I SPY…MIX AND MATCH ARPEGGIOS
Bass Player|March 2021
Hey there, bass players! We’ve recently dedicated two columns to arpeggios, and for good reason. Whether you’re creating a groove or walking through changes, we do our jobs better by gracefully outlining the notes of the chord and clearly defining the harmony.
RYAN MADORA

You should now be able to recognize the difference between major and minor arpeggios, and be hip to a few fingering patterns for each. Now, let’s mix and match.

So far, our practice has revolved around the I-IV-V chord progression. We approached the chords with the same ‘chord quality’ so that all three chords in the progression are identical—in other words, all major or all minor. While this is quite common, especially if you’re playing a folk song and the chords are G, C, and D Major, for example, it’s worth picking a few progressions that integrate both major and minor arpeggios.

For that, we’ll direct our ears toward the canon of Western music—rock, pop, jazz, funk, classical, you name it! Chances are, the majority of the songs you listen to involve a combination of major and minor chords. We can thank the rules of diatonic harmony for that, where the chords built upon the notes in the major scale will be either major, minor, or diminished. For instance, if we’re in the key of C, the I, IV, and V chords will be major while the ii, iii, and vi chords will be minor—hence the upper or lower-case Roman numerals. This is naturally built in to our tonal system. As we listen to music, we can expect to hear chords of different qualities over the course of a song. The following exercises will showcase two chord progressions that are commonly used in popular music, and which are therefore particularly useful to have under your fingertips.

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