Major Scale Practice, Part 3 - Arpeggios
Intervals help to break out of your strictly scalar lines, but you still need some fine tuning tools, and that is where arpeggios come in. To better understand how, there are two ways you can think about soloing. The first is what we will call horizontal soloing. When taking this approach, you are figuring out what the key center is of the chord progression you are soloing over and then, basically use that scale to play your ideas. You are not so concerned about the specific chords, but rather the key center.
The second way to think about this would be what is called vertical soloing. In this particular case, you are looking at each specific chord that you are soloing over, and playing ideas that fit that specific chord. Even if there was no accompaniment, the listener could still hear where the chord changes are by what you are playing. Here is where the arpeggios come in. By using the notes of that specific chord, you are spelling out the chord for the listener, thus outlining the chord progression by what you play.
Once again, you can use the practice routine in previous columns to learn each arpeggio. Start with the major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads, as these are the basis from which you will build all your other arpeggios. Begin with two octaves, but eventually be able to do them in as many octaves as your instrument will allow. Start on the lowest to highest not that you can play, rather than the root so that you are able to utilize the full range of your instrument. This also gets you out of the habit of always starting on the root.
Next move on to the major seventh, minor seventh and dominant seventh arpeggios and follow the same practice directions as above. Where you go from here will depend on the style of music you play. There is no reason to work on arpeggios for chord types you never play, but having said that, by listening to players in as many styles as you can will give you ideas you would not otherwise come up with and introduce other arpeggios into your playing. It is always a good idea to "listen outside of your style" to expand on your playing and help you develop a unique sound. As mentioned last month, listening to players of other instruments is also a good source of new inspiration.
So what we have now are three major tools to use to build your lines. Major scales to give you, long, fluid flowing lines, intervals to introduce more jagged less predictable lines, and the balance between these, arpeggios, which while somewhat flowing, also have some degree of skipping to maintain interest. By using this three pronged approach, you can keep your ideas interesting and allow creative development, while continuing to train your ear so that you can continue to work toward having the freedom to strictly play what you hear.