Lots of students learn scales and can get them running up and down in short order. Arpeggios are key notes from scales that are used to play the harmony of a chord. The arpeggio also serves as a framework to use in creating melodies and solos.
The goal is for you to know where physically these key notes are located on the fretboard.
The reference chord, arpeggio notes, and scale degrees of C Major and F Major are shown below in BOLD as examples. “R” stands for “root” which has the same letter name as the letter name of the chord. So, the root note in a Cmaj7 chord is a “C.”
Let’s review the notes in a C major scale:
Let’s review the notes in a C Major 7 Arpeggio:
Here’s how you could play those notes as a chord on the guitar in first position:
But if you explore the fretboard further, you can find lots of notes within the C Major 7 arpeggio close by:
Now let’s explore the possibilities within an F major scale. For review, here is the scale:
And here are the notes in an F Major 7 Arpeggio:
Here’s how you could play an F Major 7 chord in first position:
Once again, if you explore the fretboard, you will find other notes close by within the F Major 7 chord:
To learn these thoroughly I’d suggest you play through each arpeggio diagram saying out loud the note name and the scale degree. Give yourself 5–10 minutes a day on this exercise.
Put Your Practice Into Some Playing
With a looper, recorder, or a friend lay down a nice relaxed, repetitive chord progression of C Maj 7 and F Maj 7.
On the CM7 chord, play only the notes of the C Major 7 arpeggio, (even if you know scales, resist the urge, and stick to playing only notes from the arpeggio). Try to make melodies, or try string skipping, or try starting a phrase from the third, or create your own variation. Do the same when then chord changes to FM7 using the FM7 arpeggio.
This practice exercise is to learn the locations of the important chord tones in each chord, training your ear to hearing the harmony of each chord.
You can also make some nice lines by “voice leading” your single lines from one chord to the next.
Two Examples of Voice Leading Using These Chords
On the C chord, make your last note an E, and on the F chord play and F as your first note. On the F chord, make you last note a C, and on the C chord play B as your first note.
This is an example of half-step or semitone voice leading. You can also voice lead with whole tones too, ascending or descending.
This voice leading concept for line playing can be used with chords too, and I’ll explore that with you in another column.
Hear the progression! Listen to “I Can’t Tell You Why” by the Eagles and you’ll hear this chord progression in the verses, a whole step up, D Maj 7 – G Maj 7.