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Arpeggios open Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and continue as accompaniment.
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Arpeggios open Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and continue as accompaniment. Loudspeaker.svg Play  
"The Star-Spangled Banner" opens with an arpeggio
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"The Star-Spangled Banner" opens with an arpeggio Loudspeaker.svg Play arpeggio followed by chord  

A broken chord is a chord broken into a sequence of notes. A broken chord may repeat some of the notes from the chord and span one or more octaves.

Chord (music) harmonic set of three or more notes

A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of multiple notes that are heard as if sounding simultaneously. For many practical and theoretical purposes, arpeggios and broken chords, or sequences of chord tones, may also be considered as chords.


An arpeggio (Italian:  [arˈpeddʒo] ) is a type of broken chord, in which the notes that compose a chord are played or sung in a rising or descending order. An arpeggio may also span more than one octave.

Musical note Sign used in musical notation, a pitched sound

In music, a note is a symbol denoting a musical sound. In English usage a note is also the sound itself.

In music, an octave or perfect octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems". The interval between the first and second harmonics of the harmonic series is an octave.

The word arpeggio comes from the Italian word arpeggiare, which means to play on a harp .

Harp class of musical instruments

The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps have been known since antiquity in Asia, Africa and Europe, dating back at least as early as 3500 BC. The instrument had great popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where it evolved into a wide range of variants with new technologies, and was disseminated to Europe's colonies, finding particular popularity in Latin America. Although some ancient members of the harp family died out in the Near East and South Asia, descendants of early harps are still played in Myanmar and parts of Africa, and other defunct variants in Europe and Asia have been utilized by musicians in the modern era.

Even though the notes of an arpeggio are not played or sung all together at the same time, listeners hear the sequence of notes as forming a chord. When an arpeggio also contains passing tones that are not part of the chord, different music theorists may analyze the same musical excerpt differently.

Music theory Considers the practices and possibilities of music

Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. The Oxford Companion to Music describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory":

The first is what is otherwise called "rudiments", currently taught as the elements of notation, of key signatures, of time signatures, of rhythmic notation, and so on. [...] The second is the study of writings about music from ancient times onwards. [...] The third is an area of current musicological study that seeks to define processes and general principles in music—a sphere of research that can be distinguished from analysis in that it takes as its starting-point not the individual work or performance but the fundamental materials from which it is built.

Arpeggios enable composers writing for monophonic instruments that play one note at a time (e.g., flute, saxophone, trumpet), to voice chords and chord progressions in musical pieces. Arpeggios and broken chords are also used to help create rhythmic interest. A notable example is the Alberti bass figuration, widely used in piano music from the classical music period. With an Alberti bass, rather than play the notes of a chord all at once, the pianist plays simple rhythmic figures in which the notes are played as a broken chord.

Polyphony is a property of musical instruments that means that they can play multiple independent melody lines simultaneously. Instruments featuring polyphony are said to be polyphonic. Instruments that are not capable of polyphony are monophonic or paraphonic.

Flute Musical instrument of the woodwind family

The flute is a family of musical instruments in the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones. A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist or, less commonly, fluter or flutenist.

Saxophone type of musical instrument of the woodwind family

The saxophone is a woodwind instrument. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. Although most saxophones are made from brass, they are categorized as woodwind instruments, because sound is produced by an oscillating reed, traditionally made out of woody cane, rather than lips vibrating in a mouthpiece cup as with the brass instrument family. As with the other woodwind instruments, the pitch of the note being played is controlled by covering holes in the body tube to control the resonant frequency of the air column by changing the effective length of the tube.


An arpeggio is a group of notes played one after the other, up or down in pitch. The player plays the notes of a particular chord individually rather than together. The chord may, for example, be a simple chord with the 1st, (major or minor) 3rd, and 5th scale degrees (this is called a "tonic triad"). An arpeggio for the chord of C major going up two octaves would be the notes (C, E, G, C, E, G, C). An arpeggio is a type of broken chord. Other types of broken chords play chord notes out of sequence or more than one note but less than the full chord simultaneously.

In music, the tonic is the first scale degree of the diatonic scale and the tonal center or final resolution tone that is commonly used in the final cadence in tonal classical music, popular music, and traditional music. In the movable do solfège system, the tonic note is sung as do. More generally, the tonic is the note upon which all other notes of a piece are hierarchically referenced. Scales are named after their tonics: for instance, the tonic of the C major scale is the note C.

Major third musical interval

In classical music from Western culture, a third is a musical interval encompassing three staff positions, and the major third is a third spanning four semitones. Along with the minor third, the major third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is qualified as major because it is the larger of the two: the major third spans four semitones, the minor third three. For example, the interval from C to E is a major third, as the note E lies four semitones above C, and there are three staff positions from C to E. Diminished and augmented thirds span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones.

