Published on May 5th, 2014 | by Sam
One Octave Arpeggios
In jazz and any other style that requires improvisation, you need to have a bunch of one octave arpeggios. Arpeggios are commonly called ‘melted chords’ – basically it’s just playing a chord one note at a time. One octave arpeggios are just that – playing one octave of the arpeggio (as opposed to 2 octaves which spans the entire fretboard).
One octave arpeggios are very useful because they are small. They typically are on 2 or 3 strings and can be moved. They also will help you to start in other areas of the neck beside the low E string or low A string. They can be used to help you learn the fingerboard as well.
How to Organize One Octave Arpeggios
These one octave arpeggios can get really overwhelming really quickly, so you need a way to organize them. I relate things back to the major scale, and chords back to the major 7th chord. Basically the major 7th chord is the R357 of a scale, so it is just plain notes from the scale.
C D E F G A B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
C Maj7 = CEGB
Then you can create the one octave arpeggios of the other chords by changing one note at a time. If you lower the 7th (Bb) you have C (dominant)7. Lowering 3rd (Eb) and 7th (Bb) you have a C minor 7. Adding a b5 (Gb) you have a C half diminished.
So if you have the major 7th under your fingers you can quickly get the other chords as well.
The second part of organizing these is trying to corral these arpeggios is the number of different fingerings. I like to organize these by finger and string. Starting with the E string you have:
Low E string
1. Starting from first Finger
2. Starting from second Finger
3. Starting from Ring/Pinky
Here are the fingerings for the low E string – you will probably recognize many of these.
Then continue this pattern through the other strings.
The G string only has 2 fingerings because the ring/pinky is the same as the middle finger starting points.
Notice that the B string does not have a comfortable way to play one octave arpeggios starting on the middle finger or ring/pinky, giving you only 1 fingering.
Next, let’s edit these chord to get the different chord qualities. Here are the dominant fingerings – remember these chords are the same as the major 7 chords, but with a lowered 7th.
Minor 7th chords have a lowered 3rd and 7th
Half Diminished (or min7b5) are a minor 7th with a lowered 5th
How to Practice One Octave Arpeggios
How do you get these under your fingers? I have 2 suggestions:
1. Play them through a ‘cycle’. The cycle of fourths (or fifths) is a logical choice and really useful. You can create other ‘cycles’ though – like minor 3rds, major 3rds, major 2nds, etc, that will help you to play in keys that aren’t typically next to each other.
2. Play through tunes. Remember this is music, not math. So put this back into context – play these through a tune! Sometimes it’s best to just use a tune to practice things in every key instead of a cycle.
Next up: 2 octave arpeggios.
Photo Credits: “Hofner, Sheet Music” by OddWeird