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Arpeggios are a fun and amazing musical technique you can use to bring your playing to life on the piano.

The word arpeggio comes from the Italian word ‘arpeggiare’, which means to play on a harp!

So what is it?

Well, think of the single notes of a chord…

The notes in an arpeggio (arp) spell out the tones of the chord in an ordered, rhythmic fashion.

Just like the piano in Coldplay’s “Clocks”, Beethoven’s ”Moonlight Sonata”, or the dark synth sounds of “Stranger Things”.

I’ve got some quick tips to get you to play beautiful arpeggio patterns in no time. Let’s take a look…

Your First Arpeggio Pattern

As this lesson is based around a beginner skill level, we’re going to stick to the key of C major (all the white keys 🙏).

To get us started, I want you to get comfortable with the C, E, & G keys with both your left and your right hand. These notes together make up the C Major chord.

Slowly work your way up from left to right playing the notes consecutively and in rhythm.

(See?? You’re already playing an arp!)

For your second run, we’re only going to change things up a small amount, starting the same with C & E, but moving to A for your final note. (This makes the A Minor chord 1st inversion.)

Notice that your fingers should operate in a 5, 3, 1, (Left hand) 1, 2, 5 (Right hand) fashion.

Doesn’t that sound so pretty already?

For the third and final section of this progression we will keep the bottom C, but switch to F for your second note, and then to A again as we did in the second run. (This makes F Major 2nd inversion)

And that’s really it. Start slow, running up the keyboard from left to right using both hands to create a 2-octave arpeggio using that progression, and gradually work up your speed.

(Check out my “5-Minute Speed Drill” to get your fingers moving faster and more accurately!)

Practice controlling your velocity and experimenting with the sustain pedal to add extra dynamics and interest to your arpeggio playing.

Okay so that sounds great but what if we made it extra special??

The Cross-Over

I want you to play it exactly the same– but as the right hand plays through its sequence, bring your left hand up-and-over the right to play the top most C just beyond our initial arpeggio.

Now once you reach that top C, I want you to play your way back down the notes in reverse, ending once again on the bottom C. Make sure to pay attention to the video if you have trouble envisioning this.

Doesn’t that sound beautiful??

You can start to familiarize yourself with the correct hand positions by getting to know the chord shapes you’ll be playing. Every chord starts on C so you shouldn’t have to reposition your hands too much. Working up from your left hand to your right and back again will help to train your brain and get you in the rhythm of playing your own arpeggios.

C Major – C, E, G,
A Minor (1st Inv) – C, E, A
F Major (2nd Inv) – C, F, A

After all, arpeggios are just chords broken up into single notes!

The fun thing about arpeggios is finding new ways to play. You can rise up the notes, or fall back down. You could go up then down consecutively, or find an entirely new pattern to play between the notes.

There is so much emotion and drama to be found here- experiment with your speed and progressions to create haunting melodies, and beautiful arpeggio patterns.

In Review

Don’t expect to play lightning-fast beautiful arpeggio patterns immediately- it takes practice and patience to earn a sense of speed, but with these tools to create emotional compositions and accompaniment you can add interest and intrigue to your playing in a way that’s fun to learn and impressive to experience!

Happy practicing.

Lisa Witt

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 18 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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