Combining Scales and Arpeggios

Let me start with this familiar word of advice/caution: You are what you practice.

If your scale practice consists of nothing more than running up and down scale patterns, that's exactly what will come out when you improvise.

The same holds true for arpeggios.

So today we'll look at a way to practice integrating scales and arpeggios which will add a more interesting contour to your lines and help you visualize the fretboard in a new way.

In it's simplest form the exercise is this: Within a single octave, play a scale and it's associated 7th chord arpeggio.

Taking C major as an example, play the C major scale (C D E F G A B C) then play a Cmaj7 arpeggio (C E G B C). The scale and arpeggio patterns are up to you, although I suggest thoroughly exploring several options.

Here are 4 permutations to get you started.

  • Play up the scale, down the arpeggio
  • Play up the arpeggio, down the scale
  • Play down the scale, up the arpeggio
  • Play down the arpeggio, up the scale

    After running through these 4 permutations on a given chord/scale, you should be fairly comfortable visualizing both the scale and the arpeggio in that position. That alone is worth the time spent on this exercise.

    Now you can take it to the next level...start improvising, combining fragments of the scale with the arpeggio.

    This is the perfect exercise if you've ever felt like your playing lacks dimension, or if you feel like your solos always end up sounding too scalar.

    If you're feeling adventurous, repeat the exercise from all 4 chord tones. Back to our C major example...

    From the 3rd: Scale - E F G A B C D E, Arpeggio - E G B C E

    From the 5th: Scale - G A B C D E F G, Arpeggio - G B C E G

    From the 7th: Scale - B C D E F G A B, Arpeggio - B C E G B

    Here are some final words of advice. I've given you a massive undertaking with this Tuesday Tip. Start with just one chord and work it out slowly and thoroughly. If you brush over this exercise, you'll end up with very little benefit. And start applying this concept to your improvisations as soon as possible. Use backing tracks, record a loop, jam with some friends, whatever you have to do to get this concept going in real playing situations.

    Have fun with this exercise, and let me know how it goes for you!


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