by Steve Elliott, Acoustic Guitar Workshop

In this guitar lesson, we are looking at arpeggios from a fingerstyle point of view and how to play them smoothly on an acoustic, or even an electric guitar.

Audio Guitar Lesson

Arpeggios are crucial to all kinds of guitar styles — Rock, Country, Jazz, Celtic, Folk, Blues, Classical — they all use arpeggios. In fact, if the great God of Music suddenly decided to ban the use of arpeggios, we’d be in bad shape and music of all kinds would be seriously compromised.

Example 1

So what exactly is an arpeggio? Basically, an arpeggio is a chord, or part of a chord that is played one note after another.

Example 2

So what do you need as a fingerstyle player to play arpeggios well? Firstly, you need good thumb and finger independence and you really do need to use your thumb, index, middle and ring fingers to play them smoothly. Some people can do it very well with a flatpick, but we’re concerned with fingerstyle here.

To start, try this exercise on open strings playing a simple unfretted E minor chord. Start very slowly and build up your speed as you get more comfortable. The aim is to keep it sounding smooth.

Example 3

Let’s move on and look at a slightly more complicated picking pattern (ex.3). You’ll notice that the pattern spans 5 strings, so we’re going to use thumb, thumb, index, middle, ring, index, middle, ring. Again take your time and build it slowly. Feel free to use the picking pattern with any sequence of chords you like.

Example 4

In the last part of this lesson we’re going to play two very different pieces as a sort of demonstration of how arpeggios crop up in all kinds of guitar styles. The first is “House Of The Rising Sun” and the second is a classical piece called “Romance” by Tarrega. It’s a wonderful melody and I’m sure you’ll recognise it.

Example 5