Learning to build arpeggios on piano is a great skill. Not only can it help
to improve your writing, but it can help to improve your overall style as a player. Whether you want to play
classical, jazz, or even metal, arpeggios are a large art of music.
In this article, we will talk about how to build compound arpeggios on piano. Sometimes, piano arpeggios are
also known as broken chords on piano.
Arpeggios are chords. While they may sound completely different, at heart, all an arpeggio consists of is the
notes of the chord and possibly some chromatic notes or octaves.
The difference between an average chord and an arpeggio is that an arpeggio is played as a note by note
rendition of a chord. This allows more freedom when adding notes to the structure, as they are not only easier to
reach because your hands will be moving and open to new positioning, but they aren’t confined to a single position.
This is what we are going to talk about today; creating compound arpeggios.
In their most basic forms, arpeggios consist of three or four notes total. Some can consist of up to six notes
depending on the chord type (thirteenth chords).
We are going to work with basic triads and build them up. The triad we will be
building off of is the C Major tonic triad of C, E, G.
Compounding arpeggios can be one of two things; adding two different arpeggios together in a row to create a
single seamless arpeggio (which we will do) and adding notes within an arpeggio to change its overall properties
(which we will also do).
First, let’s try adding to arpeggios together. Since we are working with a C
Major tonic triad, we already know that we have three notes. In order to add another chord, we need to add
more notes that not only relate to our chord, but are in the same key signature with proper intervallic
The best way to do this is to try and add the subtonic triad to the end of our tonic triad. Moving six notes in
a scale away from any note of the scale will bring us to a triad that works in creating an eleventh chord out of
Let’s try this. Moving six note names from our C brings us to B, which as we said earlier is the subtonic. The
subtonic triad of C Major is B, D, F. If added to our C, E, G, we wind up with C, E, G, B, D, F. This can also be
achieved by moving back a note name from each note of our original triad.
Our second way of creating compound arpeggios on piano is by adding other notes which share properties with our
original notes. This can be done by adding octaves, or reaching out into the seventh
chord notes from our triad, which in this case would start with a B. We could play any number of C’s, E’s, or
G’s and still keep our triad. Likewise, we can add a B and change our triad into a seventh chord and keep the same
The best way to learn to create compound arpeggios is through practice. Take some time to experiment with
building up your arpeggios. The more you try, the more you will learn. Good luck!
Here's a song that you can learn to help you learn arpeggios...
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