Guitar Arpeggios - Guide For Beginners - CAGED Charts and Theory
Arpeggios are the backbone of jazz improvisations, they are easy to learn and play. They are very popular in all styles of music (rock, metal, blues, pop) because they allow to easily outline the harmony and create fluid lines.
It is very important to understand what are arpeggios and how to use them into your jazz guitar solos. This guitar lesson provides the most important arpeggio shapes that any beginner jazz guitarist must know.
In the first part, they are classified into seven qualities : major 7, minor 7, dominant 7, half-diminished, diminished 7, Major 7#5 and minMaj7 using the CAGED system, one of the best methods for learning scales and chords on the whole of guitar neck.
The second part of the lesson shows the arpeggios within the main families of scales namely, major (diatonic), harmonic minor, melodic minor and harmonic major.
There are two definitions of an arpeggio in guitar. The first meaning (also called Broken chords) is the technique employed to play one by one the notes of an open chord as a fingerpicking player would do.
The second explanation is what interests jazz guitar players. It involves playing the notes of chord to create effective lines and nice improvised solos over a specific chord progression (II V I, turnarounds, backdoor, blues) or a jazz standard.
What Are the Main Types of Arpeggios?
There are different types of arpeggios, they can be minor, major, dominant, diminished, augmented.
What is the Difference Between a Scale and an Arpeggio?
An arpeggio is built from a scale, just as a chord an arpeggio is built by stacking thirds whereas a scale is built with a succession of whole and half-steps.
How Many Notes are There in an Arpeggio?
An arpeggio can be made of three (triad), four (tetrad), five, six or seven notes.
Why Learning Arpeggios is Important?
Arpeggios are very important tools for improvising over jazz tunes and chord changes. They easily outline the harmony, they help to create more melodic guitar solos. They allow to go straight to the point.
The CAGED system is a technique that allows guitar players to understand and visualize chord shapes, scales and arpeggios on the entire guitar neck. The five letters of the word CAGED represent five important chord shapes (C major, A Major, G Major, E major, D major) that will serve as the basis and that all beginner guitar players know.
Guitarist Joe Pass used this technique to learn and teach jazz guitar. It is one of the reason why the CAGED method is employed by many guitar teachers and for the guitar charts of this lesson.
CAGED Guitar Shapes and Related Scales
Major 7 arpeggios are built with root (1), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) and major seventh (7). You can see in the guitar charts below the shape (in G) covering the entire guitar neck. Then you see five major 7 arpeggio shapes and their CAGED forms in brown (E shape), purple (D shape), blue (C shape), red (A shape) and green (G shape).
They can be found in the following scales:
- Ionian mode (Major scale)
- Lydian mode (Major Scale)
- Lydian #2 mode (Harmonic minor scale)
- Ionian b6 (Harmonic major)
The last graphic shows the related major scales with the major 7 arpeggio form inside.
CAGED Forms and Related Scales
Here are five CAGED positions for minor 7 Arpeggios and the related scales. Min7 arpeggios are built with root (1), minor third (b3), perfect fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7).
You can find minor 7 arpeggios into the modes below :
- Dorian mode (Major scale)
- Phrygian mode (major scale)
- Aeolian mode (major scale)
- Dorian #4 (Harmonic minor)
- Phrygian b4 (Harmonic major)
- Dorian b9 (Melodic minor)
CAGED Guitar Positions and Related Scales
Dominant 7 arpeggios are made of root (1), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7). They can be found in the five dominant scales listed below :
- Mixolydian mode (Major scale)
- Phrygian dominant mode (Harmonic minor scale)
- Mixolydian b2 mode (Harmonic major scale)
- Lydian dominant mode (Melodic minor scale)
- Mixolydian b13 mode (Melodic minor scale)
CAGED Guitar Charts and Related Scales
Half-diminsihed Arpeggios (m7b5) are built with root (1), minor third (b3), diminished fifth (b5) and minor seventh (b7). They are present into the following modes below :
- Locrian mode (Major scale)
- Locrian 13 mode (Harmonic minor scale)
- Dorian b5 mode (Harmonic major scale)
- Locrian #2 (Melodic minor scale)
- Super Locrian (Melodic minor scale)
CAGED Guitar Diagrams and Related Scales
Diminished Arpeggios are made of root (1), minor third (b3), diminished fifth (b5) and diminished seventh (bb7). They are symmetric because they are built with minor third intervals. It means that there are four different chords in one position. That's why the guitar charts below belongs to four different keys Gdim7, Bbdim7, Dbdim7 and Edim7.
Here are the scales containing a diminished arpeggio :
- Super Locrian bb7 mode (Harmonic minor scale)
- Locrian bb7 mode (Harmonic major scale)
- Whole-half diminished scale (Symmetric)
- Dominant diminished scale (symmetric)
CAGED Guitar Charts and Related Scales
Major 7#5 Arpeggios are constructed with root (1), major third (3), augmented fifth (#5) and major seventh (7). Here are the modes that contains an augmented arpeggio :
- Ionian #5 mode (Harmonic minor scale)
- Lydian augmented #2 (Harmonic major scale)
- Lydian augmented (Melodic minor scale)
When harmonizing each note of the major scale in thirds we obtain seven diatonic arpeggios divided into four categories :
- Major 7 (1, 3, 5, 7).
