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Arpeggios - Broken Chords Explained!


An arpeggio (ar-peh-jee-oh) is when notes in a chord are played individually in descending or ascending order. Instead of strumming a chord and hitting all of the notes at once, guitar players play arpeggios by picking the notes in succession.


When you play an arpeggio, you arpeggiate. Arpeggios are also sometimes called broken chords because you’re literally breaking up the chord by playing each note in that chord one by one. So what does an arpeggio look like? Let’s take a look. 

When you strum a chord, you strike all of the notes at once with one motion. When written in notation and tabs, a normal strum will look like this.

Notice how all of the notes are stacked in a vertical line, meaning they’re supposed to be hit all at once in a strum. Now, let’s take a look at what arpeggios look like in notation and tabs. 


As you can see above, the Em chord is played one note at a time. In this example, the arpeggio starts with the 6th string, or the low E string and goes up towards the high E string. A great way to practice arpeggios is to pick any chord you like, like this Em chord and arpeggiate it by playing it up and down the strings. If you want, you may simply follow the tab above. 

We have an entire tutorial on arpeggios taught by Instructor Anders Mourdisen right here, as part of our Rock Level 1 course.

That’s all there is to arpeggios. It’s simply playing a chord by picking each note individually in succession and in ascending or descending order. 

Learning songs that have arpeggiation is a great way to practice arpeggios. “House of the Rising Sun” perhaps has the most iconic arpeggio in classic rock. The entire song uses an arpeggiated chord progression that starts with Am, C, D and then F. Learn how to play the full song here


That’s it! For more on arpeggios, be sure to check out our Rock Level 1 course or the song library. Arpeggios are a lot of fun and there are so many more tricks to learn so don’t forget to check out some of the other blog posts and lessons as well.

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