Introduction to Arpeggios
An arpeggio is simply a “broken” chord. In other words, if you play the notes that make up a chord individually, you are playing an arpeggio. For instance, the C major 7th arpeggio (Cmaj7) is composed of the notes C-E-G-B; if you play those notes one by one, you are playing an arpeggio. To play these arpeggios properly, you should learn them in two octaves (an interval eight diatonic scale degrees above a note). For example, FIGURE 6-21 shows the Cmaj7 chord in two octaves like so: C-E-G-BC, E-G-B-C. You can listen to this arpeggio on Track 30 of this book's CD.
The word “arpeggio” comes from the Italian for “to play the harp.” It refers to a chord where notes are played in succession rather than simultaneously or the sound of such a chord. Some of the instruments that use arpeggios include the guitar, bass guitar, synthesizers, and various other string instruments.
Single-note arpeggio practice (meaning playing one note of a chord at a time) is a wonderful way of getting these sounds in your head. It's also a terrific basis for learning how to improvise over a chord sequence. Try the first-position exercise shown in FIGURE 6-22 and listen to it on Track 31 of this book's CD. Remember, practice slowly at first, then gradually increase your speed.