Of the September/October 2022 problem of acoustic guitar | By Lisa Liu
The extended arpeggio is one of the most beautiful sounds in western music. With its dreamlike quality, this sonority is often used in television shows and films to accompany alternate universes and dream scenes. The French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy used the extended arpeggio extensively in his compositions, in which he created cascades of watery sounds. Following Debussy, Django Reinhardt used these arpeggios in his improvisations.
In this weekly workout, we’ll first look at how to construct advanced arpeggios, then go through some fretboard exercises that you can also use as patterns and lines for solos and compositions in any style.
Weekly Workout is a series of monthly guitar exercises consisting of interesting technical workouts that get your fretboard and plucked fingers working in different ways, and musical studies to help you visualize and explore the fretboard.
week one: Theory and chord shapes
Before you pick up your guitar, let’s review some basic theory. An augmented triad contains a major third (four semitones) between each of its notes. You can also think of it as a major triad (1 3 5), but with a raised fifth (1 3 #5). AC Augmented Triad is spelled CEG# and written as either Caug or C+. [AG always uses the former symbol. —ed.] To get a dominant augmented seventh chord, simply add the flatted seventh to any augmented triad. So an augmented seventh chord on C is written CEG# Bb and the symbol is Caug7 or C+7.
When you first learn these arpeggios, remember to practice slowly and keep the same fingering each time you play. This will help you become familiar with their shapes as you build them up in your muscle memory. If you play a 12 fret guitar, you can eliminate playing the higher notes above the 12th fret. Finally, these exercises can be played either fingerstyle or with a flatpick, using alternating plucks for two notes on the same string and downstrokes for everything else.
Now try some exercises based on a Gaug Triad (GBD#). The first bar of example 1 begins on the root (G), the second bar on the third (B) and the third bar on the augmented fifth (G#). Notice that although you start with a different chord element in each bar, the interval construction is exactly the same; This is due to the symmetrical arrangement of the augmented triad, a stacking of major thirds.
example 2 is a descending arpeggio that starts with the highest note in each hand position of the arpeggio pattern. Last, Example 3 takes you through an arpeggio with an extended seventh (GBD# F). Note the extra color that the flat seventh provides. Expect the larger intervals in the same position, opening your hand.
Beginner tip #1
When working on these extended arpeggios, try the three-in-a-row rule: if you can play something perfectly three times in a row, you know you’ve got it.
Second week: creating patterns and sequences
This week we’re going to focus on creating sequences and patterns with advanced arpeggios. example 4 is a pattern reminiscent of how Debussy used an extended arpeggio in his compositions such as “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” (from the kids corner piano suite). Slightly more difficult with its descending eighth-note triplets, Example 5 shows yet another way to train on the extended G triad.
The next two examples switch to a C-extended triad. Example 6 is a descending pattern starting on the third of the chord (E) and going up at fret 12. also descending, Example 7 uses four-note sequences to create a cascading effect. Here, too, look ahead and plan for the large interval jumps. If a transition feels uncomfortable, slowly practice until it feels effortless and natural.
Beginner tip #2
Play the arpeggios in this lesson at different dynamic levels. For example, start with a low volume and end loud or vice versa. This will help make the exercises musical rather than mechanical.
week three: Combine Augmented Arpeggios and Whole Tone Scale
This week’s practice creates patterns that combine extended arpeggios with lines from across the scale. [For a Weekly Workout on this symmetrical scale, see the December 2017 issue. —ed.]. example 8 emphasizes the extended G arpeggio along with the G whole tone scale (GABC# D# EF). The pattern begins on the root (G) and descends with a G-augmented ninth arpeggio with the addition of the raised fourth (C#).
example 9 outlines all extended arpeggios within the F whole tone scale (FGAB Db Eb). The pattern begins with a descent through an F-supplemented triad (FAC#), then rises a Gaug arpeggio in bar 2, moves down to Aaug (AC# E#), and so on. Finish with this week Example 10which is based on an A-supplemented arpeggio with the raised fourth (D#) played in descending, then ascending order.
Beginner tip #3
There are only two whole tone scales, and example 9 contains all the extended arpeggios in the F whole tone scale. Similar to this exercise, try playing these arpeggios in the other whole tone scale, starting with C (Caug, Daug, Eaug, F#aug, G#aug, A#aug). You then played the extended arpeggios in all 12 keys.
week four: Using extended arpeggios in jazz
This week let’s apply the extended arpeggios in a jazz context. Example 11 based on a ii–V–I progression (Dm7–Gaug7–Cmaj7) in the key of C major. Above the V chord, a descending G extended triad (GBD#) is used, beginning with the raised fifth (D#). The tension created by the Gaug chord resolves nicely on the root (C) of the Cmaj7 chord in the following bar. Move to the key of F, Example 12 is another ii–V–I progression (Gm7–Caug7–Fmaj7). The V chord is negotiated with an augmented C seventh chord (CEG# Bb) resolved by the fifth (C) of the Fmaj7 chord.
Example 13 is a ii–V–I in the key of D with what is known in jazz as a tritone substitution. The usual V chord (Aaug7) is replaced by one whose root is three whole steps away (Eb aug 7). The augmented Eb triad (Eb GB) here includes the raised fourth (A#), and the triad resolves on the third of the Dmaj7 chord (F#).
Practice slowly with a metronome first. Once the line feels comfortable to play, try playing it with an accompaniment track of the chords. To really work the line in and master it, play it in all 12 keys. Notice how the timbre of the line changes and how it feels to play at different points on the neck.
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Beginner tip #4
Once you’ve become comfortable with the exercises in this lesson, try creating your own advanced patterns and moving them up the neck in major thirds (four frets up or down). Add the raised fourth or fifth of any chord for color and variation.
Take it to the next level
For an extra challenge, try this sequence based on a G-assisted arpeggio. It is a four note pattern that also includes notes within the G whole tone scale.
Lisa Liu is a guitarist and composer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her music is available on all major streaming platforms and on her website lisaliuguitar.com.