Using Arpeggio Shapes to Open the Neck: part 1

As we have previously discussed, the A minor scales up and down the neck on each of the 6 strings. In our previous lessons we learned how to play a few cool licks that should help you begin to see how to open up the neck and move around.

Photo of Eddie Van Halen by Anirudh Koul

Here is another approach from an entirely different angle. That angle is the approach of using arpeggio shapes to open up the neck. Arpeggios are 3 note patterns that contain the 3 main notes of the chords they represent. For example, an A minor arpeggio would involve the notes A, C, and E which are the exact same notes that make up the chord. The only difference is that a chord contains more than one of some of those said notes and they are played simultaneously, while arpeggios are played one note at a time. Hence the phrase, arpeggiating a chord or arpeggiating a phrase.

Most people use the following shapes for arpeggios.

As an example we will use A minor:

E- 8 12
B- 10

Notice that the shape is like a V. All the frets are evenly spaced out as well.

Next is A major and that shape is as follows

E- 9 12
B- 10

Notice that again the shape is like a V, but this time the frets aren’t evenly spaced out as they are in the minor shape. The 9th fret on the high E string is only a fret away from the 10 on the B string.

So let’s move on, and see if you remember this

E– 0 1 3 5 7 8 10 12 13 15 17 19 20
B– 0 1 3 5 6 8 10 12 13 15 17 18 20
G– 0 2 4 5 7 9 10 12 14 16 17 19 21
D –0 2 3 5 7 9 10 12 14 15 17 19 21
A – 0 2 3 5 7 8 10 12 14 15 17 19 20
E – 0 1 3 5 7 8 10 12 13 15 17 19 20

Good, I hoped that you would. So, what are the chords that make up the A minor scale?

Well, we have the following

A minor (A, C, E)
B dim. (B, D, F)
C major (C, E, G)
D minor (D, F, A)
E minor (E, G, B)
F major (F, A, C)
G major (G, B, D
)

Also notice that on the neck we have those exact same arpeggios.

Using the shapes I showed above I want to tab out the whole A minor scale on the B and high E strings.

D minor E minor F major G major A minor B Dim. C major D minor E minor

E- 1 5 3 7 5 8 7 10 8 12 10
13 12 15 13 17 15 19
B- 3 5 6 8 10
12 13 15 1
7

Simply put, I would like you to practice playing these notes and shapes up and back on the B and E string until you can start playing it and knowing which arpeggio you are playing. For example, take a chord progression of Am G F Am and loop it on some sort of recorder so that it is playing over and over again for a couple minutes. Then, I would like you to practice playing the arpeggios along with the chords because they literally fit along with the chords perfectly. This is because as I said, they are the same notes of the chords. After that you can work in some arpeggio shapes to your playing to go along with what you already have for some licks in the A minor scale!

When you get some minor pentatonic blues licks worked in with some arpeggios you have the making of some really cool and original playing ideas.

Thanks for reading!

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