Arpeggio Pairs for Modal Soloing

When soloing over a modal tune, especially one with sparse chord changes, it's easy to run out of ideas for your solo.

One way to bring your modal improvisations back to life is by using arpeggio pairs. Simply put, this is a combination of two 7th chord arpeggios that, when combined, give you every note of the scale.

Let's look at some arpeggio pairs in the key of C. We'll look at 2 sets...the first will be an arpeggio pair based off the root and the 9th. The second will be an arpeggio pair based off the root and 7th.

Root and 9th Arpeggio Pairs

  • C Ionian: Cmaj7, Dm7
  • D Dorian: Dm7, Em7
  • E Phrygian: Em7, Fmaj7
  • F Lydian: Fmaj7, G7
  • G Mixolydian: G7, Am7
  • A Aeolian: Am7, Bm7b5
  • B Locrian: Bm7b5, Cmaj7

    Here we have the arpeggio built from the 9th giving us the 9th, 11th, 13th and root of the mode we're soloing in. When you combine the arpeggios, you have all 7 notes of the scale with the root doubled.

    Root and 7th Arpeggio Pairs

  • C Ionian: Cmaj7, Bm7b5
  • D Dorian: Dm7, Cmaj7
  • E Phrygian: Em7, Dm7
  • F Lydian: Fmaj7, Em7
  • G Mixolydian: G7, Fmaj7
  • A Aeolian: Am7, G7
  • B Locrian: Bm7b5, Am7

    In this case, the arpeggio built from the 7th gives us the 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th of the scale. Once again, all notes of the scale are covered by the arpeggio pair, but now the 7th is doubled.

    In learning to apply this concept, you may notice that resolving your phrases is a bit tricky. Try beginning and ending your phrases with the arpeggio built from the root and using the arpeggio built from the 9th or 7th in the middle of your phrases. This ensures that you're resolving to a chord tone, but gives some more interest to your phrases.

    As always, take your time with this concept and be creative with it.


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