Guitar Arpeggios

Guitar arpeggios are broken chords where the notes are played one at a time rather than simultaneously.

Guitar arpeggios are a great way to give your guitar solos some melodic and vivid parts. Guitar arpeggios are built up as regular guitar chords, but instead of letting the strings sound simultaneously - as you would normally do with chords - guitar arpeggios are played by letting each note sound one at a time.

This means that guitar arpeggios are made up of the same musical material as regular guitar chords, thirds, fifths, sevenths etc., and in a theoretical sense, they are identical. However, the guitar arpeggios often have different patterns.

Guitarists of the neo-classical metal genre, such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Mike Angelo, are famous for their extensive use of guitar arpeggios. But you don't have to play non-stop guitar arpeggios for 15 minutes in order to benefit from the technique - just spice up your solos by adding a guitar arpeggio here and there.

You can play guitar arpeggios using three different techniques:

  1. Conventional picking
  2. Hammer-on / pull-off
  3. Sweep-picking

Conventional picking

You can play guitar arpeggios using regular up and down strokes, also known as "conventional picking". This is a great way to get an even and clear presence on every note and the technique makes it easy to blend guitar arpeggios with guitar scales.

Hammer-on / pull-off

The hammer-on/pull-of technique makes it possible to play your guitar using only your fretting-hand. This makes it possible to play fast guitar arpeggios because the picking hand does not have to hit every note. The guitar arpeggios played using this technique will sound smoother and more connected than with the conventional picking. Very suitable for the string-skipping guitar arpeggios.

Sweep-picking technique

Playing guitar arpeggios using the sweep-picking technique means playing only down-strokes ascending and only up-strokes descending - similar to strumming regular guitar chords. The "sweeping" motion of the pick is combined with a matching fret hand technique in order to make each note sound one at a time.

The four and five-string guitar arpeggios at are ideal for sweep-picking. Start with the four-string arpeggios and move on to the five-string versions when you get the hang of it. The sweep-picking technique is difficult to master, but once you get the feeling of it, it is possible to play very fast and smooth sounding guitar arpeggios.