By: Kathy Unruh
Perhaps you have heard the word arpeggio being tossed around by
other musicians, but have absolutely no clue what they were
talking about. Simply defined, an arpeggio refers to playing the
notes within a chord in rapid succession. On the guitar, this
can be done by either using a pick or your fingers.
Incorporating arpeggios into your guitar playing can be a very
simple matter, or a very complicated one, depending on your
approach to the subject. Because I am a guitar teacher, I
generally try to find ways to introduce my students to new
techniques that are easy to understand and relatively easy to
do. So let's see if I can help you learn how to play an arpeggio
If you want to use a fingerpicking style to play an arpeggio,
then you need to know how the right hand fingers are identified.
There are four letters, p-i-m-a, which stand for the Spanish
words: pulgar, indicio, medio, and anular. These four letters
represent each finger as follows:
p = thumb
i = index finger
m = middle finger
a = ring finger
When you are trying an arpeggio for the first time, then I
suggest you start with a chord, or chord progression, that you
can play fairly well. For our purpose today, we will start with
the chord A major and then progress to a chord progression in
the key of A.
While holding an A major chord, play each string that is
identified in the pattern below with the corresponding fingers
of your right hand. Practice it several times until your fingers
get accustomed to the movement. Be careful to maintain a relaxed
"cupped" hand in order to avoid tension and fatigue.
Notice that your thumb (p) is playing an open A on the bass
string which is also the name of the chord.
The pattern uses eighth notes in 3/4 time and is counted:
p i m a m i
1 & 2 & 3 &
One complete sequence of the pattern is equal to one measure of
Now try playing the same pattern using a D major chord and then
an E major chord. Move your thumb to play the open bass string
which identifies the name of the chord you are on. The other
fingers (i-m-a) will play the same strings on all three chords.
Once you are comfortable playing an arpeggio with the chords: A
major, D major, and E major, try playing the same chord
progression as it is used in the Christmas song Silent Night.
Here is the link:
About the author:
Kathy Unruh is a singer/songwriter and webmaster of ABC Learn
Guitar. She has been writing songs and providing guitar
lessons to students of all ages for over 20 years. For free
guitar lessons, plus tips and resources on songwriting,
recording and creating a music career, please visit: