Watch the Arpeggios: Triads and Beyond online guitar lesson by Andy Timmons from Electric Expression
Arpeggios. When this word comes up a lot of people tend to think of neo-classical shredding and sweeping, but that's not what we're going to talk about today. It's basically the use of arpeggios in your melodic lines. It doesn't all have to be three octave sweeping type ideas, which those are great and I love that kind of playing, but what I want to talk about is how I approach using arpeggios in my improvisations and showing where they come from. It will fit in quite well with everything else that we're talking about here and it's actually quite simple. Going to stick in our trusty D minor for this. As we pointed out already, in this D minor to B flat chord progression we've related it to the fact that it's D minor aeolian. So not unlike your D minor pentatonic, we're just adding two notes, the E natural and the B flat. In a lot of, when I first delved into scratching the surface of modes and all that it was, I didn't want to think of everything as individual modes, but I did want to relate them to whatever the mother major key was. In this regard it's F major. At that point for me, it was easier to think of it that way and maybe it will be for you. So we know that D minor aeolian comes from the key of F major and these triads that I'm going to show you are basically going to be right up the F major scale. Going to start with the F major triad it's just F, A, C. If you harmonize that scale and move up each scale degree the second note, G, is a minor chord, so G minor, F major, G minor. The third scale degree is harmonized in minor as well it's A minor. So that's a nice little exercise, again, allowing you to bridge some of your favorite positions together with these arpeggios. So essentially, if you're in the key of F major or D minor in its aeolian mode, all these triads work. Some of them have more tension than others depending on what chord is sounding at that time. Like over the D minor, it's kind of pretty inside sounding, because it's got the seventh, the fifth, the third, and the seventh. So it's actually a nice arpeggio to play over the D minor. Anywhere you can find an F major triad, will sound good over that chord. Next is the G minor, and clearly it's a lot of notes not in that chord, so it's definitely not as pleasing, because it has the tonic, but it's got the B flat, that flat sixth and the fourth scale degree.
I'm a big Wes Montgomery fan, so I've been learning some of his tunes and some of his solos and any time he's got a minor chord, like a D minor chord. I was learning "Impressions" last night, which happens to be in the key of D minor. He'd play an A minor triad over that D minor, and it's nice because its got the ninth scale degree, the seventh, and the fifth. So it's the same idea. He's taken an arpeggio from the key, but that has a couple of nice color tones or he might play a C major triad. So that's a nice application of what I'm talking about here that could be played over that D minor chord. You've got the D minor triad, which of course is the most obvious pleasing inside that's got the chord tone. But the idea is super-imposing some of these other triads, these arpeggios. Over that B flat, that D minor arpeggio sounds beautiful because it has that major seven like I talked about. It's got the major seven, five, and third and you get down to that B flat major. Of course that's the home triad for that chord, so that's the idea. If you know the key that you're in you can apply the triads that are diatonic to that key. Again, you've just got to season to taste. You've got to use your ear to find out what works and what sounds good or maybe what doesn't. So no wrong or right. It's just up to you as the player to figure out what sounds best to you and hopefully that's interesting to the people listening to you. So let's apply some of these ideas. Let's take the ending of Cry For You, where it's pretty rocked out and I'm going to play some of these triatic ideas incorporated with some melodic lines, so you can hear some of the tension and release with arpeggios. As I was hoping to demonstrate there is just playing simply some of the arpeggiated ideas. Just straight down the F major scale, playing the diatonic arpeggios anywhere you can find those three-note groupings. It's going to be a great way to add just a little bit more excitement and harmonic content to your playing. So have fun exploring those possibilities.