Traditionally, when a student learns to improvise over a jazz, blues tune, he taught pentatonic scales, major triads or dominant 7th arpeggios, but there is something missing to get this specific and exciting jazz, blues sound. The blues arpeggio is a very interesting and important device to use over this musical genre. It is a mix of a major triad and a minor triad, it contains both major and minor thirds, representing one of the most vital elements of the blues. In this jazz guitar lesson we will see how to build the blues arpeggio, how to practice it and how to play it on a blues.
Arpeggios are surely the most important devices to master when you want to start improvising. Every jazz players use arpeggios in their improvisations. Great guitarists, all kinds of styles use arpeggios : John Scofield, Kurt Rosewinkel, Birelli Lagrene, Django Reinhardt, and many more. Arpeggios are played extensively because they use only the notes found in a single chord, therefore they create a more harmonized sound when played with their corresponding chord. Arpeggios are very helpful to easily outline the chord changes. This lesson is focused on the most basic form of arpeggios made out of three notes called "triad arpeggios".
In jazz music, there are two different ways of improvisation, the use of scales and the use of arpeggios. Great jazz improvisers as Wes Montgomery, George Benson, John Scofield, Mike Stern, Pat Martino or Barney Kessel master both scales and arpeggios. Arpeggios are very helpful devices to easily outline the chord changes especially in tunes with fast tempos as bebop tunes for examples. The basic use of arpeggios is to play them over their related chord, for example play a Gm7 arpeggio (G-Bb-D-F) over a G minor 7 chord or a C7 arpeggio (C-E-G-Bb) over a C dominant 7 chord. Over a classic II-V-I progression in C major (Dm7-G7-Cmaj7) you will play Dm7 arp, G7 arp and Cmaj7 arp. This way you take no risks and you are sure to underline and hear correctly the harmony. Unfortunately, this can be boring in the long run, that's why, in this article, we will see how to superimpose diatonic arpeggios to open new paths and create original and interesting jazz lines.
Mastering arpeggios is inevitable for anyone who wants to improve its sense of improvisation and bring more musicality to its playing. Practicing and mastering them is a necessity for all jazz guitarists, arpeggios are great tools to improvise over chord changes or jazz standards.
What' s an arpeggio ?
An arpeggio is a chord whose notes are played one by one, it is a chord played like a scale.
Why playing arpeggios ?
Playing them in your guitar solo will outline the harmony of the tune and give your improvisation a sense of direction, making your jazz lines more beautiful, more melodic, more interesting to listen to.
How to use arpeggios ?
The first rule is to play the arpeggio corresponding to a chord. For example, playing a D minor seventh arpeggio over a Dm7 chord or a G dominant 7th arpeggio over a G7 chord. You can also use them to add color to your solos by using arpeggio substitutions and superimpositions (playing an arpeggio different from the chord). For example a Bm7b5 arpeggio over a G7 chord. This way you will highlight the 9th of G7. There are many possibilities.
When you want to master the jazz language, one of the first thing to do is to learn scales and modes. Memorize the fingerings on the fretboard. Memorize their names, their compositions. Make the difference between a major, a minor, an augmented or a diminished scale. How many tones in this one, how many half-tones in this other one. Knowing which scales work with which chords. In the long run the practice of scales can be confusing and seems a never ending. Here are some tricks and tips to work out on scales while developing your musical ear, your guitar technique and your theoretical knowledges.