Minor third musical interval

In the music theory of Western culture, a minor third is a musical interval that encompasses three half steps, or semitones. Staff notation represents the minor third as encompassing three staff positions. The minor third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is called minor because it is the smaller of the two: the major third spans an additional semitone. For example, the interval from A to C is a minor third, as the note C lies three semitones above A, and (coincidentally) there are three staff positions from A to C. Diminished and augmented thirds span the same number of staff positions, but consist of a different number of semitones. The minor third is a skip melodically.

Arpeggios can rise or fall for more than one octave. Students of musical instruments and singers learn how to play and sing scales and arpeggios. Arpeggiated chords are often used in harp and piano music. An arpeggiated chord may be written with a wavy vertical line in front of the chord.


It spreads from the lowest to highest note. Occasionally, composers specify that the musicians play them from top to bottom by adding an arrow pointing down.


Any instrument may employ arpeggiation, but the following instruments use arpeggios most often:

Arpeggios are an important part of the jazz improvisation vocabulary of horns and keyboards, guitars, and bass. In Western classical music, a chord that is played first with the lowest note and then with successive higher notes joining in is called arpeggiato. Sometimes this effect is reversed, with the highest note coming first. In some modern popular music arpeggiato is called a rolled chord.

In early video game music, arpeggios were often the only way to play a chord since sound hardware usually had a very limited number of oscillators, or voices. Instead of tying them all up to play one chord, one channel could be used to play an arpeggio, leaving the rest for drums, bass, or sound effects. A prominent example was the music of games and demos on Commodore 64's SID chip, which only had three oscillators (see also Chiptune). This technique was highly popular amongst European video game music composers for systems in the 80's like the NES, with many transferring their knowledge from their days of composing with the Commodore 64. However, this technique was rarely used by American and Japanese composers. [2]

Bell chord

Barbershop bell chord.
Play (help*info) Bell chord.png
Barbershop bell chord. Loudspeaker.svg Play  

A bell chord, also known colloquially as "bells", is an musical arrangement technique in which a composition has separate instruments (or multiples of the same instrument) play single notes of a chord in sequence, sustaining individual notes to form the chord. [3] It is, in effect, an arpeggio played by several instruments sequentially. This is also known as a pyramid or cascade. It is common in barbershop music.

The technique originated with jazz big bands and is a staple of trad jazz. A good example can be heard in the introduction to "The Charleston" by The Temperance Seven.[ citation needed ] Additionally, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by the rock band Queen contains two occurrences of this "bell effect" in the middle section. [4] , as does the solo in Killer Queen starting at 1:48.

See also

Related Research Articles

Domenico Alberti Italian composer, singer, harpsichordist

Domenico Alberti was an Italian singer, harpsichordist, and composer.

Jazz guitar Jazz instrument and associated playing style

The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed "jazz". The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.

Rhythm guitar guitar technique; part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

Orchestration study or practice of writing music for an orchestra

Orchestration is the study or practice of writing music for an orchestra or of adapting music composed for another medium for an orchestra. Also called "instrumentation", orchestration is the assignment of different instruments to play the different parts of a musical work. For example, a work for solo piano could be adapted and orchestrated so that an orchestra could perform the piece, or a concert band piece could be orchestrated for a symphony orchestra.

Alberti bass particular kind of accompaniment figure in music

Alberti bass is a particular kind of accompaniment figure in music, often used in the Classical era, and sometimes the Romantic era. It was named after Domenico Alberti (1710–1740/46), who used it extensively, although he was not the first to use it.

Alberti bass — the accompaniment figure based on broken chords and used in many sonatinas and sonatas; named after Domenico Alberti

This style of L[eft]H[and] accompaniment gets its name from the 16th Century Italian composer, Domenico Alberti, who used it in many of his compositions. It was also used by Haydn, Mozart, Clementi and Beethoven, along with many other composers of the Classical period.

A bass consisting of a succession of broken chords (arpeggios) of an unusual kind. Domenico Alberti, a gifted Venetian amateur who was born during the early part of the Eighteenth Century and died about 1740, is credited with the invention which bears his name. His cembalo music abounds in this style of accompaniment.

This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian, in accordance with the Italian origins of many European musical conventions. Sometimes, the special musical meanings of these phrases differ from the original or current Italian meanings. Most of the other terms are taken from French and German, indicated by "Fr." and "Ger.", respectively.


