Violin Arpeggios Explained (with handy overview)

by | May 31, 2023 | Music Theory, Play in Tune | 0 comments

Maybe you’ve been practicing violin arpeggios for years, but why those specific chords and how are they structured?

Here are the most common violin arpeggios explained:

What are violin arpeggios?

Violin arpeggios are chords of which the notes are played one by one starting with the lowest note. A chord consists of steps from a scale for example the first, third and fifth note. Let say we take the C major scale: c d e f g a b c then a C major chord in root position is c e g or c e g c. Playing an arpeggio means that you play these notes one by one over one or multiple octaves.

Why would I practice violin arpeggios?

Arpeggios are part of music. In this extensive article I give some examples. In a lot of repertoire you play arpeggios. Besides that when practicing arpeggios you practice finger patterns and jumps between notes that prepare you for a lot of music. In a scale you just practice steps of one note at a time.

What do violin arpeggios look like in sheet music?

In scale books the arpeggios are written like they should be played: one note at a time. In sheet music of pieces, arpeggios are sometimes notated in an abbreviated way: you see the chord with tremolo like lines like in the picture or with a vertical wave symbol next to the chord.

Here’s what the G major arpeggios over three octaves look like in Carl Flesch’s scale system, which is the go-to book to study scales and arpeggios of most violinists:

Here’s how the most common violin arpeggios are structured:

Here’s how to read this violin arpeggio chart:

First we have the minor arpeggio, which is a g minor chord in root position. You see that it has a b flat, which is a minor third from the g. Second we have a g major chord in root position, which are the first, third and fifth note from the g major scale.

The third arpeggio is the e minor in sixth position. We take an e minor chord and then move the second note of the bottom and then also the third note. G to e is a sixth.

The fourth arpeggio is c major in fourth sixth position. This means we take a c major chord and we move the top note to the bottom. Now we have fourth and sixth intervals. The next arpeggio is similar, just minor instead of major.

The G diminished might look like a weird one. How it’s structured is that from the g you go minor thirds up. Then we have g, b flat, d flat and f flat. This is notated as g, b flat, c sharp and e as that’s easier to read.

The last one is the G dominant 7th chord, which simply is a g major chord with an added lower seventh tone. This is mostly used in music when the g is the dominant, meaning we are in c major hence the f instead of the f sharp.

Once you know the arpeggios, you can play them over one, two, three or four octaves.

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Music theory test

Let’s see with the explanation above if you can explain how the arpeggios in C major are structured. Here they are as presented in Carl Flesch’s scale system

Would you like to learn more about violin arpeggios?

Check out my more extensive article right here.


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