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3 Essential Arpeggio Patterns

Lisa Witt  /  Arpeggios / Dec 23

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Arpeggios are essential to piano music. Whether you’re accompanying a vocalist, a right-hand melody, or playing as part of a band, you’ll probably use arpeggios at some point!

In this lesson, we’ll teach you three popular arpeggio patterns. Practice these in your favorite keys, use them with lead sheets, and have fun with these beautiful patterns!

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Essential Arpeggio #1

This arpeggio pattern is used everywhere. You might recognize it as the accompaniment to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

This arpeggio pattern is built on the root, third, fifth, and upper root of a triad and uses this pattern:

root – third – fifth – upper root – fifth – third

In our downloadable sheet music resource, we’ve built this arpeggio into a I-vi-IV-V chord progression in G Major. Try it out! Then try practicing the same pattern in other keys.

Essential Arpeggio #2

This next arpeggio pattern I call the “Clocks” arpeggio because it’s the iconic opening riff to “Clocks” by Coldplay.

This pattern uses inversions. You may notice that the Eb chord is in first inversion on the right hand, the Bbm is in second inversion, and the Fm is in root position.

The sound of this arpeggio kind of sounds like time ticking, doesn’t it?

In “Clocks,” the chord progression used is I-v-ii in E-Flat Major.

Essential Arpeggio #3

I like to use this arpeggio when I’m accompanying myself singing. It leaves out the third, only using the root and fifth. This creates an ambiguous, open sound that’s neither major nor minor. And it can sound very pretty!

The pattern here is quite simple:

root – fifth – upper root – fifth – upper root – fifth – upper root – fifth

Root-fifth-root arpeggio patterns are useful if you need to sight-read a chord chart cold. They pair easily with most melodies because they’re neither major nor minor. They also create a grand, majestic sound so even the simplest arrangement won’t sound elementary!

Lisa’s Bonus Arpeggio

We have one more arpeggio for you! This one’s a little more advanced because it’s in sixteenth notes, but I think it’s worth learning. It sounds so good!

While this looks busy, once you prep your hand so that it’s in a position to play the chord solid, you can easily move between the notes broken.

How to Practice Essential Arpeggios

You can put these arpeggios to use right away. Look up the chord chart to one of your favorite songs, hit play on your stereo, and see if you can play along with the track with one of these arpeggio patterns. If you’re not up to speed yet, practice without the track slowly and build from there!

When playing arpeggios, try to articulate your notes clearly and evenly. If you’re having trouble with this, try playing the arpeggios slower, without pedal, and with staccato. This will sharpen your articulation skills and improve technique!

Arpeggios aren’t just for accompanying melodies. They’re an enjoyable way to build technique without sounding too bland. If you like arpeggios, check out these exercises:

Happy practicing!

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Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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