Arpeggios - Major Ninths
Now we want to expand the arpeggios out into the upper extensions to further expand the tonal color we can achieve in both chord playing and improvising. We have covered all the base types of arpeggios, so now, all we need do is to expand on what we have learned in the past articles.
For our example, we will use the Fmaj9 chord. To build this arpeggio, we need only add one note to our Major Seventh arpeggio and we have the Major Ninth. The Fmaj7 arpeggio was built using the first, third, fifth and seventh notes from the F Major scale. This gives us F, A, C, and E as our starting point. Now you need to add the ninth. For upper extensions, you go to the second octave of the scale, so the two becomes the nine, the four the eleven and the six, the thirteenth. In the key of F then, the ninth would be G. Our completed arpeggio then, would be F, A, C, E, and G.
When playing these extended arpeggios, it is not necessary to start on the root once you have learned them. Let’s look a little closer at the notes we are working with here. If you were to start on the third of the chord, you would have A, C, E, and G. Recognize that? It is your Am7 arpeggio. What we can do then is, any time that we want a Major Ninth arpeggio, play a Minor Seventh arpeggio built on the third. These are good formulas to remember, as you are using a fingering that is already familiar to you, but in a new context.
Let’s try this same kind of thing, but this time, start on the fifth of the chord. This time we have C, E, and G. This too should look familiar. It is our C Major Triad. Once again, a familiar fingering in a new context. The formula here is, for a Major Ninth arpeggio, play a Major Triad built on the fifth of the chord. What you should begin to see is that these seemingly complicated arpeggios are really patterns that you already know, and not totally new fingerings that you need to learn.
Try forming these in all twelve keys using all three of the examples above. Any of these patterns that you learn are only useful to the degree that you are able to put them into your playing. When doing this, you will also learn to quickly identify the thirds and fifths of any chord, which will then enable you to get to the fingering that you need quickly, without the pauses that thinking about it causes. Try these out in as many musical contexts as you can, to see how they can add to your melodic ideas. Determine where they do and do not work. In some styles they will be a real enhancement to your ideas, while in others they may not work at all. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal taste, but all of the great players became so, by trying everything at their disposal to develop their personal sound and style. Happy hunting!