Right Hand Training
What is an arpeggio?
Well, essentially an arpeggio is a broken chord: the notes that build a chord are played
individually rather that simultaneously. There are two approaches to arpeggios on the guitar,
what I like to call “chordal” and “linear.” The first “chordal” approach involves holding a chord
(or only changing notes within the framework of a chord position) and letting the right hand
work to break apart the notes. This is what guitarists mean most often when talking about or
playing arpeggios. This is why the term “arpeggio” has become synonymous with right hand
exercises on the guitar. The second “scalar” approach to arpeggios is similar to violin
arpeggios where the left hand fingers chord tones one-at-a-time across the fingerboard, like
we would when playing a scale, while the right hand plucks these individual notes. This
approach is found in all sorts of repertoire, and is frequently used by pick-style guitarists. All of
the arpeggios here are right hand patterns (the “chordal” approach).
So why practice arpeggios?
To put it simply, they’re the cornerstone of our right hand technique. Most of what we do
involves some sort of right hand pattern/sequence. It’s not always a fast arpeggio passage
made of the patterns found here, but our right hands are always working. We also need
arpeggios to help build right hand finger independence and rhythmic evenness. Arpeggios are
great for strengthening our right hands and learning how to playing with minimum tension.
Since our right hands are where our tone and projection are rooted, arpeggios are used to
improve tone and projection. As far as right hand mechanics go arpeggios are used to practice
various combinations of free and rest stroke in a non-scalar setting. We tend to give much
more attention to free and rest strokes when working on scales, but it’s just as important to
work on these in arpeggios. And finally, we practice arpeggios to get us ready for homophonic
and polyphonic textures - music on the guitar is rarely just a single line.
No need to reinvent the wheel
Arpeggios, or right hand exercises in general, have been written, published, and practiced for
ages. The most useful ones have certainly stood the test of time, and as what’s demanded of
our technique continues to advance so do the exercises we use to reach these higher levels of
playing. Because so many of these existing right hand exercises are essential to every
guitarists’ development there’s no need to write completely new exercises. Some of the
arpeggios found here have been selected from collections by Giuliani, Tárrega, Pujol, and
Carlevaro; some are new additions intended to get our hands ready for any situation. Some of
these are familiar patterns, but with alternate fingerings for the fullest possible development of
our right hand technique. All of these arpeggios are designed to train our right hands to play