The CAGED System 5: Arpeggios
So far our look at the CAGED system has been limited to scales and chords, but the CAGED system also works nicely with arpeggios too.
Arpeggios can be thought of as scales with notes taken out, or as chords but with each note played one-after-the-other rather than strummed simultaneously. So, unlike chords, arpeggios serve the melody – not just the harmony. And unlike scales they more strongly support the harmony by leaving out the ‘unessential’ or ‘passing’ notes. Another advantage is that where scales typically have seven notes per octave, arpeggios can have as little as three. So arpeggios allow us to jump from one octave to another more directly than with scales.
In short we need arpeggios as they provide the bridges between chords and scales, linking up the fretboard and completing the fretboard maps.
The Major Arpeggio
This is the full fretboard map of the major arpeggio. If you go back to some of the earlier CAGED lessons you can see how all of these notes also exist in the ordinary major scale. Since arpeggios can be thought of as scales with notes missing, you should find that this arpeggio and the major scale match up.
This image below is the same as the full fretboard map above, but divided up into the smaller CAGED fingerings.
Of course, since arpeggios and chords contain the same notes you can also use the full fretboard map to find the CAGED chords. For instance, the image below shows the C shape barre chord highlighted in red, the A shape barre chord in blue, the G shape in yellow, the E shape in green, and the D shape in orange.
The Minor Arpeggio
Here is the full minor arpeggio fretboard pattern and the CAGED shapes below.
Like before we can still derive the CAGED chords from the arpeggio fretboard map. Again the C shape is in red, the A shape in blue, the G shape in yellow, the E shape in green, and the D shape in orange.
Of course, since arpeggios are essentially just chords with the notes played sequentially, not simultaneously, its is also perfectly possible to have major seventh, minor seventh and dominant seventh arpeggios. Below are the basic shapes for each of these arpeggios.
Major Seventh Shapes
Minor Seventh Shapes
Dominant Seventh Shapes
Learning the Patterns
There was quite a lot of information presented here, and you’d be insane to dive straight in and try and learn it. What I suggest is that you treat this page as a reference of sorts that you could come back to now and then, when you feel like something new in your playing.
When you do try to learn a pattern, its usually best to play the relevant scale first then play the arpeggio. This ensures that you are integrating the arpeggio with the knowledge that you already have – rather than trying to learn it as a separate pattern. Likewise, practice the chord with the arpeggio to get familiar with the chord-arpeggio relationship – and of course, practice the chords with the scales to learn how they also fit together. After all the whole point of learning the CAGED system is to build a single coherent ‘fretboard map’. You want to aim to see everything – chords, scales and arpeggios – as all being one and the same, but also unique in themselves with their own purpose and applications. Chords, scales and arpeggios are the Fundamentals of music and form the musical equivalent of the Trinity – three states as one substance – so learn them that way.