Diminished Arpeggios For Tense And Interesting Sounds

advanced lessonThere are a number of techniques and idioms that people tend to associate with guitars and do not realize that they apply to string instruments or playing music in general.

Arpeggios are employable by almost any instrument, but sometimes people tend to associate it with guitars. Let us talk a little about arpeggios on the bass guitar and let us discuss what makes an arpeggio diminished.

An Introduction to Arpeggios

The word arpeggio comes from the Italian verb “arpeggiare” which means “to play on a harp”. Harpists never play chords with all notes ringing simultaneously: they play chords broken down into individual notes, played one by one – and this is what arpeggios are. To put it together: an arpeggio is a musical technique where the notes of a chord are played in sequence, one after another, instead of being played simultaneously.

A nicely executed arpeggio contains only notes belonging to a single chord, and these notes have to be played individually. Even though the chord in question might be a simple tonic triad containing only the first, third and fifth notes of the scale, here we are going to take a look at how a diminished chord can be arpeggiated.

The example below shows how very simple chords can be arpeggiated. Both lines feature rather common chords: first the chord is struck, then after a rest the example showcases how the given chords can be arpeggiated in the simplest possible way.

nicely executed arpeggio

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What is a Diminished Triad?

There are two interpretations regarding to what the term “diminished chord” might refer to. The first of these interpretations refers to diminished triad chords. Basically, a diminished triad is a simple chord consisting of two minor thirds set above the root note. In most situations, a diminished triad might be considered dissonant and unstable – maybe that is the reason why jazz players like to use it so much.

When speaking of diminished chords we might also refer to diminished seventh chords, which are basically diminished triads with the addition of an interval of a diminished seventh above the root. A diminished seventh chord can be treated as four notes stacked in intervals of a minor third.

In the majority of older books the notation Gdim or G° used to refer to diminished seventh chords, however, lately the notations have become a lot more precise and Gdim or G° refers to a diminished triad chord while diminished seventh chords are denoted by (in the case of the G key) Gdim7 or G°7.

How to Play the Diminished Arpeggios?

Now that we have gone through the basics of what an arpeggio is and how it should be played and we have also understood what a diminished chord is, understanding how to play a diminished arpeggio is really just puzzle work.

You guessed it: a diminished arpeggio is the spreading of a diminished chord – usually a diminished seventh chord. That is, the notes separated by minor thirds are played in sequence, one by one. The example below shows two diminished seventh chords and a possible arpeggiation of these.

diminished seventh chords

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