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Arpeggios
 

Arpeggios

When the notes of a chord are played in succession rather than together the expression arpeggio is used.

At its simplest, an arpeggio can mean simply playing the notes of the chord one after the other. For the upward arpeggio this can be achieved with precision if the notes of the chord are prepared in advance.

Here is how to do a simple upward arpeggio with open strings:

  • Prepare both hands as if to play a chord
  • Play the sixth string with the thumb, without moving the fingers. Do a rest stroke, and leave the thumb on the fifth string. This helps to support the hand.
  • Play the index finger note (the third string), leaving the middle and ring fingers in place. Use a free stroke.
  • Play the middle-finger note (the second string), leaving the ring finger in place. (This is more tricky.)
  • Finally, play the first string with the ring finger.
  • Replace thumb and fingers, ready to start again.

Here is a pictorial representation of the movements.

After all fingers are prepared the thumb plays.

After all fingers are prepared the thumb plays.

Next, the index finger plays, leaving the others in place.

Next, the index finger plays, leaving the others in place.

The middle finger plays, without any movement of the ring finger.

The middle finger plays, without any movement of the ring finger.

The ring finger plays.

The ring finger plays.

The right-hand fingers are usually indicated by the first letters of their Italian or Spanish names. They are easy to remember since i and m are used for the index and middle fingers. For the ring or annular finger a is used, and the thumb is represented by p (for the Spanish pulgar). Thus the right-hand fingering for the above arpeggio would be p-i-m-a.

Practice the p-i-m-a arpeggio until you can do it smoothly, and then try it on the other chords, remembering to use the thumb on the appropriate strings. Choose the lowest one for the thumb and the top three for the fingers.

For the reverse arpeggio p-a-m-i, it is not necessary to place all the fingers in advance. Just the outside fingers, p and a, are sufficient.

After becoming reasonably familiar with the physical movements involved for chords, arpeggios, and single-note alternation, it is time to play some actual tunes and accompaniments, and to do this we need to learn ways that the tunes can be written down. Then we can move on to learning songs and chording.


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