What Are Arpeggios? And How To Use Them In Your Bass Fills

January 21, 2024
What Are Arpeggios - Geometric image of a parking garage by Aron Van-De Pol
What Are Arpeggios - Geometric image of a parking garage by Aron Van-De Pol

Today, we’ll delve into the topic of arpeggios and specifically how you can use them to level up your bass fills.

Knowing the fundamentals of playing any instrument is crucial for any aspiring musician. And, arpeggios are an essential technique to have in your arsenal.

In this lesson, we’ll explore:

Let’s dive in!

What Are Arpeggios?

An arpeggio is a musical technique where the notes of a chord are played one after another instead of simultaneously.

It’s a way to create a flowing or cascading effect in a musical piece by playing the notes of a chord in a specific order: ascending, descending, or mixed (also known as a broken arpeggio or broken chord).

Arpeggios can be played on a variety of instruments, including guitar, piano, harp, saxophone, and bass guitar.

They’re often used in classical music and can also be found in genres such as jazz, rock, gospel, and pop.

There are many types of arpeggios and arpeggio patterns, such as one-octave arpeggios, two-octave arpeggios, jazz guitar arpeggios, three-note arpeggios, four-note arpeggios, etc…

In general, basic arpeggios are played in either ascending order or descending order and are derived from the notes of a chord. In the next section, we’ll take a look at how to use the notes of an arpeggio to make jaw-dropping bass fills.

How To Use Arpeggios In Your Bass Fills?

Now that we know what arpeggios are, let’s explore how you can use them in your bass fills to take them from beginner to pro.

When it comes to placement, arpeggios in music sound great being inserted into the beginning, middle, or end of a phrase or bass fill. At first, when you practice arpeggios, I recommend picking just one placement. For example, you can play an arpeggio in the beginning of every bass fill.

Having that said, here are a few tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Practice arpeggios with grooves over a single chord

It’s best to stick with playing your arpeggios over single chord grooves when you’re first learning them. That way you can focus on the techniques that’ll get you the sound that you’re after instead of having to play changes.

Here’s an example of a bass fill that utilizes arpeggios in the beginning of the phrase, then finishes the line using notes of a minor pentatonic scale. Your bass fills will really come to life when you combine scales and arpeggios.

7 Jaw-Dropping Bass Fills That Use Arpeggios - Fill #1
Fill #1 from my .pdf (discontinued) “7 Jaw-Dropping Bass Fills That Use Arpeggios”

Tip #2: Use slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and raking when you play arpeggios

Arpeggios sound amazing when bass players incorporate slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and raking into the technique.

This allows the notes to be played smoothly on the bass, give a kind of attitude to its vibe, and has a dramatic effect. The sound is very different than just playing one note at a time.

Tip #3: Graduate to practicing over simple chord progressions

Continue to keep things simple when you’re just getting started. But, when you’re ready, start playing arpeggios over simple chord progressions.

This’ll allow you to focus on playing the arpeggios correctly without getting overwhelmed by complicated chord changes. For example, you could start with a simple I-vi-IV-V progression in the key of C (C major-A minor-F major-G major).

Since all of the chords, in the example above, are diatonic to the key of C, any arpeggios found in a C major scale will sound good (provided that you resolve them).

Here’s an example of a bass fill over a I-vi-IV-V chord progression. Notice how the arpeggio is resolved, using a technique call voice leading.

7 Jaw-Dropping Bass Fills That Use Arpeggios - Fill #4
Fill #4 from my .pdf (discontinued) “7 Jaw-Dropping Bass Fills That Use Arpeggios”

Tip #4: Learn arpeggios for each chord in the progression

Once you have a simple chord progression to work with, you can start learning the arpeggios for each chord.

For example, in the previously mentioned chord progression:

  • The arpeggio for a C major chord is C-E-G. If you wanted to add the 7th (making it a C major 7 chord), you’d get these notes: C-E-G-B.
  • The arpeggio for an A minor chord is A-C-E. If you wanted to add the 7th (making it an A minor 7 chord) , you’d get these notes: A-C-E-G.
  • The arpeggio for a F major chord is F-A-C. If you wanted to add the 7th (making it a F major 7 chord), you’d get these notes: F-A-C-E.
  • The arpeggio for a G major chord is G-B-D. If you wanted to add the 7th (making it a G 7 chord), you’d get these notes: G-B-D-F.

By learning these 7th arpeggios (also known as Jazz Arpeggios), you’ll have a better understanding of the individual notes that make up each chord in the progression.

In the previous bass fill, arpeggios for each chord are played in order to clearly outline the sound of the chord progression.

Tip #5: Experiment with different rhythms

Once you’ve learned the arpeggios for each chord in the progression, you can start experimenting with different rhythms. Arpeggios can be played in a variety of rhythms, from straight eighth notes to syncopated rhythms. Try experimenting with different rhythms to see what sounds best with the music or groove that you’re playing.

Bonus Tip: Use diatonic passing notes to connect the arpeggios

To create interesting and melodic bass fills, it’s important to connect the arpeggios using diatonic passing notes (these are notes that are found in the scale of the tonic). Diatonic passing notes are notes that are played between the notes of the arpeggio to create a smooth transition between chords. For example, if you’re playing a C major arpeggio and want to transition to an A minor arpeggio, you could connect the two arpeggios using either notes B or G to lead to the note A. This will sound good, because the note B or G are a step away from the note A.

Now, It’s Your Turn

To put it simply, arpeggios are a powerful and versatile technique that can add interest, depth, and drama to your your bass fills.

By playing the notes of a chord in a specific order, you’re able to create complex and interesting melodies that follow the chord progression of a song, and transition smoothly between different chords or keys.

Now, it’s your turn to apply the techniques you just learned. Practice slowly when learning how to play arpeggios, keep your notes legato, and be sure to always connect your lines.

You got this!

Discover more bass lessons and music theory like this.


Hi! I’m Posido Vega, a multi-passionate creative. I’m an artist, bass player, jazz theory enthusiast, children’s book author and illustrator, and SEO 😅.

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