Music Theory for Harmonica Players Part 15 – Arpeggios

During the last two posts (part 13 and part 14) we looked at playing chord tones over a 12 bar blues. Now we’re going to get a bit more adventurous and play the chord tones one after the other. In fancy music jargon, this is called an arpeggio.

Here’s the 12 bar blues reference again.

Since you’ve memorised your C harmonica I’ll skip that diagram. Here’s our chord breakdown chart again.

We’ll use the backing track we started with.

First lets just run through the notes in order. That means that while the I chord is playing I’ll play a G, B, D then F. For the IV chord I’ll play C, E, G and Bb. For the V chord I’ll play D, F#, A, C. Lets see how that works out.

By the way, when we play from low to high like this it’s referred to as ascending.

We can do it backwards too, from the 7th to the root. This is called, as you may have guessed, descending.

And of course, we can play the chord tones in any order we feel. We’re still playing the chord tones of the chord the band is playing, so we’re golden.

This is extremely liberating for you as an improviser and accompanist. You know that whenever in doubt, you can hit any of the chord tones and you are going to match closely with the band. Provided you know what chord the band is playing you simply can’t go wrong by playing a chord tone.

Chord tones are so important we’re going to stay with them for the next post in this series and play through one of David Barrett’s exercises – playing the changes one hole at a time.