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Chuck Anderson Explains How To Extend Arpeggios

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Guitarist and educator Chuck Anderson explains how to extend arpeggios.

Let’s begin today with a definition of an arpeggio. Fundamentally, an arpeggio is the execution of the notes of a chord one note at a time, generally in order. If you hold down a chord and play the notes one note after the other, that is not an arpeggio in this context. In this case, you have a broken chord. The arpeggio is playing one single note after the other much like a scale fingering.

I’m going to focus on four-note chords initially. If we take a Cmaj7 chord, we have the notes C E G, and B. 

The C Lydian scale C D E F# G A B C’ fits this chord because all the notes of the chord are in the scale. With this knowledge, we’re ready to extend the arpeggio. As you can see, the chord itself is built in 3rds ie every other note of the scale. In order to extend the arpeggio, just continue to build in 3rds (every other note).

The extended arpeggio would be C E G B D F# A. The first 4 notes make up the Cmaj7 and the D, F# and A provide the extensions. Specifically, these added notes are the 9th, 11th, and 13th. In the case of the 11th, the note is the augmented 11th because of the F# in the scale. This arpeggio can be used against the simple Cmaj7 chord.

In order to build extensions, you need 2 things 1) The chord and 2) The scale that will be used against the chord.

One more example deals with the Cm7 chord. The C Dorian scale is a common scale used against the Cm7 chord.

Chord spelling is C Eb G Bb. Scale spelling is C D Eb F G A Bb C’. The extension would be C Eb G Bb D F A. This can be used against the Cm7 chord.

It is said that John Coltrane never conceived of a 4 part chord as having 4 notes. Instead, he thought of all chords having 7 notes based on this extension theory.


More Lessons from Chuck Anderson – 

Using A Dominant Substitution for Solos

What You Need To Know About Diminished Scale Fingerings and Chord Application

Helpful Tips With Symmetric Whole Tone Scale Fingering

Learn More About Double Third Chord Voicings for Guitar


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