A bassline is the term used in many styles of music, such as jazz, blues, funk, dub and electronic, traditional music, or classical music for the low-pitched instrumental part or line played by a rhythm section instrument such as the electric bass, double bass, cello, tuba or keyboard. In unaccompanied solo performance, basslines may simply be played in the lower register of any instrument such as guitar or piano while melody and/or further accompaniment is provided in the middle or upper register. In solo music for piano and pipe organ, these instruments have an excellent lower register that can be used to play a deep bassline. On organs, the bass line is typically played using the pedal keyboard and massive 16' and 32' bass pipes.

Rhythm section group of musicians within a music ensemble or band who provide the underlying rhythm, harmony and beat for the rest of the band

A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band. The rhythm section is often contrasted with the roles of other musicians in the band, such as the lead guitarist or lead vocals whose primary job is to carry the melody.

A block chord is a chord or voicing built directly below the melody either on the strong beats or to create a four-part harmonized melody line in "locked-hands" rhythmic unison with the melody, as opposed to broken chords. This latter style, known as Shearing voicing, was popularized by George Shearing, but originated with Phil Moore.

Jazz piano term for the techniques pianists use when playing jazz

Jazz piano is a collective term for the techniques pianists use when playing jazz. The piano has been an integral part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. Its role is multifaceted due largely to the instrument's combined melodic and harmonic capabilities. For this reason it is an important tool of jazz musicians and composers for teaching and learning jazz theory and set arrangement, regardless of their main instrument.

Musical technique ability of musicians to exert optimal control of their instruments and/or bodies

Musical technique is the ability of instrumental and vocal musicians to exert optimal control of their instruments or vocal cords in order to produce the precise musical effects they desire. Improving one's technique generally entails practicing exercises that improve one's muscular sensitivity and agility. Technique is independent of musicality. Compositional technique is the ability and knowledge composers use to create music, and may be distinguished from instrumental or performance technique, which in classical music is used to realize compositions, but may also be used in musical improvisation. Extended techniques are distinguished from more simple and more common techniques. Musical technique may also be distinguished from music theory, in that performance is a practical matter, but study of music theory is often used to understand better and to improve techniques. Techniques such as intonation or timbre, articulation, and musical phrasing are nearly universal to all instruments.

Transcendental Étude No. 11 (Liszt) composition for piano by Franz Liszt

Transcendental Étude No. 11 in D, "Harmonies du soir" is the eleventh étude of the set of twelve Transcendental Études by Franz Liszt. This étude is a study in harmonies, broken chords played in quick succession, full octave jumps, chromatic harmonies, chord variations, interlocking hands, bravura, massive chords, especially proper pedaling, and performance as a whole.

American Rhapsody

American Rhapsody was written for the accordion by John Serry Sr. in 1955 and subsequently transcribed for the free bass accordion in 1963 and for the piano in 2002. The composer was inspired by the classical orchestral works of George Gershwin along with various Latin Jazz percussive rhythms utilized throughout South America while composing this opus.

Jazz improvisation spontaneous composition in jazz

Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key.

Chuck Wayne American jazz guitarist

Chuck Wayne was a jazz guitarist. He came to prominence in the 1940s, and was among the earliest jazz guitarists to play in the bebop style. Wayne was a member of Woody Herman's First Herd, the first guitarist in the George Shearing quintet, and Tony Bennett's music director and accompanist. He developed a systematic method for playing jazz guitar.

Style brisé is a general term for irregular arpeggiated texture in instrumental music of the Baroque period. It is commonly used in discussion of music for lute, keyboard instruments, or the viol.

Glossary of jazz and popular music

This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.

Bass guitar techniques

In contrast to the upright bass, the electric bass guitar is played horizontally across the body, like a guitar. When the strings are plucked with the fingers (pizzicato), the index and middle fingers are used. James Jamerson, an influential bassist from the Motown era, played intricate bass lines using only his index finger, which he called "The Hook". There are also variations in how a bassist chooses to rest the right-hand thumb. A player may rest his or her thumb on the top edge of one of the pickups or on the side of the fretboard, which is especially common among bassists who have an upright bass influence. Some bassists anchor their thumbs on the lowest string and move it off the lowest string when they need to play on the low string. Alternatively, the thumb can be rested loosely on the strings to mute the unused strings.


  1. Kamien, Roger (2008). Music: An Appreciation, p.43. McGraw Hill. ISBN   978-0-07-340134-8
  2. "Arpeggio - Nesdev wiki". Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  3. Averill, Gage (2003). Four Parts, No Waiting:A Social History of American Barbershop Quartet, p.205. ISBN   9780195116724.
  4. ovolollo91. "Queen - The Making Of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' 'Greatest Video Hits 1'" YouTube, 17 Sep. 2011. Web.

Further reading