Major & Minor Arpeggios on Guitar

Arpeggios on guitar are when the notes of a chord are played individually one after the other. Guitar solo allows for the best use of arpeggios. You can add some color to the solos with these chords and they are a great way of targeting chord tones. The use of AI writers in metal music is a popular style, especially when they’re played with a sweeping technique.

In this lesson we’ll learn the major and minor arpeggio patterns, the intervals from which they are built, and how to play them. What is an arpeggio you might ask?

What is an Arpeggio

An arpeggio refers to when you take all the notes in a chord and instead of strumming them all at once, play them one by one. You can play the notes either ascending, or descending.

Arpeggios can be used for lead guitar, provided that they emphasize the notes that are most harmonising with their parent scale. Using arpeggios only for soloing would almost guarantee every note you hit sounds as sweet alongside the backing instruments. However, some dissonance is normal and can be resolved in phrasing. That’s where the fun of lead guitarist comes in!

A Major Arpeggio

Major arpeggios are constructed from the root, major third, and fifth notes of a scale. These notes are the same ones used to create a major chord. Although you can play a major chord in many ways and positions, these are the basic building blocks.

There may be a similarity to the Major Scale. You might notice a similarity with the parent Major Scale. For example, A major (root at the 6th) or D major (root at the 5th).

A Minor Arpeggio

A minor arpeggio is made from the root, minor (or flattened), third and fifth notes of a scale. These notes are the same ones used to create a minor chord. A minor arpeggio can be played in many positions and in many ways.

However, these two patterns are the basic building blocks. A similarity may be noticed with the Minor Scale parent. These are A Minor (Root at the 6th) and D Minor (5th):

These are movable shapes you can position to achieve the arpeggio that you want. You only need the patterns and the fretboard diagram in Guitar Grade 3 to be able play any arpeggio in any key.

Let’s look at some techniques that you can use to play them.

Arpeggio Technique

Arpeggios can be played in many different ways. The type of music that you are playing will determine the style you choose. Here are some links:

  • Straight picking – use all up/down strokes
  • Alternate Picking – alternate up/down strokes
  • Sweep Picking – advanced technique that uses a “sweeping motion”

You will be sticking with straight picking and alternate picks as a beginner. You shouldn’t attempt sweep picking until you are able to follow the arpeggios smoothly and cleanly.

Playing guitar arpeggios can be difficult because you have to finger notes that are on the same fret. To play these notes fluidly, you will need to use a rolling technique.

Now that you understand what an arpeggio means, let’s look at how they are made. Let’s start with the major arpeggios.

Building Major Arpeggios on Guitar

Major arpeggios can be constructed using the notes of a major harmony. Major chords are composed of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees the major scale.

Let’s look at the major scale intervals with the 3rd, 5th and 5th roots highlighted. We can create a major chord line by selecting only the root, 5th, and 3rd of this scale.

This chord form can be used to build a major arpeggio. Arpeggios can only be played one note at time so we can finish this arpeggio simply by adding the 3rd major on the 5th string to the barre chord.

We can use the CAGED system, just like scales, to identify basic arpeggio patterns for the guitar.

CAGED Major Arpeggio Shapes

Below are the diagrams that show you the CAGED major arpeggio forms, the chord shapes they are derived from, and the suggested fingering to play each shape. You can use the suggested fingerings as a guide, and adjust as needed.

Playing through the guitar arpeggios requires that you start at the lowest root note, then move up and down, ending on the same root note as when you began. Each arpeggio has a tab that you can follow.

1. C Shape Arpeggio

The C shape arpeggio derives its name from the C chord form. It also includes the 3rd, 5th and 6th strings respectively. Music is a common use of this shape.

C Major Shape Variations

You can break down guitar arpeggio shapes into smaller 3- or 4-note versions. These smaller versions are often more useful and easier to use musically.

2. A Shape Arpeggio

The A form chord is the inspiration for the A shape arpeggio. It also includes both the 5th and 6th strings.

A Major Shape Variations

Variations of arpeggios with 3 and 4 notes in the form of A major.

3. G Shape Arpeggio

The G shape arpeggio was created from the G form barre chord, and includes the 5th string.

G Major Form Variations

Variations of the arpeggio form G major using 3 and 4 notes.

4. E Shape Arpeggio

The E shape arpeggio derives its name from the E form barre chord. It also includes the third string on the fifth. This shape or a part of it is often used in music.

E Major Shape Variations

Variations of arpeggios with 3 and 4 notes, for the form arpeggios E major.

5. D Shape Arpeggio

The D shape arpeggio is based on the D form chord but includes three additional notes: the 3rd, 5th, and 3rd strings respectively. It is difficult to play this shape in its entirety. Often, you only see the root, 5th, and 3rd on strings 1-3.

D Major Shape Variations

Variations of the arpeggio form D major in 3 and 4 note versions

Building Minor Arpeggios on Guitar

Minor arpeggios can be formed from the notes in the minor chord. They are constructed from the root, the?3rd and the 5th intervals on the minor scale. The minor arpeggio is 1/2 step lower than the major arpeggio, and the third interval is a minor (3rd) instead of a major 3rd.

