In this lesson we’re going to look at the Major Arpeggio – how it’s constructed, a few basic ‘patterns’ and then some tips on learning how to REALLY learn them without the need for mindless patterns and shapes.

The exercises included will help with developing your fretboard knowledge and your fundamental harmony knowledge.

What Is An Arpeggio?

An arpeggio is simply a chord played one note at a time. Below we see a simple C major triad played as a chord:

If we play that same chord as an arpeggio we can simply play it one note at a time:

Major Arpeggio Construction

All triads and seventh chords are built using a system of stacked thirds (tertian harmony). The Major Arpeggio is built from a Major 3rd and a Minor 3rd. To create a C Major triad we simply take a root note of C, build a major 3rd up to E and then build a minor 3rd from the E up to G. This gives us the notes C E G.

  • C to E: Major 3rd
  • E to G: Minor 3rd
  • C Major Triad: C E G

We can play the C Major triad in many ways but here is the most common fingering:

Three Useful Fingering

As mentioned, there are many ways to finger a major arpeggio. There are three common fingerings we can build from each finger on a common root note of C as follow:

Spelling Drills

Learning to play arpeggio ‘shapes’ can be fun and simple for beginners but there is no substitute for learning the spelling of chords. This provides much deeper musicianship and the ability to play arpeggios and chord tones in any position on the neck.

Spelling Drills simply involve the recital of chord spellings. This should be done away from the bass. You can also write the spellings down or write them as standard notation on manuscript paper.

For the spelling drills of Major Arpeggios, first learn the natural root notes followed by the flat root notes. Sharp root notes are less common because of the double sharps involved. The spellings are listed below:

Natural Root Notes

  • C Major: C E G
  • D Major: D F# A
  • E Major: E G# B
  • F Major: F A C
  • G Major: G B D
  • A Major: A C# E
  • B Major: B D# F#

Flat Root Notes

  • Cb Major: Cb Eb Gb
  • Db Major: Db F Ab
  • Eb Major: Eb G Bb
  • Fb Major: Fb Ab Cb
  • Gb Major: Gb Bb Db
  • Ab Major: Ab C Eb
  • Bb Major: Bb D F

Sharp Root Notes

  • C# Major: C# E# G#
  • D# Major: D# F## A#
  • E# Major: E# G## B#
  • F# Major: F# A# C#
  • G# Major: G# B# D#
  • A# Major: A# C## E#
  • B# Major: B# D## F##


You can practice your new found spelling ability and fretboard knowledge by playing each major arpeggio on a single string using only one finger. Avoid looking for patterns, simply spell the arpeggio and locate the notes on the fretboard. C Major and D Major are shown below:

You can improve the exercise by working through the cycle of 4ths: C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G

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