Lick it Up! — Arpeggios 1

Here is something fun and educational — how to connect arpeggios over chords or a chord progression. I’ve been learning how to do this from listening to and copping ideas from those brilliant Gypsy Jazz players, especially Django Reinhardt and Stochelo Rosenberg, but the same kind of thinking can be used in any style of music. Music is a language and if you compare, say GUITAR SOLOING and ENGLISH, notes are words, runs are sentences, pauses or rests are punctuation, your entire solo is a paragraph or a story or maybe a novel if you’re feeling up to playing for 10 minutes! On some level, as guitarists we all understand this concept. Now how to put it into practice?

Most of us think in terms of scales when soloing or improvising, but a whole lot of old jazz and Gypsy Jazz is based more on arpeggios and chord tones. Personally, I like this approach more than trying to think of all kinds of different scales and it has helped expand my playing a whole bunch. When approaching this sequence of arpeggios play straight eighth notes and think of a simple chord progression that progresses from F to Am and it’s dominant, E7. The first chord could be a passing (Fmaj7) or could be an Am with an F note in the bass. Notice that if you fret an Am in the first position and then bring your first finger down on the low “F” (on the 6th or the 1st actually) you are now playing an Fmajor. These two chords are closely related and you can substitute one for the another, depending on the situation. This Joe Pass instruction vid on You Tube explores this concept in the key of Cmaj as only Joe can. Also, notice the Enclosure in measure 3 — this occurs when you play notes above and below (on the neck/scale) the target note. Jazz and blues players use this trick all the time. Notice also that you could just keep right on playing this arpeggio sequence or cut in down to suit a different chord progression. This string isn’t supposed to be anything other than an exercise that covers the width of the fretboard, includes passing tones and an enclosure and ends right. I ended up with 7 measures…Miles Davis would LOVE that. HA!

You can use chord arpeggios to navigate your way through any progression and once you get comfortable doing it you will find that you will have a much harder time getting lost in a song. Learn the arpeggios for every chord in as many positions as you can find and start mixing and matching them. That’s when the fun begins. I’ve included another Am/E7 example that I didn’t tab out, but once you get the idea, you should be able to figure them out just by listening. A minor is a good key to start with because it just sounds so good on guitar and many Gypsy Jazz songs, including the Gypsy Anthem, Minor Swing, are played in this key. Enjoy!