GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 11 – Geting Into Modal Arpeggios – 7th chords

Hello everyone!!

In the previous modal arpeggio lesson, I covered how to visualize triads from 3-note per string patterns.  In this post, I’m going to apply the same concept to 7th chords.  If you haven’t checked out part 10 of the series, you may want to review the approach before moving on.

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Major Scale Harmonization

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Any major scale is made up of the following triads and 7th chords based on scale degree.

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Related to the key of C major, this breaks down into:

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  • Triads: C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor and B diminished.
  • 7th chords: C major 7, D minor 7, E minor 7, F major 7, G7, A minor 7 and B minor 7b5

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This means that there are 4 unique qualities of 7th chords for a major scale:

  • major 7 (C major 7 and F major 7 in the key of C)
  • minor 7 (D minor 7, E minor 7 and A minor 7 in the key of C)
  • dominant 7 (or 7) (G7  in the key of C)
  • minor 7 b5 (B min7b5  in the key of C)

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Played as 2-string fingerings there are 4 possible inversions of each arpeggio.

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To see how these shapes relate to the modes, let’s look at an ascending C major scale on the B and E strings:

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Previously, we extracted every other note to reveal the triads related to each 6-note shape.

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This time, we’ll remove the 3rd and the 5th note from each shape.  This will create a 7th chord arpeggio in the 3rd inversion (i.e. starting from the 7th).

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Here it is written as 16th notes:

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Chord sequence Dm7-Em7-Fmaj7-G7-Am7-Bm7b5-Cmaj7

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While the approach I’ll demonstrate will work with any inversion, all the examples here will utilize the 3rd inversion.

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The first important visualization with each form is that the 2nd note of each arpeggio in this lesson is acting as the root.

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Step one: Using the patterns diagonally

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As I mentioned in the previous arpeggio post, a distinct advantage of 2-string patterns is that you can move them in octaves and maintain the same fingering.  Here’s a C major 7 arpeggio moved in octaves on the middle and top set of strings.

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Michael Angelo Batio was the first rock guy I saw playing this type of pattern in a shred context but now the sound of it is pretty common rock/metal vocabulary.  This idea will get covered more in part 12 of this series, but to make it sound a little cooler, instead of playing it over a C major chord  – try playing the above arpeggio over an A minor chord:

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  • when C major 7 (C, E, G, B) is played over A the notes act as (b3rd, 5th, b7th and 9th) or A minor 9 (no root)

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Step 2: Putting it together positionally

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At the top of the page, I showed how I extracted arpeggios by eliminating the 3rd and 5th note from an ascending 3-note per string pattern.  This same process can also be applied positionally.  For example, here’s a 3-note per string C major scale played  in 8th position.

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Now I’ll apply each of these arpeggio shapes to the C major scale starting with the root position. Notice that the 6-string shape links together a D minor 7, C Major 7, and a B minor 7b5 into one big arpeggio. 

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To visualize the arpeggios across 6 strings just remember: 

 as the pitches ascend, the related arpeggios descend (and vice versa)!

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Also remember that the 2nd note of the arpreggio acts as the root, so if you want the C major 7 arpeggio on the low E string

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you’ll extract it from B Locrian.

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The pattern creates a different flavor of modal arpeggio than the triadic version in part 10 of the guide.  Where the triadic version moves in diatonic thirds, this pattern keeps a diatonic 2nd between each 7th chord arpeggio. Here are all of the positional arpeggios of  the C major scale derived this way:

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Big Picture Alert!!

