Published On: Mon, Jul 21st, 2014

Guitar Techniques: Finger Food

These major scale arpeggios will carry you all over the fingerboard. Ready? Let’s go…


An arpeggio is the first, third and fifth notes of a scale played consecutively – normally with the octave at the top – and over one, two, three or more octaves. Arpeggios move from one string to another faster than scales, so they’re more of a technical challenge.

This month, the fingering is indicated beside the notes on the ascending part of the arpeggio – simply use the same fingering on the way down – and ‘0’ means open string. Only one note should sound at a time, so lift your fingers to prevent overlap.

A left-hand shift is required when the same finger frets two consecutive notes on the same string; aim for smoothness with no hint of staccato on the first note and no drop in tempo. If playing with a pick, use alternate picking; if plucking with the fingers, start with thumb/index/middle then ring finger, then repeat index/middle/ring finger until the top note, which is plucked with the ring finger. Coming down, use a ring/middle/index pattern and your thumb on the last note.

1: E Major Arpeggio




This three-octave E major arpeggio can be played on any type of guitar – electric, acoustic, classical, take your pick. Unlike last month’s scales which were all fingered one finger per fret, the top of this arpeggio requires stretching out of position to reach the highest note; leave the first finger on the seventh fret whilst fretting the note at the 12th fret.

2: F Major Arpeggio




This time we’re going to tackle a two-octave major arpeggio, and this time in the thrilling key of F. Moving from the first to the second notes requires a stretch out of position. Remember that the idea is to play this as smoothly as possible, with no drop in the tempo. Start slowly, and only begin to speed up when it’s completely smooth.

3: Three-Octave Arpeggio




This three-octave F major arpeggio is a similar pattern to Exercise 1, but it doesn’t start on an open string. Once you’re familiar with this, carry on moving up the fretboard one fret at a time. If you don’t have a cutaway and you run out of frets, use the two-octave pattern in Ex 2 or the two-octave pattern in Ex 4 with the root on the fifth string. The idea is to be able to play a major arpeggio in every key over the whole fingerboard.

4: Two-Octave Arpeggio




This two-octave D major arpeggio starts on the fifth string. The middle part has three notes at the seventh fret, which should all be fretted by the first finger; in order to get a smooth change from one note to the next and to have only one note sounding at a time, the first finger has to be placed over all three notes then gently ‘rolled’ both on the way up and on the way down. Do try playing to a metronome, by the way.

With quavers as written, that’s two notes to each click; if you play this as triplets, that’s three notes to the click; then finish up with semiquavers, four notes to each click.

These are not the only ways of playing these arpeggios, of course. Feel free to experiment with other ways of approaching them, both in terms of where the notes are fretted and the fingers used to fret them.

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