Australian Guitar - - Technique -

This is­sue’s col­umn con­tin­ues along the theme of us­ing in­ver­sions along one string, but this time, we’re go­ing to look at the mi­nor shapes. We’re look­ing at some ways of re­solv­ing phrases to mi­nor chord tones, us­ing in­ver­sions of the A mi­nor 7th arpeg­gio. We’ll start off by map­ping out one-oc­tave pat­terns of the A mi­nor 7th arpeg­gio along the E string: this will help us see – and more im­por­tantly, hear – the notes be­long­ing to the A mi­nor chord. Some­times we learn pat­terns with­out re­ally know­ing or un­der­stand­ing where the notes that be­long to the chord we’re play­ing over ac­tu­ally are. Learn­ing and us­ing arpeg­gios helps us to cre­ate phrases that sound mu­si­cal and re­solve. Once we have played a phrase, we can make it sound com­plete by re­solv­ing to a chord tone, so it’s im­por­tant to know where they are.


Ex­er­cise #1 out­lines a one-oc­tave pat­tern of the A mi­nor 7th arpeg­gio. There are a few dif­fer­ent pat­terns we can map out based on the CAGED sys­tem, but I have in­ten­tion­ally mapped this one out be­cause it fits neatly within the three-note-per­string modal pat­terns that many gui­tarists al­ready know and use. Bar #1 out­lines the chord tones of A mi­nor 7 –A C E G.

Bar #2 out­lines an A mi­nor 7th arpeg­gio, but the notes ap­pear in a dif­fer­ent or­der – in­stead of AC E G, we have CE G A. This is called an in­ver­sion. In­ver­sions are used a lot when play­ing chords to cre­ate smooth voice lead­ing. Bar #3 out­lines the sec­ond in­ver­sion, with the note or­der be­ing EG A C. The last bar out­lines the third in­ver­sion of an A mi­nor 7th arpeg­gio, with the notes be­ing GA C E. Try loop­ing an A mi­nor chord vamp and play through this ex­er­cise – it’s a great way to come up with phrases and riffs. Once you have it un­der your fin­gers, try vary­ing the note val­ues and phras­ing – that can be a great tool for com­ing up with riffs.


Ex­er­cise #2 out­lines the three-note­per-string pat­terns that th­ese arpeg­gio shapes sit within. The first bar out­lines the A mi­nor shape in the root po­si­tion. This is most com­monly called A Ae­o­lian mode, and con­tains all seven notes of A mi­nor or the rel­a­tive ma­jor key of C ma­jor; this ex­er­cise uses six notes per beat. This one flies by at 120 beats per minute, so make sure you use sweep pick­ing. Play each group­ing of three notes as ‘down, up, down’ when as­cend­ing through the scale, and ‘up, down, up’ when de­scend­ing. We usu­ally think of sweep arpeg­gios when we hear the word “sweep”, but sweep pick­ing is just as ben­e­fi­cial to speed when play­ing un­even num­bers of notes on each string.

Bar #2 out­lines the A mi­nor scale in its first in­ver­sion, start­ing on the third de­gree of the A mi­nor scale. This pat­tern should look very fa­mil­iar, as it is just the C ma­jor scale pat­tern. The third bar is the sec­ond in­ver­sion of A mi­nor, begin­ning on the fifth de­gree of the scale. Start­ing on an E note, but play­ing all the notes of A mi­nor is also called E Phry­gian mode. The last bar out­lines the G Mixoly­dian mode, and uses all the notes of A mi­nor start­ing on G. Record a loop of an A mi­nor chord and play Ex­er­cise #2 over the top of it. Once you have that un­der your fin­gers, play a phrase in each pat­tern re­solv­ing to each scale de­gree. This is a very ef­fec­tive method of writ­ing phrases and riffs.


Ex­er­cise #3 out­lines two oc­taves of the A mi­nor 7th arpeg­gio. After play­ing through Ex­er­cise #2, you should start to see how th­ese shapes sit within the scale pat­tern of the A mi­nor scale. The sec­ond bar out­lines the first in­ver­sion for A mi­nor, and it fits neatly within the C Io­nian pat­tern. The third bar out­lines the sec­ond in­ver­sion of A mi­nor that fits un­der E Phry­gian mode, and the last bar out­lines third in­ver­sion and G Mixoly­dian mode. Once you have th­ese shapes un­der your fin­gers, try improvising with your own phrases us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of scale runs and arpeg­gios. When you go to re­solve a phrase, you want to be able to quickly go to one of th­ese chord tones.

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