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  • stevie ray vaughan

    Using Arpeggios to Master Any Chord Progression

    by Simon James

    When learning to play over a jazz chord progression or any progression for that matter you will be required to use a lot of arpeggios and scale runs in order to craft a good solo that matches up with the chords. This can seem quite daunting at first, especially if there are a lot of changes on the chord sheet. However, with the following exercises I will show you a really simple yet effective way to learn how to master any Chord Progression.

    To begin with we are going to take a simple four chord pattern in the key of C Major and play the arpeggios for a C, G, A minor and D minor chords. This is essentially a really simple exercise and is one of my favourites for helping my students familiarise themselves with a new chord progression. In so doing it will become easier to navigate through the progression and will help set in your mind where the chord tones are upon which to base your improvisations.

    Ascending Arpeggio Shapes

    The first exercise involves playing ascending forms of the four arpeggios. Start with the root note for each and move through each chord tone. Each arpeggio should be played as 1/8 notes which will take up half a bar each, thus allowing you half a bar for which to prepare for the next arpeggio. Leaving space in your solos is extremely important as is developing the ability to really think and play at the same time.

    ascending arpeggio shape  

    Descending Arpeggio Shapes

    Next up is the descending form of the previous arpeggios. Often players when warming up spend a great deal of time going up the chord tones but they can be just as effective in a melody when played in reverse!

    descending arpeggio shape  

    Ascending and Descending Arpeggio Shapes

    Now the fun really begins! Practice playing the ascending form of the first arpeggio and the descending from of the second one. This one really gears your brain up for thinking and playing at the same time and really serves to hammer home those chord locations on the fretboard.

    ascending and descending arpeggio shape  

    Descending and Ascending Arpeggio Shapes

    By now you should be suitably familiar with all of the arpeggio shapes, so now mix up the patterns by playing the descending form before the ascending form.

      descending and ascending arpeggio shape


    More Arpeggio Shapes

    Here are the same four arpeggios but played an octave higher. Learn the four shapes and then go through the four different combinations to help open up the new positions on the fretboard.


    high octave arpeggio shape  

    Try playing these arpeggio shapes in the new positions on the fretboad and then practice them in all 12 keys. Remember this can work for any chord progression and is a solid way to help you become familiar with the chords as well as making your technical exercises relevant to your study pieces.