In this lesson Shaun Baxter shows how you can use diatonic arpeggios to give your lines a fusion-like sophistication when using any scale.
Shaun Baxter continues his mini-series on creatively using Mixolydian 7th arpeggios.
In the previous lesson, to provide freshness and variety to our note choices, we looked at some exercises that involved extracting diatonic 7th arpeggios from three-notesper-string scale patterns. Most self-taught players start off by playing ‘steps’ (intervals of a tone or less) by moving from one scale note up or down to the neighbouring one; whereas arpeggios involve playing ‘leaps’ (intervals of a minor 3rd or greater) and help to provide a strong, ear-catching sense of direction to your lines because they help to imply chord motion. In other words, they have harmonic content as well as melodic content.
In this lesson, we’ll create musical lines (rather than exercises) using 7th arpeggios diatonic to A Mixolydian, so let’s start by quickly revising the theory behind this.
To establish the 7th arpeggios within A Mixolydian, we must stack three scale 3rds on top of each given note. In other words, we play every other note from each note of the scale. By thinking of each starting note as the root (1) of a new arpeggio, we will get a variety of 1, 3, 5 and 7 intervals (giving us either a maj7, 7,
m7b5 m7 or arpeggio, depending on where we are in the scale). The full list of arpeggios within A Mixolydian are as shown in Table 1.
In the heat of improvisation, things are rarely this complicated. Basically, you simply need to learn how to recognise and play a four-note configuration comprising ‘every other note’ from each note of the scale.
To do this, as we found in the previous lesson, it is often more convenient and consistent to extend each CAGED shape so that we can play three-notes-per-string; however, it is my firm belief that the CAGED shapes should still be your main visual reference wherever you are on the neck. And, in this lesson, we are going to be establishing some 7th arpeggio-based vocabulary in the
arpeggios involve playing intervals of a minor 3rd or more and provide an ear-catching sense of direction
various CAGED shapes of A Mixolydian (see Diagram 1).
We are going to limit our approach to four-note shapes rather than extend each arpeggio shape beyond the span of an octave. This is because some arpeggios within a scale sound less settled than others when played against the underlying A7 chord. In A
C#m7b5, Mixolydian, the A7, Em7 and Gmaj7 arpeggios sound settled against A7; whereas, the Bm7, Dmaj7 and F#m7 arpeggios sound more tense. We can utilise this tension, but only fleetingly; consequently, we need to shift through the latter arpeggios relatively quickly. Using large arpeggio shapes forces us to spend longer on each arpeggio and, therefore, risks extending the periods of dissonance to uncomfortable levels for the listener, resulting in your lines just not sounding right - an element of dissonance can sound exciting, but too much can be unsettling.
When playing four-note shapes, it’s good to be aware of the 24 ways in which the order of four different pitches can be played (as studied in the previous lesson): See Table 2. We will be making reference to these permutations when studying the following musical examples.
To make the transition from the sort of exercises that we looked at in the previous lesson to ‘proper’ musical examples, we need to introduce an element of phrasing (produced via a combination of applying rhythmic variation and leaving gaps) and articulation (adding various forms of expression via bends, vibrato, slides etc).
Finally, regarding experimentation, it’s important to appreciate that we are only working with the root inversion of each 7th arpeggio in this lesson (1,3,5,7), whereas it is also possible to use the first inversion (3,5,7,1), second inversions (5,7,1,3) and third inversion (7,1,3,5) too. Furthermore, although we are working with just A Mixolydian for the purposes of this lesson, it’s vital you realise the same approach can be applied to all other seven-note scales. And that, when you think about it, is an almost infinite number of lines you can extrapolate from a single lesson.