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Arpeggios Illustrated
by Tom Michero

Learn How to "See" an Arpeggio

Music teachers will say, "There is no more imporant skill for an improviser to have than being able to see and play arpeggios." Teachers will tell you that your playing will sound more polished when your improvisations includes chord tones. That is, when you incorporate the notes of an underlying chord into your jamming, you can't help but flow with the music whether you play jazz, rock, pop, country or blues.

Why Are Arpeggios Important? 

When it comes to improvising, it is not enough to be familiar with only a couple of scales. You can sound good for a while noodling around a scale during a solo but the main harmonic structure of a song comes from its chords. The harmonic quality of a song changes as the chords change. Therefore, if you want your solo to “flow” with the song, you need your solo to emphasize the notes that make up the chord being played. And, if you want to add harmonic variety without detracting from the existing harmony, it is essential that you know what notes outside the chord will sound good.

arpeggios illustrated cover

A Visual Approach  

Everyone has a prefered way of learning and if you are someone who likes to see how something is played, this book is for you. The information presented in this book is intended help guitarists visualize arpeggios as shapes. Even though that is not the whole story to playing music better, every guitarist should be able to “see” the geography of the fretboard and the shape of arpeggios and chords. Every guitarist needs to know where to find the note on the fretboard that matches the one he or she hears in their head. A good ear is helpful but if you are new to music, having a mental map of the fretboard that shows you where to put your fingers is imperative.


Can't Read Music? No Problem.
This book does not require you to read music or tabulature. Instead, it focuses totally on how chords and arpeggios look on a fretboard. However, this book is not for everyone. The book does not teach chords nor how to play them. It assumes that you are familiar with a few 7th chords and their fingerings.


See How Chords and Arpeggios Mash Up
The harmonic distance between two notes is called an interval. Intervals describe the distance between any two notes but most commonly they describe the distance between a chord or scale root and its distance to another note in the chord or scale. This book shows you how to think in terms of intervals rather than notes. When you understand chords this way, you will be able to play any chord as an arpeggio.

major sixth chord

$9.95 eBook Edition

"Understanding arpeggios is a creative tool every guitarist needs."
No music-reading skills required.

Two Patterns Are All You Need to Know  

There are many books that show arpeggio diagrams. I even wrote one. However, remembering all of those diagrams is not easy and takes more practice time than most people have time for.


Arpeggios Illustrated breaks downs arpeggios into their most basic structure, revealing that there are only two shapes from which all arpeggios are derived. These shapes consist of four notes. That's all. However, these four notes can repeat and look different depending where you play them on the fretboard. If you know why these shapes morph, you can play any arpeggio without having to memorize it. You will be able to instantly visualize all possible arpeggios of any chord. You will be able to play the arpeggio straight or re-interpret it on the fly. This will give you great harmonic control of your improvisations.


Here's What to Practice
Even though this book simplifies understanding arpeggios, there is no substitute for practice. Arpeggios Illustrated gives you five exercises to practice but allows you to vary them to your particular schedule.

dominant 7ths

Benefits of Knowing Arpeggio Shapes

The main benefit of knowing arpeggio shapes is that your solos and improvisation will sound more musical. Your ear and hand coordination will improve and you will be able to better play what you hear in your head on your guitar. Other features and benefits include:

  • You can add chord tones to your playing.

  • Your improvisation can follow a song's harmonic structure.

  • You can create multi-bar improvisation over chord changes.

  • It gives you control of the fretboard.

  • You can see chord patterns easier.

  • You can see intervals easier.

  • You can play longer melodic lines.

  • Improves your ability to play by ear.

  • It does NOT rely on rote memorization.


In a Nutshell

Arpeggios allow improvisers to turn a song's harmonic structure into a melody. Memorizing all the possible arpeggio shapes takes time but when you can see them as variations of just two basic shapes, you can play proficiently without depending on memorization.


  • A TRAINED EAR for hearing chord changes and intervals.

  • An ability to IMPROVISE and SOLO.

  • A recognition of KEY SIGNATURES.

  • The ability to quickly TRANSPOSE to other keys.

  • More HARMONIC VARIETY in your compositions.

  • A better POSITIONAL AWARENESS of the notes on your instrument.

See What's Inside!
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What a Difference This Has Made!

I was overwhelmed! My teacher told me, "Tom, there are seven chords you need to learn in five differnent places on the guitar. On top of that there are five scales you need to know, also in five places. And, you need to learn all this in twelve keys...  and arpeggios patterns too."How I'm I going to learn all of this, I thought. I can't even remember my wife's phone number! Maybe I should give up guitar.


It's Not Brain Surgery
My teacher said, "Break it down." That got me to really look at what my fingers were doing on the fretboard when I was playing arpeggios. I soon realized that arpeggios can go only one of two directions; either up the neck or down the neck. I also saw that the third, fifth, and seventh intervals of any arpeggio always fell in the same general area. 


The Breakthrough
Ah ha! Instead of learning the positions of notes in every apreggio, I began learning the positions of the third, fifth, and seventh interval keeping in mind that these intervals could be either sharp or flat.     With this way of looking at arpeggios, I felt like I knew them rather than memorized them.  It also allowed me to anticipate the sound my arpeggio would make, dominant, minor, major etc. When I played along with a backing track, I found I could choose what sound I wanted and create. I could add melodies in a way that could stay in the key or go outside. I was surprised at how polished I was sounding.     


This Approach Works!  
This approach to improvisation that works for me I have put into this book. I've recreated the exercises that I used to help me visualize arpeggios and build muscle memory. Like every other book on this website, I made it to help me play better. I don't know your learning style but if you are reading this, I bet you are a lot like me. I think you will enjoy this book.

Tom Michero

I'm no Django.

I am no Django Reinhardt but how he incorporated arpeggios into his playing has inspired me to take them seriously and learn to play them. It has made a huge difference in my playing.

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