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How to Practice Arpeggios


Arpeggios are broken chords, generally played up and down the keyboard.  Arpeggios are important for various reasons: they help build knowledge of what makes up each chord, they improve


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technique and finger dexterity, and they improve knowledge of how harmonies and melodies are developed.  When learning piano or music in general, it is useful to practice arpeggios daily.


First, it helps to have a good manual of scales and arpeggios at the piano.  The book should cover the following arpeggios in each key: major, minor, and dominant seventh.  It is also helpful to have major seventh and diminished arpeggios as well.  A good text is the MacFadden scale and arpeggio manual, although introductory texts by Alfred or The Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios, and Cadences may work also.


When practicing it is especially important to work on developing good technique.  Start with C major, probably the most basic chord.  Work out the most comfortable fingering for each hand, usually 1-2-3 or 1-2-4.  Focus on keeping your whole body relaxed; make sure the wrists stay flexible and the fingers are in natural positions, not lifted up or at all contorted.  Try to keep the thumb relaxed and on an even level with the keyboard.  Also it may be helpful to play with the tip of the thumb rather than the first joint.  These instructions of course should be analyzed with your teacher, given that this page cannot go into enough detail that a teacher would easily provide in person.


Bearing technique in mind, you should then practice the arpeggio using a metronome.  You could play using any rhythm, but one helpful method for developing finger independence and tempo is as follows: play the arpeggio first in quarter notes up just one octave.  Continue and play each tone as eighth notes, up two octaves.  After returning to the root C, next play the tones as triplets and go up three octaves.  Finally, play in sixteenth notes and go up four octaves.  This will help establish rhythm and your ability to change between beats and note durations.


Go through the entire circle of fifths for the major arpeggio, that is, play the major arpeggio in each key, using the technique and rhythm ideas above.  Next, play the minor scales.  Finally, if you have time, it helps to also play other arpeggios such as dominant and diminished.


Developing the ability to play and understand arpeggios and the theory behind them will pay off greatly in learning music—from performing classical works, to improvising, to having good technique and execution.



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