Two approaches to melodic arpeggios on guitar

The guitar is a chordal instrument.

It is designed to easily produce full and pleasing harmonies and chord voicings.

Dm7 arpeggio - Positional form

Arpeggios are chords spelt out in time - the notes are played one after the other, often ringing together (in the manner of a harp.

Interestingly, 7th chord arpeggios are much easier to execute on the guitar than triadic arpeggios, because the 7th form replaces the often awkward leap of a 4th between 5th and upper tonic with the much easier to execute minor 3rd interval from 5th to flattened 7th.

Which fingering should you use? Check out this discussion of positional and longitudinal arpeggios with examples, the pros and cons, fingerings for left and right hand and video examples.

There are two main ways to visualise arpeggios on the guitar, both have advantages, disadvantages and preferred places to use them which depend on context - where you have come from and where you are going in the musical passage.

  1. Positional forms - based on a common chord voicing and insert the missing chord degrees to create the full arpeggio.
  2. Longitudinal forms - using triad shapes with more position changes up the neck.

Positional form of arpeggio

This pattern is created by playing the D minor 7th at the 5th position and converting into it's arpeggio form:

Dm7 arpeggio - Positional form

Dm7 arpeggio - Positional form

Advantages:

  1. Easy to visualise
  2. 1st finger on the tonic

Disadvantages

  1. More left hand effort
  2. Harder technique - holding down a barre chord and retaining freedom of movement in the rest of the hand is not a simple technique.

Longitudinal form of arpeggio

Dm7 arpeggio - longitudinal form
Dm7 arpeggio - longitudinal form

Advantages:

  1. Left hand is fast
  2. Left hand requires minimal effort
  3. Right hand - simple and repeated fingerings
  4. Right Hand - thumb on the tonic in the first 2 octaves