Arpeggios approaches introduction

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Chromatic approach to 3-note chord arpeggios

The headline of this section seems complex at first glance. However, it is at the same time a fairly simple topic and an inexhaustible well of licks in Manouche guitar. For instance, the first notes of Mozart's Turkish March belong to this register. Is it any clearer now ? Chromatic may not be the most appropriate word but I couldn't find any better for now!

This kind of approach can be applied to majer, minor and dominant 7th chords, be they altered or not.

CAGED system

Before getting any further in this section, it may be useful to briefly talk about the CAGED system. In short, this system is a mnemotechnic way to remember the 5 positions of a unique major chord over the board. We start with the following 5 basic chord shapes : E (in yellow), D (in purple), C (in blue), A (in white), G (in red). This five shapes are superimposed on several notes as can be seen on the following example in E.

For major chords (E major here): Caged-maj.gif

For minor chords (E minor here): Caged-min.gif

How to use the following diagrams ?

This diagrams decribe the notes of the underlying chord arpeggio, together with the "chromatic" notes that are fretted around each of these notes. The root is in red, the third in blue, the fifth in green. There are four main ways to play those chromatisms and all are in 16ths, which is an advantage as it can then be played in straight alternate picking, and therefore it makes it easier to play at all speeds (most of the times, it is played very fast) :

  • Starting from above (the most common approach): note above, arpeggio note, note under, arpeggio note.
  • Starting from under: note under, arpeggio note, note above, arpeggio note.
  • Starting from the arpeggio note and above: arpeggio note, note above, note under, arpeggio note.
  • Starting from the arpeggio note and under: arpeggio note, note under, note above, arpeggio note.


Of course, there are variants to this. You will find a few lick examples here: Variants (Rosenberg, Debarre, Lagrène)

For each of these exercises, you can play the four ways. One video of each is given for the first diagram of each chord, with tablature. As far as fingerings are concerned, it is quite free. I use my four fingers, but most of the times, people play with three. The Rosenbergs and Django play(ed) that with two with glissandos between the arpeggio note and the note under.