- Minor 7 (1, b3, 5, b7).
- Dominant 7 (1, 3, 5, b7).
- Half-diminished (1, b3, b5, b7).
The first and fourth degrees are major. The second, third and sixth degrees are minor, the fifth degree is dominant and the seventh is half-diminished.
Diatonic Arpeggios / Modes Relationships
- Degree I - Maj7 arpeggio from the Ionian mode.
- Degree II - min7 arpeggio from the Dorian mode.
- Degree III - min7 arpeggio from the Phrygian mode.
- Degree IV - Maj7 arpeggio from the Lydian mode.
- Degree V - Dom7 arpeggio from the Mixolydian mode.
- Degree VI - min7 Arpeggio from the Aeolian mode.
- Degree VII - m7b5 arpeggio from the Locrian mode.
Just as the major scale, the harmonic minor scale harmonized in thirds produces seven qualities of arpeggios as shown in the guitar tab below :
- Minor Major 7 (1, b3, 5, 7) on the degree I. Related mode : Harmonic minor
- Half-diminished (1, b3, b5, b7) on the second degree. Related mode : Locrian 6 or Locrian 13
- Major 7#5 (1, 3, #5, 7) on the third degree. Related mode : Ionian #5
- Minor 7 (1, b3, 5, b7) on the degree IV. Related mode : Dorian #11
- Dom7 (1, 3, 5, b7) on the degree V. Related mode : Phrygian dominant aka Romanian
- Major 7 (1, 3, 5, 7) on the VI degree. Related mode: Lydian #2 aka Phrygian Gipsy
- Diminished 7 (1, b3, b5, b7) on the degree VII. Related mode : Super Locrian bb7 aka Ultra Locrian
The harmonic minor scale is pretty interesting because it contains the seven arpeggio types seen in this guitar course, in other words when playing the harmonic minor scale in arpeggios you practice the main kinds of arpeggios.
The exercise below show the arpeggios in the C harmonic minor scale, it is quite obvious that you must play them in all twelve keys.
Harmonic Minor Scale Arpeggios and Modes Relationships
The fourteen guitar diagrams below show the modes of the harmonic minor scale and their related arpeggios. Please note that the fingerings are suggested, don't hesitate to experiment you own and play these shapes in all twelve keys all over the guitar neck.
The melodic minor scale is built the same as the harmonic minor scale but with a major sixth instead of a minor sixth. When harmonizing the melodic minor scale by stacking thirds on each degree we get seven arpeggios representing five families :
- minMaj7 (degree I)
- min7 (degree II)
- Maj7#5 (degree III)
- Dominant 7 (degrees IV and V)
- Half-diminished (degrees VI and VII)
By Refering to the guitar tab below you see that there are only one minor Major 7 arpeggio, one minor 7, one major 7#5, two dominant 7 and two m7b5 arpeggios. Once again the fingerings are suggested as well as the tonality which is C minor here.
Relation Between Melodic Minor Arpeggios and Modes
There are seven modes in the melodic minor scale, the following guitar charts explain the correspondence between them and the five types of arpeggios.
- The melodic minor mode (Degree I) produces a minMaj7 arpeggio (1, b3, 5, 7).
- The second mode of the melodic minor scale is named Dorian b9. It contains minor 7 arp. (1, b3, 5, b7).
- The third mode is the called Lydian augmented, it gives a Major 7#5 arpeggio (1, 3, #5, 7).
- The fourth is the Lydian dominant mode, containing a dominant 7 arpeggio (1, 3, 5, b7).
- The fifth mode is the Mixolydian b13. It has a dom7 arpeggio too (1, 3, 5, b7).
- The sixth mode of the melodic minor scale is named Locrian #2. It gives a m7b5 arpeggio (1, b3, b5, b7).
- The seventh and last mode is the super Locrian mode also containing an half-diminished arp. (1, b3, b5, b7).
The harmonic major scale is built the same way as the harmonic minor scale, but as its name implies it contains a major third. As you will see in the guitar tab and shapes below, only one note differs from the harmonic minor scale. Once again the harmonic major scale gives the seven types of arpeggios discussed in this lesson, here they are :
- Major 7 (1, 3, 5, 7) on the I degree.
- Half-diminished (1, b3, b5, b7) on the second degree.
- Minor 7 (1, b3, 5, b7) on the degree III.
- Minor Major 7 (1, b3, 5, 7) on the fourth step.
- Dom7 (1, 3, 5, b7) on the degree V.
- Major 7#5 (1, 3, #5, 7) on the sixth degree.
- Diminished 7 (1, b3, b5, b7) on the seventh degree.
Relationships Between Modes and Arpeggios of The Harmonic Major Scale
There are seven mode in the harmonic major scale, here they are represented through seven guitar diagrams and their related arpeggio shapes.
- Mode I : Harmonic major contains a major 7 arpeggio.
- Mode II : Dorian b5 - min7b5 arp.
- Mode III : Phrygian b4 - min7 arp.
- Mode IV : Lydian b3 - minor/Major 7 arpeggio.
- Mode V : Mixolydian b2 - Dominant 7 arp.
- Mode VI : Lydian augmented #2 - Major 7#5 arp.
- Mode VII : Locrian bb7 - Diminsihed 7 arpeggio.
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