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#969686 - 05/13/08 06:06 PM Arpeggio Arranging/Playing: Basic Principles?
TryingToPlay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 111
Loc: Raleigh, NC
I'm looking for some basic rules/principles for arpeggio arranging/playing. My question is about a specific element of arpeggio playing. Let me explain:

1. Songs I'm considering are slow ballads -- American Standards, Show Tunes -- 4/4 or 3/4 Time.

2. I understand that the arpeggio typically has 6 attacks in 3/4 item and eight attacks in 4/4 time. And I understand that the arpeggio runs up the keyboard using notes of the chord, possibly, but not necessarily beginning with an open 10th chord.

3. What is not clear to me is what to do with the arpeggio notes for measures containing something other than a single whole melody note. When is the arpeggio continued even if multiple melody notes exist for the measure. For example, when would one play all 6 arpeggio notes (in 3/4 time) even though the measure contains multiple melody notes? When would one play just the first 5 notes or 4 notes, or 3? Or when should one dispense with the arpeggio completely? I understand that when the arpeggio is about to run into a melody note, it can be reversed. But when does one continue with the arpeggio attacks even as melody notes continue to be played? Is there some basic rule/principle?

Thanks for any assistance.

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#969687 - 05/13/08 06:31 PM Re: Arpeggio Arranging/Playing: Basic Principles?
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
Based on my limited knowledge, there is no rule, regardless of whether there is one or multiple melody tones in the measure.

I would let your musical expression of the piece at the moment be your guide. The same song, the same measure can be played differently. It all depends.

E.g. let's say you're trying a latin rhythm, you are likely to play the arp notes on different beats than if you want to have a love song/ballad type feel. One possible danger I can think of is if you play too many notes too often (e.g. for a 3/4, you play 6 arp notes). You need to give a sense of space and pauses at appropriate times. But this is simply another example of letting the musicality, phrasing etc. be your guide.

I would be interested to hear others' responses as well.

#969688 - 05/16/08 08:17 AM Re: Arpeggio Arranging/Playing: Basic Principles?
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3605
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
The only rule, of course, is that there are basically no rules.

What you choose to do with the arpeggiated accompaniment is optional at any point or throughout the piece, and you can make it as independent as you want or the harmonic potential allows.

Try to think of the melody (RH) and the accompaniment (LH) as being separate and yet as complimentary as possible and desired.

In other words, what is happening with the melody (where it goes on the staff and how complex and rhythmic it becomes) has no immediate or direct bearing on the arpeggiation pattern that you're using for the LH accompaniment.

Those LH patterns can continue pretty much as you'd like them to no matter what the melody is doing - except for the stipulation that you will usually change the notes slightly in the arrpeggiated chords when they "clash" harmonically with the melody, i.e. they create a dissonance (sometimes you may want to keep that clash to set up a little tension which is later resolved by a more consonant combination of notes).

And, of course, for the sake of variety you may want to alter the pattern used in the arpeggiated chords at times, or go to a straight "block chord" for a phrase or section, or switch the melody to the LH with arpeggiated chords in the RH, or in 3/4 time go to an "om-pah-pah" pattern with the LH (playing the bass note of the chord on the "om" and two other chord notes, usually the 3rd & 5th, on the "pah-pah".

There are lots of other choices. Let your imagination be your guide & inspiration.

Regards, JF
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

#969689 - 07/24/08 07:53 AM Re: Arpeggio Arranging/Playing: Basic Principles?
TryingToPlay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 111
Loc: Raleigh, NC
Thanks for your responses.

After some considerable time spent with further practice, I'm revisiting this subject.

I understand the notion of letting one's musicality/imagination be a guide to answering my arpeggio question. Unfortunately, at this point in my piano playing trajectory, let me say that I'm musicality challenged. I guess I'm just too inexperienced to have a natural feel for the right thing to do.

Here is the problem I'd like to solve. I've learned 2 or 3 arpeggio arrangements of tunes which the Higginson course specifically teaches (Today, A Time For Us, Love Story). But when I try to play a similar slow ballad from a fake book, I can't successfully integrate the arpeggio arrangement. (I generally end up reverting to LH block chords in the middle of the keyboard, RH melody with a couple chordals underneath, and an occasional low octave bass).

I understand the notion that there are no strict arpeggio rules. But are there some guidelines which the experienced player uses intuitively, and if spelled out, would help the beginner? For example:

1. What about a tune would make it more appropriate for playing the arpeggio as 1/4 notes rather than 1/8 notes and vice versa.

2. I assume that if a tune has more than 2 chords per measure, skipping the arpeggio, at least for that measure is likely a good idea. Although I guess, leaving out some of the multiple chords is also a possibility. (I understand that if the tune is chock full of these multi-chord measures, it is not a good arpeggio candidate)

3. In some tunes, I hear the player just arpeggiate three tenth chord notes rather than continuing the arpeggio up the keyboard. Is there some general characteristic of a tune that makes this particularly appropriate?

4. In general, I can't reliably figure out when I should terminate the LH arpeggio before reaching the end of the measure. Certainly, I understand that on a measure with one whole note, I will typically continue the arpeggio for the entire measure, but what about guidelines for the different varieties of multi-note measures?

The above are, of course, just a couple examples.

Netted out, when a novice player looks at a slow ballad on a lead sheet, what are some additional clues he/she can use to determine the most appropriate arpeggio approach for that tune?

Thanks for any further help.


#969690 - 07/24/08 09:00 AM Re: Arpeggio Arranging/Playing: Basic Principles?
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2462
Loc: Denver, CO

Check out these books and see if they help you with what you are trying to learn:




#969691 - 07/24/08 09:16 AM Re: Arpeggio Arranging/Playing: Basic Principles?
TryingToPlay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 111
Loc: Raleigh, NC
Thanks, Rich. The suggested books might be helpful, but I'm dubious. I have "How to Use a Fake Book", by Ann Collins; "How to play the piano desite years of lessons", by Cannel and Marx; sand "How to Play Popular Piano in 10 Easy Lessons" by Norman Monath. Though they are all some help in their own way, they haven't provided me with what I'm looking for here. (Or maybe I haven't studied them carefully enough.) Do you have personal experience with the books you suggested?

Another related item: I was looking back over my course material and noticed that one of the tunes for which I'm using the arpeggio arrangement, "Love Story" is chock full of 1/8 notes. I normally would have expected that such a tune was not really suitable for an arpeggio arrangement, but it clearly is (as it's one of the tunes specifcally arranged as an arpeggio in the Higginson course. So clearly, there's lots I'm missing here in terms of basic principles since I would have expected that such a tune would not be a good arpeggio candidate.

#969692 - 07/24/08 09:26 AM Re: Arpeggio Arranging/Playing: Basic Principles?
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2462
Loc: Denver, CO
I have both of them, but have not taken the time to really try working through them. I thought the Esterowitz book is better though.



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