Connecting Arpeggio Shapes

This lesson will help you get some ideas on how to create interesting phrases using basic arpeggio shapes. The phrasing ideas here are based around two main arpeggio patterns. The first pattern is based on the open A minor chord form with the root on the fifth string.

Here it is in A minor starting at the 12th fret:

Minor Arpeggio Shape 1



The second arpeggio pattern we will use is based on the open D minor chord form. We will also play it in A minor with the root note of the arpeggio on the fifth string at the 12th fret:

Minor Arpeggio Shape 2



These two basic arpeggio shapes are commonly used in rock and neoclassical style guitar soloing phrases. While they both sound cool on their own, they can sound somewhat stale and repetitive if we just play them going up and then back down the arpeggio shape. Let's look at a couple different ways we can make them sound more interesting by combining the two shapes into a single phrase and then look at a way to vary the note pattern within them.

The first phrase starts with the first shape. When we get to the E note on the high E string, instead of just topping out the arpeggio with the A note at the 17th fret on the high E string, we will try something a bit different to give it a more interesting sound. Hammer on and pull off between the 17th fret and the 12th fret and then slide you index finger down to the 8th fret on the high E string. From there we will play through the descending arpeggio pattern using minor arpeggio shape two. Here is the tab for the pattern:


The hammer on/pull off combined with the index finger slide gives the phrase some variety and makes it sound kind of slippery. We have played the ascending part of the phrase with the first shape and the descending part with the second shape.

We can take this same basic idea and change up the descending run to add even more variety to the phrase. In this second example, instead of just descending through the arpeggio pattern after the finger slide, we will a three note descending sequence through the second arpeggio shape. Here it is:


We also added the F note at the fifth string 8th fret and end on the E at the 7th fret on the fifth string. It sounds cool and gives the two connected arpeggio shapes some variety in their sound. This run sounds very good over an A minor chord. It also sounds good over an F major chord-try it and see what you think.

These are just a couple of examples of ways to take basic arpeggio shapes and turn them into something that sounds more musical and expressive than just sweeping up and down the arpeggio shape. As always, take it slow and make sure you are playing everything clean before you speed it up.

Using these types of ideas, look for ways to incorporate new patterns into other arpeggio shapes you use. You don't always have to learn lots of different arpeggio and scale shapes, just look for ways to get more variety out of the ones you already know. The possibilities are almost limitless.

Work hard and have fun!

With over 20 years as a musician, instructor, composer and performer, Paul Kleff is a rock/metal guitarist based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

Paul's current CD release, titled "Machined", is a four-song EP with two instrumental songs and two songs featuring guest vocalist Jerry Keyzer. Compositionally, the songs cover a wide palette of rock, metal and shred guitar styles.

Paul Kleff