Chords and Arpeggios in Visualization and Scale Degrees
This article describes how visualization works with chords and arpeggios and how to use scale degrees to add to the effectiveness of this technique.
In this article, we will take a closer look at how guitar’s chords and arpeggios will overlap with the pentatonic scales and diatonic scales on the guitar fretboard. It will and add to your ability to use them in lead based situations and creative situations such as riffs and chords.
Obviously, most riﬀs and leads outline chords so this will become a very useful tool for your ability to organize your musical thoughts into interesting sounds/riﬀs. It will also help you play more melodically which is always a nice thing in this world of shredders.
In order for this article to serve you best, you will need to have an underlying knowledge of the notes on the neck, scale degrees and at the very least, basic three string chords and their inversions. If you don’t have this knowledge yet, I would hold on reading this article. I have other articles addressing scale degrees and if you’re unsure what I am talking about, feel free to google them.
Chords and arpeggios accompany three notes of the scale and thus they have three scale degrees in them. The ﬁrst chord/arpeggio contains the scale degrees 1, 3, 5. If you wanted to ﬁnd this chord/arpeggio on the spot instead of referring to it as the C major ( CEG) you could consider it in its scale degree form 1 3 5. Now why is that useful information?
It’s useful when you understand scale degrees. Again, if you don’t have this information I suggest you read “Visualization Part 2: Memorizing More than just the Notes on the Neck”. If you understand scales degrees and how they lay themselves out within the pentatonic scales or any other scale type, then you will see how easily you can locate this arpeggio. Here’s an example of a dot scheme using the 2nd pentatonic and I will be treating the key as C major as we move forward. I put the 1st scale degree with a red arrow, the 3rd scale degree with a green arrow and a 5th scale degree with a yellow arrow below.
With the knowledge of scale degrees I know that the 1 chord/arpeggio is right there starting on the red arrow. What’s even more important is the knowledge that no matter what key I am playing in that root position 1 chord will always be in that position. Don’t take my word for it though, let’s prove it. In the Key of C Major this 2nd pentatonic shape begins on the 8th fret of the low E string. What fret and note does the dot with the red arrow pointing start at in this context. I’ll put the answer below.
Answer: 10th fret – C note. In C Major the 1st chord is C major and the ﬁrst note is C.CheckLet’s check another key:
How about A major? The second pentatonic will start on fret 5 on the low E string and the key of A major is A B C# D# E F# G# A. On the dot scheme above what fret does the dot with the red arrow fall on and what note is it.
Answer: The dot falls on fret 7 and the note is A. The ﬁrst note and scale degree of A major is A. So, this root position 1 chord falls in the same place. Let’s test this one more time just to be sure.
Key of B major. The key of B Major is B C# D# E F# G# A#. The 2nd pentatonic will start on 7th fret. What fret will the dot with the red arrow land on and what note is it.
Answer: The dot falls on fret 9 and the note is B. In the key of B major, B is the ﬁrst note/scale degree. Check! This is correct as well.
So, as you can see using scale degrees to visualize arpeggio shapes will make it very easy for you to implement arpeggios into your leads. You can practice this the same way you would with regular scale degrees. You can use a dot scheme by simply writing out the pentatonic pattern using dots and then point to what position of the scale you want and see how many arpeggios you can build off the position. Remember, inversions are a part of this as well, so this is going to be a long term task. Once you’ve mastered it though, you will have access to a whole new arsenal of tools to present your guitar playing in a new meaningful way.