Monday, August 29, 2011

Finger Picking Lesson - How To Play An Arpeggio On The Guitar

Arpeggios are often a challenge for guitar players who are just starting out with finger picking lessons. An arpeggio is sequence of notes from the chromatic scale played on the guitar as a finger picking pattern. Another way to think of arpeggios is as cords that are broken up into separate notes. There is no difficult piece of theory behind finger picking arpeggios and after a day or two of practice you will begin to get the hang of playing the strings on after the other.

Playing any sequence of strings on the guitar can be defined as an arpeggio but let's stick to convention and start with the root note. With your left hand, make a C major chord shape in the first position. The root note is C on the third fret of the fifth string, fretted by the third finger of the left hand, and it's the lowest note on this arpeggio.

The other notes of this finger picking pattern are E played at the second fret of the fourth string using the second finger of the left hand, the open third, or G string, and the highest note is C played at the first fret of the second string fretted by the first finger of the left hand. On the scale the notes are the first, third and fifth steps.

The main point I want to make in this finger picking lesson is that by far the best approach to playing arpeggios on the guitar is to place the fingers of the right hand on the strings they are about to play. Holding the C chord, you place your right hand thumb resting on the fifth string and the first finger lightly placed under the second string ready to play an up stroke when it is needed.

Now play the low C with your thumb, then the thumb drops to the E, continues on to play a down stroke, drops again to play the open G string, and continues down as if it was going to strum the second string but instead you then start an upward motion on the high C with the first finger. Make it an even, natural rolling motion with the thumb dropping from the fifth to the fourth string followed by an up stroke of the first finger on the second string.

Another way to play this arpeggio is to place the thumb on the fifth string and the first finger under the third string and the second finger under the second string as though you were going to pluck those three strings. Then move the thumb down the fifth and fourth strings and the first finger plays its up stroke on the third string and the first finger plays the second string as before.

Another alternative I want to point out in this finger picking lesson is to make a different first position C major shape by using the pinky of the left hand to fret the C note on the fifth string, leaving your third finger free to fret the G note at the third fret of the sixth string. The other notes are fretted as the first arpeggio. Then you add the open E, or first, string. Now you have an arpeggio of all six strings playing the notes G, C, E, G, C E.

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