The tab/audio below plays the entire scale first. Next, you will hear the root, 3rd and 5th scales. You can hear the difference between major and minor in the 3rd degree of the scale by listening to the examples.

1. Cm Shape Minor Arpeggio

The Cm shape arpeggio’s lowest root note is on the 5th chord. This note will be used as your starting point. You’ll then play across the fretboard, back and forth, passing the root note along the way.

Cm Shape Variations

The full form of a minor arpeggio guitar can be broken down into smaller versions of 3 or 4 notes, just like a major arpeggio.

2. Am Shape

The root note for the Am shape arpeggio is the same as that of the C shape. It’s the root on the fifth string. Instead of using your pinky finger to play it, use your index finger. This changes your position and creates an A shape, instead of a C shape.

Am Shape Variations

Variations on the 3 and 4-note arpeggios Am form.

3. Gm Shape

The root of the Gm Shape Arpeggio can be found on the 6th string. It again begins with the pinky finger.

Gm Shape Variations

Variations of arpeggios with 3 and 4 notes in the Gm form.

4. Em Shape

The root of both the Em and Gm shapes is shared. Similar to the Am & Cm shapes the root of Em can be played with the index finger. This allows you to shift the fretboard position and create a new arpeggio.

Em Shape Variations

Variations on the 3 and 4 notes of Escape arpeggios.

5. Dm Shape

The D shape is the last minor CAGED arpeggio shape. Its lowest root can be found on the fourth string. This is the only arpeggio form that has a complete arpeggio.

Dm Shape Variations

Variations of arpeggios that take the form of Re, 3 and 4 notes.


This lesson covered the major arpeggios. They are composed of the root and 3rd intervals of major scale. Minor arpeggios are built from the root and minor 3rd intervals.

You can use arpeggios to add color to your guitar playing by targeting chord tones in fills or solos. It will be easier to incorporate the 4- and 3-note variations into your playing. Learning arpeggios is not an easy task. Be prepared to spend some time learning them.

FAQ for Major & Minor Arpeggios on Guitar

What are the major arpeggios on guitar?

In music, an arpeggio is a group of notes that are played one after another. They are often played in a rhythmic pattern.

The major arpeggios on guitar are:

1) E Major Arpeggio

2) A Major Arpeggio

3) B Major Arpeggio

4) C Major Arpeggio

5) D Major Arpeggio

What are the minor arpeggios on guitar?

Minor arpeggios are a set of three notes that form a musical pattern. They are often used in the lead guitar to create more tension and drama.

There are six minor arpeggios:

1) E minor

2) A minor

3) D minor

4) G minor

5) C# minor and finally

6) F# minor

What are major and minor arpeggios?

Arpeggios are a type of broken chord that is played in a quick and ascending or descending manner. The word arpeggio is derived from the Italian word “arpeggiare” which means to play on the harp.

A major arpeggio is when the notes of an arpeggio are all from one major scale. For example, C major, D major, E major etc. A minor arpeggio is when the notes of an arpeggio are all from one minor scale. For example, A minor, B minor, C minor etc.

What is the difference between the are major and minor arpeggios?

An arpeggio is a group of notes that are played one after the other. It is often used in popular music to give a sense of motion and for the listener to hear the chord changes.

The major arpeggio contains only notes from the major scale and it has a happy, uplifting sound. A minor arpeggio contains only notes from the minor scale and it has a sad, depressing sound.

How do play a major arpeggio on guitar?

A guitar arpeggio is a chord broken up into its individual notes. It’s a way of playing chords that can be used to create interesting melodies and lead-ins.

To play an arpeggio on guitar, you should start with your first finger on the lowest string and then move up to the next string, then the next and so on until you reach your highest note.

How do play a minor arpeggio on guitar?

This is a very simple and easy exercise to help you learn how to play a minor arpeggio on guitar.

1. Place your fingers on the first fret of the fifth, fourth, and third strings.

2. Play these strings in order from low to high with your index finger, then repeat with your middle finger, then with your ring finger and finally with your pinkie.

3. Now play the same string pattern but in reverse order: fifth string first, fourth string second and third string last (high to low).

4. Repeat this pattern until it feels natural and you can do it without looking at your fingers!

Which arpeggios major or minor should I learn first?

This is a difficult question to answer. There are many factors to consider, such as your skill level, the style of music you want to play, and the instruments you play.

If you’re just starting out with arpeggios, it’s best to start with major arpeggios first. If you already have a handle on major and minor arpeggios, then it’s time for some more complex chords!

Some people prefer learning minor arpeggios first because it is easier for beginners to learn. But if you’re more of an advanced player and want something more challenging, then go ahead and learn some major arpeggios.

How are arpeggios used in music composition?

In music, an arpeggio is a musical chord consisting of at least three notes of different pitch, played one after the other. The term is short for “arpeggiare” which means “to play on a harp.”

There are two types of arpeggios: major and minor. Major arpeggios sound bright and happy while minor arpeggios sound sad or dark.

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