Learning Minor Arpeggios on Guitar

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In this lesson we’re going to take a look at minor arpeggios. We’ll learn what makes up a minor arpeggio, how it differs from the major arpeggio, and go over the various minor arpeggios shapes found on the fretboard.

Arpeggios

Before we jump into minor arpeggios, let’s quickly review what an arpeggio is.

An arpeggio is when you play each note of a chord individually in succession rather than all together at the same time. An arpeggio can be played in full, where you play every note available in a given position, or it can be broken into smaller, 3- or 4- note varieties.

Forming Minor Arpeggios

Minor arpeggios are formed from the notes of the minor chord, which are built from the root, ♭3rd, and 5th intervals of minor scale. The minor arpeggio differs from the major arpeggio in that the 3rd interval is a minor 3rd (1/2 step lower) as opposed to a major 3rd.

In the tab/audio below, the whole scale is played first, followed by just the root, 3rd, and 5th of each scale. Listen to the examples to hear the difference the 3rd scale degree makes between major and minor.

Major Scale

Major chord intervals - 1st, major 3rd, 5th
Major scale and root, 3rd, 5th triad guitar tab
Major Scale & Root, 3rd, 5th

Minor Scale

Minor arpeggio scale intervals
Minor scale and root, 3rd, 5th triad guitar tab
Minor Scale & Root, ♭3rd, 5th

Arpeggio Technique

Like the major version, there are various techniques that we can use when playing minor arpeggios as well. Again, the style you use will largely depend on the type of music you play. Below are a few examples:

CAGED Minor Arpeggio Shapes

Below are the diagrams for the CAGED minor arpeggio shapes on guitar. If you are not familiar with the CAGED system, you can view the CAGED Guitar Theory System lesson to learn all about it.

Each diagram contains the chord shape from which the arpeggio is derived and suggested fingerings. Feel free to change up the fingering as necessary if you find an alternative more comfortable.

Note that the examples in this lesson are based in the key of G minor, but the shapes of the minor arpeggios will be the same for any minor key. The only difference will be the fret number on which the root notes will be found.

When playing arpeggios, it’s a good idea to start and end with the root note in the lowest position. This allows you to hear the relationship between the root note and the other intervals (♭3 and 5) of the arpeggio.

C Shape

CAGED C shape minor arpeggio

In the C shape arpeggio, the lowest root note is found on the 5th string. You’ll use this note as the starting point and play across the fretboard and back, making sure to pass the root note on the way back to play the full arpeggio, including the notes on the 6th string.

Guitar tab for c shape minor arpeggio

C Shape Variations

The full arpeggio shape show above can be broken down into smaller 3- and 4-note variations. Outside of sweep arpeggios, these smaller versions typically are more applicable and easier to incorporate into guitar solos and fills.

3-Note Variations

3 note C shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

4-Note Variations

4-note C shape arpeggio variations diagram

A Shape

A shape minor arpeggio fretboard diagram

The A shape arpeggio begins with the same root note as the C shape, the root on the 5th string. However, instead of playing it with the pinky finger, you use your index finger. This moves your positioning down and creates the A shape instead of the C shape.

Guitar tab for CAGED Am arpeggio

A Shape Variations

Below are the 3- and 4- note variations for the A shape arpeggio

3-Note Variations

3 note A shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

4-Note Variations

4 note A shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

G Shape

CAGED G shape fretboard diagram, minor chord and arpeggio

The root of the G shape arpeggio is found on the 6th string and again starts with the pinky finger.

Guitar tab for minor G shape arpeggio

G Shape Variations

Below are the 3- and 4- note arpeggio variations for the G shape.

3-Note Variations

3 note G shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

4-Note Variations

4 note G shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

E Shape

CAGED E shape, minor chord and arpeggio fretboard diagram

The root of the E shape is shared with the root of the G shape. Similar to the A & C shapes, the root of the E is played with the index finger, shifting the position down the fretboard and creating a new arpeggio shape.

Guitar tab for CAGED E shape minor chord and arpeggio

E Shape Variations

The 3- and 4- note variations for the E shape arpeggio are below.

3-Note Variations

3 note E shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

4-Note Variations

4 note E shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

D Shape

CAGED D shape minor chord and arpeggio diagram

The last CAGED minor arpeggio shape is the D shape. It’s lowest root is found on the 4th string. It is the only complete arpeggio shape with the lowest root found on this string.

Guitar tab for d shape minor chord and arpeggio

D Shape Variations

The 3- and 4- note D shape arpeggio variations are below.

3-Note Variations

3 note D shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

4-Note Variations

4 note D shape minor arpeggio variations diagram

Wrap up

The minor arpeggio consists of the root, minor 3rd, and perfect 5th intervals. Like the major counterpart, minor arpeggios can be used to target chord tones in guitar solos and fills and help add a little color to your playing. You’ll probably find the 3- and 4- note variations a little easier to incorporate into your playing. Overall, learning arpeggios can take a bit of effort, so be prepared to put in some time with them.

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