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Since all of the notes of the C major scale are presented in the linked arpeggios, you could technically play this over any diatonic 7th chord in C major if you resolved it properly.  As a recap of the modal microscope lesson, I tend to view things from a parent scale perspective so:

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  • If you play any of these patterns over a C major 7 chord – you’ll imply a C Ionian sound
  • If you play any of these patterns over a D minor 7 chord – you’ll imply a D Dorian sound
  • If you play any of these patterns over an E minor 7 chord – you’ll imply an E Phrygian sound
  • If you play any of these patterns over a F major 7 chord – you’ll imply a F  Lydian  sound
  • If you play any of these patterns over a G7 chord – you’ll imply a G  Mixolydian  sound
  • If you play any of these patterns over an A minor 7 chord – you’ll imply an A Aeolian sound and
  • If you play any of these patterns over a B minor 7b5  chord – you’ll imply a B Locrian sound

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Now I’ll apply each of these arpeggio shapes to the C major scale.  Feel free to try these over any of the chords listed above (although you may want to read the note about “The Problem with Ionian” below if you’re playing any of them over C major 7).  I’m partial to playing them over D minor 7 or D minor 9 depending on which note I’m starting or ending on.

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The “trouble” with Ionian

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The “problem” with the Ionian mode in general is that the natural 4th is an avoid tone over major 7th chords with the same root.  (i.e. C Ionian played over C maj7).  For this reason, I generally avoid Ionian as a mode and instead focus on the major scale for visualization purposes.   If I were to use this approach over a C major 7 chord,  I would probably be more likely to go with a Parent Major scale of G major for a C Lydian sound (i.e. change the “F” in each pattern to “F#”). 

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Step 3 – Adaptation

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While I dig these arpeggios as is – I tend to use them as visualization tools.

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You may notice that these arpeggios are all 2-note per string.

Just like a “box” position pentatonic scale….

“Hey”, you might be thinking, “what if you adapted all of those pentatonic variations and sequences that you worked out to these arpeggios?”

Good Idea!!!

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 As a starting point, I’m partial to playing this form over D minor as it already has some of the step-wise shapes I associate with pentatonics:
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so I’ll use it for the examples below.  In the first one, I’m applying a descending group of threes to a pattern. (This also works ascending as well).
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A big thing I work on with pentatonics is string skipping.  Here, I’ve adapted an idea to the linked arpeggios.

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Here’s a cool variation on this lick – replace the 8th fret “G” on the B string with an “A” to match the major 3rd interval on the G string.  Once you can visualize a lick making variations like this is relatively easy (and it sounds cool!!)

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From there it’s easy to mix and match things,  Now that you see the pattern it comes from, the lick below just removes the F to create a different arpeggio shape.  It starts off as C major 9 but links into a D minor shape to create a D minor 13 sound followed by some string skipping.  Grab your guitar and give it a whirl!

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The key with any approach like this is to keep it simple.  Mind you, some of these ideas might not sound simple, but the approach really comes from mastering the 2-string visualization idea, and then usurping it in cool ways!  Try coming up with your own variations!  

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Extra Credit!!

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Like I said before, while I’m sure that they’re out there, I don’t know any other guitarist who approaches fingering modal apreggios with the interlocking 7th chords,  but if these shapes are already familiar to you or if you’re looking to expand outside of this tonality, I have a few small tweaks that have BIG implications.

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  • Lowering the E –> Eb in any of the C major patterns above will give you all of the Melodic Minor 7th chord linked arpeggios.
  • Lowering the E–> Eb and lowering the A –> Ab in any of the C major patterns above will give you all of the Harmonic Minor 7th chord linked arpeggios.

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In other words, “Thar’s gold in them thar’ hills!!”  If you put some time into working with these ideas methodically, I’m sure you’ll get some unique approaches under your belt that’ll pay dividends (even if they don’t get you a tab at the general store).

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Part 12 gets into superimposition.  It’ll be short, sweet and really cool!

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I hope this helps!

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-SC

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2 thoughts on “GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 11 – Geting Into Modal Arpeggios – 7th chords

  1. great lesson as always! just one thing: at the end you’ve written ‘Lowering the E–> Eb and lowering the E –> Eb’, but I’m guessing you meant to write ‘Lowering the E–> Eb and lowering the A–> Ab’

    • Hey Tim,

      Thanks for posting and for catching that! You’re 100% correct. No matter how many time you read through something You might miss mistakes!

      I’ve fixed it in the post now as well.

      Thanks again!

      -SC

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