If you have already seen my Introductory Triad Arpeggios Guitar Lesson, then you probably already have a basic foundation in triad arpeggios. The next logical step is to progress to so-called Seventh Arpeggios, which open up a whole new world of sonic possibilities.
Most guitarists that use arpeggios don't end up going beyond triads (except for skilled jazz players). Maybe this is because of how much easier it is to play triads on the fretboard, especially with the sweep picking technique (which I cover in a separate guitar lesson). But while triads are really cool sounding, if you want to expand your horizons, then learning seventh (7th) arpeggios will be one of the most important things you can possibly do to improve both your melodic skills, as well as skills with chord progressions (that is, harmony).
So read below about some theory and then move on to the exercises in this guitar lesson. As with most of my guitar lessons, you will find that I am not just throwing some exercises at you - I will show you how to apply seventh arpeggios in musically meaningful ways.
As mentioned above, in my Introductory Triad Arpeggios Guitar Lesson I cover the basic theory behind triads. So please take a look at that lesson if you need to brush up on some basic theory.
I won't get deep into the theory, but I do believe understanding seventh arpeggios will go a long way towards your overall musical development.
When I talked about triads, I discussed how they come about from taking the 1st, 3rd, and 5th note of a given scale degree. We saw that for a Major Scale, this produces three triad types: Major, Minor, Diminished.
Specifically, the table below shows which degrees of a Major Scale correspond to what type of triad:
|Scale Degree||Triad Type|
So try and remember this: For any major scale, 127, 4th, and 5th modes correspond to Major Triads, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th correspond to Minor Triads, and 7th mode corresponds to Diminished Triad.You will be surprised how your musical knowledge will soar simply by understanding this point about triads.
Seventh arpeggios are similar in spirit. We just add the 7th note starting from any given degree of a major scale. Take a look at the below image:
What we are doing is taking each note of a C Major Scale, and adding a 3rd, 5th, and 7th above that note. So when we start from C we then add E, G, B. Then we move to B and add, D, F, A. And so on.
When we look at the intervals between the notes of each arpeggio/chord, we see that there are four unique types of seventh arpeggios. See below:
|Scale Degrees||7th Chord Type||Intervals between notes|
|1, 4||Major 7th||majord 3rd - minor 3rd - major 3rd|
|2, 3, 6||Minor 7th||minor 3rd - major 3rd - minor 3rd|
|5||Dominant 7th||major 3rd - minor 3rd - minor 3rd|
|7||Minor 7th(b5)||minor 3rd - minor 3rd - major 3rd|
So take the Cmaj7, for example. It has notes C, E, G, B. From the above table, we can see that for a Major 7th chord, we have a major 3rd from C to E, minor third from E to G, and major third from G to B. If we look at a D Minor 7th arpeggio/chord, it has the notes D, F, A, C, with minor third from D to F, major third from F to A, minor third from A to C.
We could apply above to any scale. For D Major, we know how to determine the notes from above formula, and we also now know how to form the corresponding 7th chords for each mode. We end up with the following:
|Scale Degree/Note||7th Chord||Chord Notes|
|1 - D||Dmaj7||D, F, A, C#|
|2 - E||Em7||E, G, B, D|
|3 - F#||F#m7||F#, A, C#, E|
|4 - G||Gmaj7||G, B, D, F#|
|5 - A||A7||A, C#, E, G|
|6 - B||Bm7||B, D, F#, A|
|7 - C#||C#m7(b5)||C#, E, G, B|
So above tells us the 7th chords/arpeggios found in D Major and you could figure out likewise for any major scale. D Major is useful since it is the key with two sharps and is a fairly commonly used key.
Ok, let me just say a quick word about seventh arpeggio inversions. I talked about inversions in my exercise Major Triads on Two Strings. Inversions of seventh arpeggios is basically the same, except we have one extra inversion since the seventh arpeggio adds one extra note on top of a triad. So 1st inversion would start from the 3rd of the arpeggio, 2nd inversion would start from the 5th, and 3rd inversion would start from the 7th. If we consider a Em7 chord, its inversions would be
|Root Position||E, G, B, D|
|!st Inversion||G, B, D, E|
|2nd Inversion||B, D, E, G|
|3rd Inversion||D, E, G, B|
You should notice how for each inversion we are just starting from the next successive note of the arpeggio and adding the remaining notes on top of it. But I have to make a disclaimer - when playing arpeggios/chords on guitar, we often don't play the notes in order as shown above. We end up playing in ways that make sense given limitations of our fingers. So the important thing to understand is that in an inversion the bass note changes, so we'll just consider a first inversion of a Em7 chord as any ordering of notes where G is the lowest note (the bass note). Once you understand this for our Em7 example, you will understand for any seventh arpeggio!
So that was some basic theory on seventh arpeggios. For the exercises in this guitar lesson I will show you useful fingerings for playing the four main seventh arpeggio types and their inversions on two strings.