Mastering The Pentatonics – Part 5
September 7, 2008 by Lee
Minor Arpeggios and the minor pentatonic
There seems to be a lot of confusion about arpeggios for those who have never played around with them. Many beginners assume that an arpeggio is played by holding a chord shape and picking the notes separately instead of strumming. Now that certainly is an arpeggio but it’s not the only way to play one and in the case of playing lead guitar the arpeggio is played more like you would play a scale. The only difference between a chord and an arpeggio is that the chord plays the chord tones simultaneously while an arpeggio plays them sequentially. The A minor chord consists of the notes A, C and E and you can play these notes any how you like, as long as they are not picked simultaneously, they can be played in any order for any note length, staccato or legato it doesn’t matter as long as you are making any phrase by picking one note at a time then you will be playing an A minor arpeggio.
The TABS and diagrams below show a few different ways you could play with arpeggios.
Hold down a bar chord and individually pick each note up and then back down again. Practice this by letting all the notes ring out by keeping fingers pressed down and then practice lifting the hand slightly after each note is picked so as to mute the strings, keep the fingers pressed only for the duration of the note.
Similar to the above but playing note sequences
Extension of the same idea, this can be played a bit more like you would pick notes of a scale pattern rather than holding down a chord shape.
Arpeggio using just the three notes in one octave
Three notes on just two strings played as a lick
Arpeggios like this are often played at high speed using sweeping techniques but they don’t have to be, you can play them at slower speeds. What’s important is that you play it more like a scale, in other words lift each finger to mute each note after it has been picked so that it doesn’t ring over the next note
Playing a minor arpeggio will result in a sound that maintains the characteristics of the minor chord which is quite obvious as you are just playing the chord tones. If you were to play an A minor arpeggio as a phrase or lick over an A minor chord then it is always going to sound like it fits, however a lot of blues and rock music will have a solo that is tonally dominated by the minor pentatonic scale throughout the solo. With this in mind consider that the min7 arpeggio is actually the same thing as a minor pentatonic scale but with one note missing. The notes in A minor pentatonic are A, C, D, E, G and the notes in an Amin7 chord are A, C, E, G…. A lot of solos based on the minor pentatonic scale will have a minor flavour to them over the entire chord progression even though the minor chord itself might not be present in the progression, this is because the minor pentatonic scale is used so often for soloing that we have kind of got used to the sound it creates. The minor pentatonic scale itself could actually be considered an Amin7add11 arpeggio because that’s the chord you get if you add a D to an Amin7 chord.
Playing an Amin or Amin7 arpeggio will sometimes work anywhere over chord progression that would normally use an A minor pentatonic for a solo but there are also times that doing this will clash over certain chord changes so you’ll need to let your ear be the judge, you will only find these things out by experimenting. Getting used to arpeggios can lead to some great ideas and really help you get better acquainted with the neck. They are also good for helping you get away from running sequentially up and down scale patterns by injecting some larger intervals into your playing. The next few diagrams show some Amin7 patterns that you should get familiar with but also spend some time to see how many you can find yourself.
All the notes belonging to Am7