Successfully Using Arpeggio Inversions

By: Zack Uidl

Successfully Using Arpeggio Inversions

Being able to properly apply the use of arpeggio inversions can be one of the most helpful and useful tools that can be used in lead guitar playing. An inversion is a triad, chord, or arpeggio that has its lowest note on any of the notes that are part of the musical concept you are playing.

For example, if a G minor arpeggio were played, the notes would be G, Bb, and D. If it started on the first or the G note in this case, it would be considered root position. If it started on the third or Bb in this case, it would be considered first inversion. And if it started on the fifth or D in this example, it would be considered second inversion. Knowledge of this can allow you to play numerous arpeggios without changing position to reach a root note to base the arpeggio upon.

Let us take two-arpeggio sequence such as a five-string D major arpeggio, followed by a five-string A minor arpeggio to begin with. If you were to play these arpeggios both in root position, you would either be starting with D major on the fifth fret of the fifth string or on the seventeenth fret, which is just an octave higher. To play the A minor arpeggio, you would have to play it on the twelfth fret of the fifth string. There are some major positions changing which cause problems that cause a lot of inefficiency. Let us simplify this.

If you play the A minor arpeggio in root position on the twelfth fret, you could also play the D major arpeggio on the twelfth fret by using the second inversion. This allows a much easier transition, and in my opinion, adds a lot of diversity because the inversion will have a very different a distinct sound.

Now that you understand the concept, let us take it a step further by making a progression that is longer by increasing the number of arpeggios used. Here is the list, in the order of the progression, of the arpeggio that we will be using:
  1. A minor (A, C, E)
  2. D major (D, F#, A)
  3. G major (G, B, D)
  4. B diminished (B, Db, F)
  5. B diminished (B, Db, F)
  6. C major (C, E, G)
I want you to play five-string arpeggios for this exercise. If you are not familiar with five-string arpeggios, start of with three-string arpeggios and then move to the five-string ones. I want you to start with the A minor arpeggio starting on the twelfth fret of the fifth string. Try to find the inversions that will encourage as little movement from this position as possible. I would recommend that you play the arpeggio on these frets in these inversions:
  1. Am = root position (12th fret)
  2. D = second inversion (12th fret)
  3. G = first inversion (14th fret)
  4. B? = root position (14th fret)
  5. B? = root position (14th fret)
  6. C = root position (15th fret)
To play all five different arpeggios, we only moved a total of four positions (we only move four frets). If we were to play all of these arpeggios in root position only, we would have had to switch positions at much less efficient areas, mainly from the Am to the D arpeggio. It would have been like this:
  1. Am = root position (12th fret)
  2. D = root position (15thth fret)
  3. G = root position (14th fret)
  4. B? = root position (14th fret)
  5. B? = root position (14th fret)
  6. C = root position (15th fret)

Try to apply this knowledge to your own songs or a song that you may be familiar with. There are several ways to play one particular section. However, there will often be a much easier way through the use of inversions. You will notice a difference in your efficiency if you put this information to good use though practice and application.

Zack Uidl
© 2009 Zack Uidl. All rights reserved. Used with permission

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Zack is a professional guitarist, instructor, and composer.  Check out his guitar articles, hear music, see pictures, and watch videos at

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