Learning Major Arpeggios on Guitar

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Arpeggios are when the notes of a chord are played individually one after the other. They can be used to add a bit of color to guitar solos and fills, and are popular in metal music when played in a sweeping style. In this lesson we’ll learn the major arpeggios, the intervals from which they’re comprised, and how to play them.

Forming Major Arpeggios

Major arpeggios are built from the notes of the major chord. In case you’re not familiar, major chords are made up of the 1st (root), 3rd, and 5th degrees of the major scale.

Major chord intervals - 1st, major 3rd, 5th

If you take a G major barre chord and play through each note of the chord individually, you’ve played an arpeggio.

G major chord from G major scale
G major chord tones tab

We can complete this arpeggio shape by grabbing the major 3rd on the 5th string as shown below.

G major arpeggio shape
G major arpeggio tab

Arpeggio Technique

There are various techniques that we can use when playing arpeggios. The style you use will largely depend on the type of music you play. Below are links to a few examples:

I think one of the trickiest aspects of playing arpeggios is fingering notes that are side by side on the same fret. For these notes, you’ll need to use a rolling technique in order to play them fluidly.

CAGED Major Arpeggio Shapes

The diagrams below give you the CAGED major arpeggio shapes, the chord shapes from which they are derived, and the suggested fingering for playing each shape. Use the fingerings as a guide and feel free to adjust as necessary.

Major arpeggios - C shape
Major arpeggios - A shape
Major arpeggios - G shape
Major arpeggios - E shape
Major arpeggios - D shape

Wrap Up

Arpeggios are a great way to liven up your guitar fills and solos. In this lesson we looked at the major arpeggios, which are comprised of the root, 3rd, and 5th intervals of the major scale. Arpeggios can be a little tricky to play at first, so it may take a bit of persistence to master them. In coming lessons we’ll take a look at minor and 7th arpeggios.

AGT book of scales cover

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