Arpeggios - Dominant Sevenths
Next we will take a look at the Dominant Seventh Arpeggio and some patterns to practice it. Start by reviewing the structure of the Dominant Seventh chord, which you will remember is the root, third, fifth and flatted seventh notes of the scale. A good exercise to do, is to try naming these in all twelve keys from memory, so that you know what notes are in any Dominant Seventh chord without hesitation. Then, as you use the arpeggios in your playing, they will just "roll off of your fingers", rather than being a burden that stops your playing, because you have to figure out what notes to play.
Pay careful attention to the fact that this arpeggio contains a flatted, not a natural seventh. This is not interchangeable with a Major Seventh arpeggio, (the subject of next month’s article). This is a common mistake that a lot of beginning students make. Also notice that all you are doing here is taking the Major Triad arpeggio, and adding the flatted seventh to it. Remember our theme of taking something that you already know and altering it to fit the new pattern that you are learning.
Be aware that anywhere that you have a chord functioning as a V chord, even if it is just shown as a Major chord in the music that you are playing, you can use this arpeggio over that chord. Remember from our article on using Major Scales, that when you harmonize the Major scale, the V chord is always a Dominant Seventh chord, so even if the music says to play a Major chord, this arpeggio will still sound good, and allow you to extend the chord, and add some color to your line.
As before, you want to play these in all twelve keys. Start with one octave at a time to get the feel for the pattern, and work up to being able to play not only in all twelve keys, but over the full range of your instrument. Be able to start on any note, not just the root, and go up or down from that note freely. You do not want to get into the habit of always starting on the root note, just as we discussed for scales. The object is to be musical not "patterned".
Next try more random patterns, such as 1, 5, 3, b7, or b7, 1, 5, 3. You want to be able to play the notes in any order at will, without hesitation. The more of this kind of practice that you do, the more creative and less patterned your playing will be. The idea is to used the patterns, not be bound by them. Also, do not feel that because these are single note patterns, you have to play them as single notes. If your instrument allows it, try two note patterns, such as playing the tritones (3 and b7) together, or if you are a bass player, playing the root and third as tenths together.
As with everything else we have discussed, experiment. Even if it seems like it may not work, try it. What may not work in one situation may really work well in another, so even if something you try in one situation will not work, file it away for possible use in another. There is no real rule-set here, so the more that you try, the more possibilities you will open up. Improvising is all about taking chances and expanding your musical horizons. So, go for it!