Volume 2, Issue 3, February, 2005


by Stacy Hobbs

In today's workshop we’re going to apply arpeggios to some common chord changes.  For the musically illiterate, take out your pocket Harvard Music dictionary and look up arpeggio!

Let's establish a key.  To begin, we will be in the key of C.  Our chord progression will be C down to Am.

Let me walk you through the progression first.

Play a C chord with your left hand.

Next fret the 5th string, 2nd fret with your left hand middle finger while fretting the 3rd fret, 2nd string with you left hand pinky finger. 

This chord is commonly known as G/B or G with a B in the bass.   Sometimes I refer to it as a passing chord.  Next we play an Am chord to end the progression. 

Let's play through the progression using our sub bass notes.

Hold down a C chord with your left hand.  Play the 9th sub bass string with your right hand thumb, and then play the 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, then 3rd  string one after the other.  You have just played an arpeggio, which, in this case, uses six individual notes of your chord starting with your sub bass note. 

Repeat this pattern until you can play it clean, comfortable, and with an evenness of tone from bass to treble.

Now play your G/B chord.  Play the 10th sub bass string with your thumb following through as before with your right hand playing the same pattern on the same strings.

Lastly, play an Am chord.  Play the 11th sub bass string with your thumb and repeat the above pattern.

Reversing the order of the chord progression will create a nice “loop” to experiment with.

You have just played a very common chord progression and with a little experimenting you should be able to apply this technique to songs you already know.

When we play arpeggios, it may be helpful to keep in mind that if you’re in 3/4 time you’ll play six individual notes.  When you're in 4/4 time you’ll play eight individual notes.  This is a general rule and made to be bent, broken, or disregarded altogether!!

You can extend the progression we just played by adding an Am/G after the Am chord. You would simply continue to play the 12th sub bass note followed by the arpeggio on the Am chord.

If you're lucky enough to have 7 sub bass strings you could keep going down to an F chord with the 13th sub bass note, move back up to a G chord with the 12th, and resolve back to C.     
This is basically the chord progression to  “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge.

For the more advanced beginner, you may want to tackle the progression (or a variation) in the key of D.  Do this by first  retuning your C sub bass note up to a C#.

You can now play the Mr. Bojangles chord progression in much the same arpeggiated fashion as before.

To start, play a D chord, followed by a D/C#, down to a Bm, then a Bm/A, to G, then an A and resolve on D.  You get the idea!

If you’re having trouble interpreting the “slash” chords (G/B), here’s the deal.  The first note is the primary chord you will be holding down and the note after the / is the bass note which is to be substituted for the primary bass note of the chord!

You can find Mr. Bojangles by Jerry Jeff Walker easy enough in books or on the net. You may also want to take this concept and apply it to any chord progression.  It’s so fun you’ll want to do it for everything!! 

Roll on, 


Stacy Hobbs has been performing, recording, and teaching music for the past 22 years. He purchased his first Harp Guitar in 1998, which proved to be his true calling. Visit www.stacyhobbs.net for more!

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