What is an arpeggio in music? Learn what arpeggios are, how to identify them, and how to play piano arpeggios in this article
An arpeggio is a chord played one note at a time. Sometimes arpeggios are called “broken chords” and can be played in both ascending and descending order. You can tell an arpeggio in a piece of music if you see three or four notes in a row that would normally build a blocked chord, but instead are played one after another in an ascending or descending order. One interesting fact about the word arpeggio is that it originates from the Italian word “arpeggiare,” which means “to play on a harp.” Harp players are known to play lots of arpeggios, so the term’s name comes from that practice!
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How many piano arpeggios are there?
Have you ever wondered how many piano arpeggios exist? There are actually numerous piano arpeggios! To start, there are 24 major and minor scales, so each of these scales will have an arpeggio, but there are also variations of each of these arpeggios, depending on the note that you begin the arpeggio on. These are called inversions. There are also diminished scales and augmented scales that have their own arpeggios. If that seems like a lot, don’t worry! With practice and dedication, you can play the music that you dream of playing – just learn the arpeggios that you need as you go! Again, have fun and keep practicing!
Are arpeggios important? How do arpeggios help with piano?
Learning arpeggios on piano is very important and practical, because arpeggios show up in music all the time! Classical composers use arpeggios in their pieces often and popular music can sound really exciting when the musicians play arpeggios. It makes the music sound flowy, beautiful, or even energetic, depending on how they’re played!
How do you practice arpeggios on piano?
Now that you know a little about arpeggios, it’s time to start playing them! Below is a description of how to practice your first piano arpeggio. For extra help, watch the following video. In this episode of Music Notes, Hoffman Academy teacher Alex will introduce you to some easy piano arpeggios that will make you sound like a pro!
First, start by finding the first-octave position of the arpeggio. Place your right thumb on the root C, your second finger on E, your 3rd finger on G. Then, reach up with your fifth finger to get the octave C when it’s time to play it. This pattern will work in any octave.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to have all of these keys covered at once! You’ll play one note at a time, so let your hand follow your fingers as you play. Once you’ve got your hand position, slowly play through the notes of the arpeggio. Practice playing through the whole pattern, up from thumb to pinky and then back down. As you are practicing, focus on an even and steady rhythm. Keep the volume of each note the same.
Once you feel comfortable with the C major chord, you can apply the same arpeggio pattern to other major or minor chords. If you want a really fun challenge, check out our Free Lesson, One Octave Arpeggios. Take your time working on arpeggios, making sure that you keep good posture and technique. Most importantly, have fun and keep practicing!
How do you play arpeggios quickly on piano?
To practice playing arpeggios on the piano quickly, first you need to practice slowly. It’s difficult to play piano arpeggios well at a quick tempo without first building up your speed and approach.
To begin with, practice keeping a slow and steady pace, playing each note with a similar volume and allowing your finger to play to the bottom of the key. It can be helpful to sing the names of the notes out loud as you play. For example, sing “C-E-G-C” as you ascend the arpeggio, and “C-G-E-C” as you descend. Practice piano arpeggios with the right hand first, using the proper fingering 1-2-3-5 as you ascend and 5-3-2-1 as you descend.
Next, switch to your left hand. Again, practice singing as you play, but focus on the left hand fingering 5-4-2-1 as you ascend and 1-2-4-5 as you descend. Notice that your left hand doesn’t use the middle finger as you play, but your right hand does. Your right hand doesn’t use the fourth finger.
Now, finally, to speed it up, it is helpful to use a metronome! If you don’t have a metronome, you can easily download a metronome app onto your phone (a metronome app that I recommend is called Metronome Beats App). Once you have a metronome available, set the metronome beat to equal 68. Line up one note at a time with the beat of the metronome. When you can easily line the notes up with the beat, speed the metronome up by ten. When you master lining up the notes with the metronome at this higher speed, speed it up by ten again. You can continue to do this until it becomes challenging, then stick with that speed and keep practicing!
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