3 string major arpeggios and inversions

Note: This article assumes you have a grasp of basic major and minor chord construction.If you need to brush up, take a look at me article on basic chord construction.

From Yngwie and Jason Becker to Greg Howe and Shawn Lane, successfully utilizing arpeggios and their inversions will make your solos sound more interesting and allow you to break free of scale runs. You'll be able to complement every chord you play over, and choose just the right notes for your solos.

An arpeggio is a chord played note for note. In other words, if you strum an open C major chord once, letting all the strings ring out and all the notes ring into one another, that’s NOT an arpeggio.

However, if you play the notes of the C major chord, one note at a time – you’re playing an arpeggio.


Using chord and arpeggio inversions might sound tricky, but they’re actually very simple. A chord or arpeggio inversion occurs when the root note is not the lowest note.

Using the example below (three string C major arpeggios in root position, 1st inversion, and 2nd inversion), you can see that:

• in the root position, the note C (5th fret) is the lowest note;
• in the first inversion, the note E (9th fret) is the lowest note; and
• in the second inversion, the note G (12th fret) is the lowest note.

Root position
First inversion
Second inversion

Note: Even though the lowest note changes, the chord is still C major – because the notes are still the same ones that make up C major.
Sweep through these patterns over a C major power-chord and you're instantly in Malmsteen and Becker territory. If you're not familiar with the sweep picking technique, take a look at my introduction to sweep picking

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