How to play cool guitar arpeggios

Playing tastier guitar licks is something that most players are after. When we think about melodic rock players like Andy Timmons and Richie Kotzen or bluesy fusion players like Larry Carlton and Robben Ford, tasty licks is what comes to mind. Yes, most guitarists want to learn to play fast, and yes, that is undoubtedly cool at the right time and place, but you can also get some head-turning licks by using creative intervals. In this lesson, I show you how to use some of these elusive extension tones by extending arpeggios. Check out the video below for full explanation. Underneath the video, I have outlined these arpeggios in some handy fretboard diagrams.  


There are many different approaches for achieving an extended arpeggio sound. This lesson shows you quite a unique way that I like to use in my own soloing. Let's imagine we are playing over a Maj7 chord. We might want to use extensions like the 9th, 11th and 13th over this chord to make it sound sophisticated. Before you can add the extensions, you'll want to be familiar with the locations of the standard Amaj7. In the diagram below, they are shown aligned to the seven-position system, full fretboard.

Once you have a handle on the shapes for the regular major seven arpeggios, we can start extending it to get some of these tasty sounds. The first arpeggio I want show you is a Maj11 extended sound. How we are going to do this, is by taking that first position for the maj7 arpeggio, and what we are going to do is skip out the root note and proceed immediately to the 9th. On the G string, we are going to miss out the 3rd and play the 11th. On the high E string, we will use the 9th and 11th again, so we now have an extended arpeggio that spans the width of the neck. In terms of sound, this one will remind you of the Maj add11 chord used at the beginning of Joe Satriani's Always With Me Always With You.

In terms of visualization, I think of this extended approach as two different arpeggios stacked on top of one another. In this particular case, I view this shape on the E, A and D strings as Amaj9, and the form on the G, B and E strings as an E7 arpeggio. When you study the shape on the top 3 strings, it is the same as an E7 arpeggio in position 4 of the CAGED system. Again, there is more description if this approach in the video. The next arpeggio shows how I would extend the Maj7 up to a Maj13 by changing the note on the B string. I view the notes on the top as a Bm7 arpeggio played over the Amaj9. It doesn't matter how you think of these necessarily, just what works for you. 

In the video lesson, I am mainly using this approach with minor arpeggios. To change a Major seven arpeggio into a minor seven arpeggio, we need to flatten the third and the seventh. The fingering below shows an extended minor 11 arpeggio that includes the 9th and 11th. This is the arpeggio I am mainly discussing in the video lesson. 

You could also apply this concept to a dominant 7th chord. All you need to do to change from minor 11 to dominant 11 is raise the third from minor to major as shown below. 

For our final arpeggio of this lesson, let's return to our major seven chord type. The extended arpeggios we've looked at so far use notes from the Ionian mode, otherwise known as the major scale. Let's say you wanted a more Lydian vibe. Well, you could easily achieve this by raising the 11th to a sharp 11th, as shown below. 

The extended arpeggio ideas shown should give you a springboard for creating lots of ideas with this concept. Here are a few good ways you can expand on the material in the lesson. 

  • Add the extensions for major seven arpeggios to all seven shapes so that you can play these extensions all over the neck. 
  • Alter the fingerings for the Maj 7 arpeggios so that you are comfortable with the main arpeggio types, which are Maj7, Minor7, Dominant 7, and Minor 7b5. You could figure these out for yourself, but if you want to see these arpeggios aligned with both the CAGED system and seven-position system, I have included them in a download below. 
  • Once you know these arpeggio shapes, add the extensions to them using the approach outlined above so that you can play cool arpeggios all over the neck. 

I hope this lesson gives you lots of ideas on how you can spice up your arpeggio playing. You can download this lesson as a PDF along with additional charts for Major 7, Minor 7, Dominant 7 and Minor 7b5 arpeggios, all shown aligned to the CAGED and seven-position system below. You can download the material for free, but if you've enjoyed it and want to help me find the time to create more content like this, you can help by donating a fee of your choice, name a fair price!

Download this lesson as a high-quality PDF with additional charts for maj7, min7, dom7 and m7b5 arpeggios aligned with the CAGED system and seven-position system. Pay what you want, name a fair price! Download Now