GBol Arts

Music Notes Archive

Arpeggios - Triads

George with Guitar

This month we will return to a previous topic, but look at it from a different angle. To review briefly, there are are four basic triads, from which all other chords are built. These are the Major, Minor, Augmented, and Diminished. When we refer to arpeggios, we are talking about the notes that make up these chords. When you are improvising, these are your "guide tones", as the notes that are in the chords are going to always be good points to come to rest with your improvised line.

The Major triad as you may recall, consists of the first, third and fifth notes out of the scale that is the same name as the arpeggio that you are trying to construct. To get the notes for a G arpeggio then, you take the first, third and fifth notes out of the G Major scale, G, B, and D. Any where that you have a G chord then, you can play these three notes over it, using them as stopping points in your lines. A place this comes in really handy is if you are a rock player, using the Rock scale. This scale contains the flatted third, so using the third from the arpeggio will give a more stable, completed sound to your line than the flatted third.

Next is the Minor arpeggio. Remembering that the Minor chord consists of the first, flatted third and fifth of the scale, for a Gm arpeggio we would have G, Bb, and D. Try playing this against the Gm chord and hear how each note sounds. You may notice that the flatted third is the more interesting of the three notes to your ear. Remember that bass players are playing roots and fifths as the basis of their lines, so the flatted third is going to be a better choice for your improvised lines.

The Augmented arpeggio will consist of the first, third and sharped fifth. For G augmented we would have G, B, and D#. Notice how this and the Minor are just the Major with one note altered. A theme we have been going back to often is taking something that you know and altering it to get the new pattern. In this way you are always working from some familiar ground, and will be able to learn the new pattern much quicker.

Lastly, we have the Diminished arpeggio. Rather than look at it as something entirely new, apply the above concept by taking the Minor arpeggio, and flatting the fifth. For G Diminished this will give us G, Bb and Db. This is much easier than looking at it as a new pattern, so you can get it into your "musical toolbox" in a lot less time. Remember to try to look for something you already know when learning any new pattern.

Make sure that you practice these in all keys, over the full range of your instrument. Practice starting on the first, then starting on the third, and then on the fifth. You should also practice starting on whichever of these is the lowest not on your chosen instrument, across the full range you can play. The key is not to get into the habit of always starting on the root.

Once you can do this, then try playing different permutations of all of these. For instance, first, fifth, third, first, (either returning to the note you started on, or playing the first an octave higher). The more of these you master, the more comfortable you will be with the patterns, allowing you to use them in a truly creative manner.