Tag Archives: Major chord

Dominant 7 Arpeggios

Arpeggios are hard. Most people don’t enjoy learning them, but they are critical if you want to understand how to improvise over chord changes. It’s important to be able to find chord tones on the guitar and arpeggios are the best way to do that. Dominant 7 arpeggios are a good place to start because secondary dominants are so common. If you know your C scale and the E7, A7, and D7 arpeggios you can easily play over All of Me, for example. Take a look at these fingerings for dominant 7 arpeggios. If you have already learned these major scale fingerings, you will notice that the arpeggios come out of the scales, based off of the 5th. A great way to learn these fingerings is to play a C scale and then play the G7 arpeggio that is found within the scale. Just leave out the C, E, and A notes. Once you are fluent with dominant 7 arpeggios in all keys you can start learning some other arpeggios such as Maj7, min7, min7(b5) and dim7.

I am using arpeggios in my playing all the time, even when I am not playing them straight up or down. When I am playing chromatically, I like to start and end my lines on chord tones. The arpeggios that I have practiced form an underlying structure over which I build my linear ideas. This is true for all styles of music, not just jazz. There is a difference between choosing a scale that sounds good with a certain set of chords and choosing notes to target at particular structural points in a chord progression. Finding those chord tones can actually free you from the confines of a particular scale.

Good luck practicing your arpeggios, and have fun figuring out how to apply them creatively!


Memorization versus Comprehension – Spell those Chords!

Part of my teaching philosophy has always been that it’s more important to understand broad concepts about music than it is to memorize lots of little facts and details. Lately, however, I am starting to realize that one of the reasons I can organize seemingly disparate ideas into unified musical concepts is because I have a lot of little facts and details memorized. I used to walk to school reciting my scales and chord tones in time to my walking pace, and I may have underestimated how much that mental repetition, without my instrument, helped me. So, I want to present a simple way to memorize your Major Triads.

Normally I would expect my students to learn their major scales, know how they sound and how to spell them all through the cycle of fourths, understand that Major Triads are built from the first, third and fifth degrees of the scale, know what Major Triads sound like and so on and so forth. I still want my students to do all of that but for now we are going to bypass those concepts and learn some chord spelling!

Triads are built by stacking thirds, so the first thing you need to do is to be able to say your musical alphabet by skipping letters – ABCDEFG becomes A C E G B D F. It helps to say this, out loud, over and over again until it is memorized. Then you should say it backwards. A lot. Music goes up AND down!

Now that you know your musical alphabet by thirds we will learn the first three chords – G,C, and F Major have no sharps or flats so they are easy to memorize. G is spelled G,B,D, C is spelled C,E,G, and F is spelled F,A,C. It’s that simple. Knowing how to spell these chords does not mean you know what they sound like, how to play them, or how they work together. It doesn’t make you a better musician or a smarter person. It’s just one of the many, many things you need to know to be a competent musician.

Moving on, there are three Major Triads with one sharp, and they ALL have the sharp on the third degree. E is spelled E,G#,B. A is spelled A,C#,E. D is spelled D,F#,A. Why? We are not talking about that today!

Finally there is B. It has two sharps and is spelled B,D#,F#.

Memorize these Major Triads. Seriously. Be able to spell them instantly from memory. Here is a handy chart in fifths:

F  A  C

C  E  G

G  B  D

D  F# A

A  C# E

E  G# B

B D# F#

If you can spell all of your Major Triads with natural roots you can spell all of your Major Triads with flat or sharp roots too. For example, since, D is spelled D,F#,A, Db is spelled Db,F,Ab. Also you can learn your minor Triads by flatting the thirds of your Major Triads. A is A,C#,E, so Amin is A,C,E.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have musical knowledge at your fingertips. This stuff just has to be second nature. So spend some quality time inside your head, spelling your triads!

Do you really know your major scales?

I mean, can you play your major scales in all keys all across the fretboard? If not, you might consider checking out these fingerings. And, you might also consider coming to my class on the 17th of August at 2:00. I will be teaching the major scale fingerings and showing students how to change keys without having to jump all over the fretboard as well as how to play all over the fretboard in any key.

Major scales are the building blocks for most of your other scales, chords, modes, and arpeggios. Knowing them in all keys as well as knowing how to spell them and how they are built is just critical.

If you are interested in this class please contact me for details. Otherwise, get practicing! Those major scales are important and they don’t learn themselves!