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 Memorizing Arpeggios-GAH! 
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Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2006 6:17 am
Posts: 329
Post Memorizing Arpeggios-GAH!
Hey everyone,

I have to humbly ask you shred-meisters and jazzers this pivotal question.

How do you guys remember all these different arpeggios so well that you can effortlessly play them, as if it's as easy as, like, running up an Eminor pentatonic scale in 12th position.

are you just relying on shapes that you play over and over again until you just know it cold, so that when you're blasting away at 220bpm you know exactly where to go? or do you practice them in a different way so that you have total control?

i feel like me just practicing the different shapes of, say, a Dmajor arp across the fretboard over and over again isn't enough!

it's the same with scales, i just don't feel like I can get complete control over scales and that i'm still very shape driven. it's like im hopping around, mentally mapping out in my head which are the good frets and bad frets.

sigh :(

any advice?

Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:19 am
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Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2007 3:25 pm
Posts: 656
Location: Helsinki
Post Re: Memorizing Arpeggios-GAH!
I´ve just learned to play the chords in all their shapes all over the fretboard, then I just arpeggiate them whenever I need to. Instead of memorizing "E minor shape" and "D major 7 shape" individually, memorize the major 7th shape, the major shape, the minor shape etc in various positions. All you then have to know is where the root is and the rest is in your fingertips.. :)


Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:35 pm
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Viking Kong

Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2005 3:20 am
Posts: 6727
Post Re: Memorizing Arpeggios-GAH!
The Caged system is REALLY great for memorizing Arps and relating them to CHORDS... Especially if you already understand the general "formula" of constructing chords and arps. 5 patterns of the same arpeggio based on the octave shapes of CAGED. (Definitely look into it if you haven't already.). Memorizing shapes doesn't do you any good at all if you don't know why you're playing a shape, or where it lies in relation to a chord...Like, knowing that playing a C major 7 arp over an Amin7 is like playing a Am9. Unless you know chord/arp construction you won't understand the inner workings to why that works the way it does.

Here is the most important bit. All you have to really know is that there are minor and major triads (as basic as I can put also have diminished and augmented). From there on out, all you have to do is add the extensions. Minor triad arp with a b7? Minor 7. Major triad arp with a b7? Dominant 7. The Caged system also helps you see all the octaves of the root note of the chord/arp. Then from there on out, it's more about finding where the 3rd, 5th, and 7th/9th/etc are in relation to the root.

Scales can be the same. The CAGED is also very useful in memorizing the different positions of the same scale.

Also, it helps a lot if you tab it out yourself or have a guitar neck chart. At the same time, you'll notice that you'll be able to play different inversions of the Amin7 chord where the arp is! That is perhaps the most useful tip I could give you, is to find the chord and to find the intervals around it that create the arpeggio. Then, whenever you see the chord, you'll know instinctively how and where to play the arp.

Here is a way that you don't necessarily need to know the "caged" system for (though, it makes finding positions and relating MUCH easier). You DO need a certain amount of theory knowledge to comprehend this though. Thankfully, it's not hard to learn.

So check it out, my favorite way of figuring out how everything relates to each other is this 3 step process:
1.) Play the chord you're trying to arpeggiate. In this case, Amin7. Let's also say that this is the key center, or the I chord, and that we're just doing a funk vamp over this one chord. Easy enough. Don't add any funny shit like a 9 on top, because we're not trying to play a min9 chord. Just a plain ol min7


2.) Now before you start blowing your favorite 5th position pentatonic jizz all over my face, figure out the chord tones (of this chord in this position starting at the root) of the arpeggio, and play the arp with the proper order (1,3,5,7) and taking in account which notes are flatted or not. In this case, a min7 chord consists of a 1, b3, perfect 5th and b7. If you can't follow at this point, then you have to learn the formula for constructing chords and arp.


3.) Then, after you can construct the arp based on the chord, position, then you can construct the scale. From here then you have to memorize how to construct the proper scale. For A Dorian, it's pretty much a minor scale with a major 6 instead of a minor 6 (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 8 ). Again for those who can't follow that, please learn about it, as it makes everything (arps, chords, scales) much easier to understand and find. For this scale, I'll put the chord tones in quotes or something. Also note, this is the process where you will have to figure out what is the proper mode to play over the chord. Of course, I could have chosen natural minor or even melodic minor, but Dorian is the basic m7 sound. Finish playing the scale up and down with playing the Amin7 chord. Then the process of memorization starts. Keep doing this till you memorize it. When finished, you will have a cool min7 arp and scale memorized and can shift between the two.


When finished, you will have a cool min7 arp and scale memorized and can shift between the two. Here's a quick BS "jazz" lick that I'll just tab real quick for shits and giggles to show you what I mean. Passing tones in ""s


This approach of playing scale/arps is more "jazzy". Add chromatic approach/passing tones to taste. This is how you create a more jazz vocabulary. (that and transcribing of course)

Sorry to say, there is no "easy" way to memorize everything, but relating the arpeggios and scales to something that is visually simple like a chord shape can help the process. In the Caged system, there are 5 positions, for each chord/arp/scale. With it, you can virtually memorize the whole neck. When practicing this 3 step method, I like to play the chord first and really listen to it, the colors of the chord tone. Then play the arp over it (and maybe play the chord again when finished). THEN I play the scale over it to finally glue everything together to get the general idea of the MODE. For example, You could figure out an A major7 arp over a Amaj7 chord, but that still doesn't dictate whether the scale you play is going to be A Ionian, or A Lydian (both A Major scales). Only a chord progression/motive of the player can determine that, and that's a whole other story.

The next step would be to super impose arps over a given key or chord...but that's more about knowing chord scales and stuff.

The problem is that most guitarists tend to learn the opposite/backwards way. Scale, arp, chord...and that's really a confusing way to figure everything out (because for a certain scale, there could be a couple different chords you can play under which would change the sound).

Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:15 pm
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