This is the latest in the music theory for bass series covering three arpeggio fingerings that can dramatically improve your playing and knowledge of the fingerboard. These simple patterns are the first step on a road to breaking free of the basic one octave box shapes.

Major Arpeggios

So far, we have only really looked at one fingering pattern for arpeggios. This is to keep everything consistent and it makes it easier to visualise intervals. Below are seven examples of the C major arpeggio played in various places on the neck and using different fingerings. These all start on either the 1st, 2nd or 4th fingers as you can cover all major arpeggio positions from these notes.

Although starting a major arpeggio on the 3rd finger may not be that comfortable, it works well for diminished 7 arpeggios as you can see in example 8.

Try practising each arpeggio shape starting on different tonics. Here they are in F major:

If you find the stretch up to the octave too hard, try pivoting your thumb so the hand is freer to move between the two notes. (See the lesson on large stretches here).

Minor Arpeggios

The minor arpeggio is just like the major arpeggio with a minor 3rd instead of a major 3rd.

1  b3 5 
C Eb G

Again, there are three main fingering patterns for these shapes, starting on the 1st, 2nd and 4th fingers.

Augmented Arpeggios

An augmented chord is similar to a major but with a sharpened 5th.

1  3 #5
C E G#

Here are the three triad fingering patterns for this chord:

Diminished Arpeggios

A diminished chord consists of the root, a flat 3rd and a flat 5th. The diminished arpeggio fingering differs to the others we have looked at as it is actually easier to start on the 3rd finger for one of the shapes.

Practising All Triad Positions

For the next exercise, try playing each arpeggio four times using each of the different fingering patterns (you will have to use one twice to complete the four bars). Each one should start on the 8th fret of the E string and you should move through the arpeggios in the order of major, minor, augmented, diminished.

Next, try the same exercise starting from the 8th fret of the A string.


To take this further you can repeat the exercise in the order of the circle of 4ths. This will make the exercise really long but it will be a good test of your knowledge and stamina. If you don’t know the circle of 4ths then you can refresh your memory here.

7th Chords

So far, we have just looked at basic triad patterns, but we can easily extend these to 7th chords and use a similar exercise to practice them. Here are the different finger patterns for a number of different C chords:

Why Learn So Many Different Patterns For The Same Arpeggio?

Knowing how to play arpeggios in different ways is really important when learning to solo over changes and when playing walking bass. This is because these styles of playing require you to navigate quickly and easily through a sea of different chords. Having a number of options available to you will give you more variety and freedom in your bass playing.

The next two exercises consist of two simple chord sequences in C and demonstrate how jumpy playing the chords can be if you don’t change the fingering pattern so you can stay in the same position.

In example 39, it is more practical to play the F major 7 from the 1st fret of the E string to avoid having to move so far away from the starting position to reach the F on the 8th fret of the A string.

If you try to do the same sequence with each chord starting on the A string then it gets even worse…

Here are the same chord sequences using arpeggio patterns that allow you to stay in one position rather than moving all over the neck.

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