are essential components of arpeggio playing which can be combined for smoother, more complex melodies.

In summary, mastering arpeggios requires practice, patience, and attention to detail. By developing good form, practicing various picking techniques, and using different modes, you can create intricate melodies and solos for any genre.

In conclusion, understanding and mastering arpeggios and picking techniques is essential for any guitar player looking to take their skills to the next level. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced musician, incorporating alternate picking, legato playing, sweep picking, and tapping into your playing style can provide you with new tools to create intricate melodies and solos, regardless of genre.

Combining different modes, practicing proper form, and building speed are all crucial steps towards improving your arpeggio playing skills. Remember, practice and patience are key, so keep working hard to develop your playing techniques and unleash your musical potential.

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