I have no idea why, but they are the bane of my life! They should be one of the easiest techniques to master, as they are the most natural of all right hand techniques, after playing block chords. Start arpeggios by playing block chords to get your fingers used to gripping three or four strings at the same time. Practice arpeggios using tirando. What to do with your thumb whilst i-m-a are playing? My advice is only to plant the thumb whilst the finger previous to the thumb is pressing. That way, your thumb will learn maximum flexibility. If you habitually rest your thumb on a bass string, you will always be anchored, but thumb dependent, and you will lose flexibility of thumb movement. There are two kinds of arpeggios: ascending and descending and these are played in two different ways: using a block plant and using a sequential plant.

block plant

Put all your fingers down on the strings first: p-i-m-a and then apply pressure to each in turn until the string is released, go onto the next one and continue. Is is very useful to practice this very slowly and deliberately. Practice this with both ascending and descending arpeggios.

sequential plant

In this way of tackling arpeggios each finger is placed and pressing is done sequentially. Here you should not rest your thumb on any string!

  • place “p”
  • press “p”
  • release “p” and simultaneously prepare “i” and so on for “m” and “a”
  • Particularly common in flamenco is the i-m-a arpeggio that uses no thumb stroke. Practice both ascending and descending variants. Use the search function for exercises and falsetas with arpeggios. You need to be pretty confident with this technique to play any kind of flamenco – even so called traditional styles such as the Moron style. Practice this with both ascending and descending arpeggios.

    For the exercises below, use any chord or series of chords that you like – but keep the fingerings very simple. Try not to keep one chord pressed for hours whilst you concentrate on your right hand – you will cause unecessary strain – in this case, better just to play with open strings. Remember that you should be concentrating on right hand position & efficiency here.

    pdf file Download the arpeggio practice tablature 1.

    In these exercises featuring simple ascending or descending arpeggios, you play a thumbed bass note with the first treble note in the first exercises and then, on the second page, the thumb comes before the trebles.

    pdf file Download the arpeggio practice tablature 2.

    In these exercises featuring ascending and descending arpeggios combined, you play a thumbed bass note and then the first treble note [quavers or eighth notes].

    pdf file Download the arpeggio practice tablature 3.


    1. Keiran
      Posted July 22, 2008 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      Excellent info. Would love to see more.

      I have no idea what I am doing really since I am a beginner, but this has given me great motivation to start practicing something that I also feel is beyond my brain’s ability to grasp.

      I have been practicing using the simple principles indicated by the words ‘ascending’ and ‘descending’.

      I have broken my arpeggios into ‘thumb plays 1 string’ and ‘thumb plays 2 strings’. This is probably oversimplified for guitar since I play uke.

      I assign my fingers to specific strings. I then play arpeggios with only specific strings/fingers.

      Rather than having a specific musical goal with the arpeggios though, I am merely practicing the patterns of finger movement. Trying to build proficiency with thinking about two separate groups (thumb and fingers) at the same time. I simply repeat again and again without change. Then when I get more confident, I add an alternating pattern with two or more different types. This is perhaps a bit different than a method that involves learning a long sequence of arpeggio which includes changes. As you said before, breaking it down into smaller bites.

      Rather than practicing an arpeggio which varies, I think of them as specific types of arpeggios with a length of 1 bar or two bars and repeat. As you have said, an arpeggio, like anything else, must fit the compas, so if it doesn’t fit, I change it or ignore it.

      The more I do it, the more I get the feeling that it is going to take me a LOT of practice to get it right! heh.

      I practice with my eyes closed 90% of the time and find that it can help a lot. Do you?

    2. Posted July 30, 2008 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      If you are playing arpeggios with your thumb, perhaps you should have a look at the thumb page.

      I certainly agree with you regarding ”a lot of practice”. As you would say in Spanish: ‘mucha, mucha, mucha práctica, y luego. más práctica’.

      Regarding practicing with closed eyes – if it helps you to Deep Process what you are doing, if it helps you to concentrate, do it. I often like to practice in total darkness – something which seems to surprise people. Especially those who turn the lights on trying to be helpful!

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