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Fiddle Lessons: Diatonic Arpeggios

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Diatonically occurring arpeggios,
are a great thing to practice.
This idea's been around for along time.
It was sort of introduced to me in its,
this form, by Matt Glazier, who is a great
fiddle player and head of the string
department at Berklee College of Music.
The whole idea of being able to really
quickly get around in any diatonic key,
and we're talking diatonic keys are the,
the keys that we all know and
love, major and minor.
That's diatonic,
it doesn't have chromatic weird notes or
anything in it.
The, the kind of keys that we use, all the
time for bluegrass and, you know,
regular folk music, and most kinds of
These arpeggios that are build on
successive thirds,
and any scale, are so useful.
They're, they're very good at just giving
you a very,
solid grounding, solid feeling of being in
a key, and
not actually ever having to worry about
playing a wrong note a lot of insecurity,
and especially with this kind, with this,
with these instruments happens when,
we're just learning about, gee okay, am I
gonna play a wrong note?
I'm improvising, i'm trying all this, this
I just don't wanna play a wrong note.
One of the nice things about playing these
is almost the same as playing scales,
except more interesting.
But the idea that because we're breaking
the scales up, instead of playing.
We're breaking them up.
we're still, we're just building off each
note and scale, right?
Each note and scale gets
it's own arpeggio, and each note in that
arpeggio, is also part of the same scale.
We get this great ability to just, be very
you know, in what what key we're in.
It's like, if we're good at these, if we,
if we run these to where we're really
relaxed [INAUDIBLE] where, just the same
way as you can play a G major scale.
Without thinking about it.
If you can play these arpeggios.
If we can play, these notes without
thinking about it.
Then, it's like literally, we can't play
around with them.
Its, increases your confidences level by
And so, these are just a really great way
of practicing scales, getting in tune, and
just getting comfortable with whatever key
we're in.
And I just did all that stuff in G, but
we could be doing it in just about any
key, we do it in A major.
So, they're all thirds,
what's also nice about it is you can see,
that I'm going like.
So, it's just because the way that the
instrument is laid out, it's fre,
it's almost automatic, it's really nice.
All we have to worry about is whether or
Things like that,
you know, where we have the G sharp.
And then the D natural.
So, it's that, this little displacement
the second finger, usually second finger,
third finger,
we're displacing a little bit sometimes,
you know?
In G.
That second finger.
Things like that.
Just getting used to that, is going to
really give you a lot of confidence,
and just facility, you know, in whatever
key you're likely to be in.
So, I am recommending that you all get
very comfortable
with these diatonic arpeggio, in just
about every key, and
its not that big a deal to run these a few
keys a day,
just to get comfortable with them.
And you can start with like three, groups
of three notes.
And just run them in,
first position, and go up to the top of
your range.
And then just come back down.
the same thing in, in just whatever key
you want.
Now, if you really wanna be ambitious,
you can use your fourth finger a lot, and
not use open strings.
That's always good, because then, you're
kind of preparing yourself for
being up here.
Those kinda things, where we're using all
four fingers.
But, the idea is that we are just just
getting comfortable with you know?
Because we're breaking up the scale, like
We're sort of coming at it, coming at each
note from a lot of different directions.
And that's really good, because we're just
getting used to coming at whatever note,
from a lot of different directions.
And of course, that's the essence of being
able to improvise, is being comfortable,
in whatever key you're in.
So, I'm going to say,
that start with the G, the A, and
the B major three-note diatonic arpeggios,
get those together, and get them, fast.
This might take a while, maybe go one key
at a time,
until you can get it fast, you know?
We're talking about, you know, I mean, I
don't want.
That's fine,
you know, you have to do that before you
get to the fast up, but,
in order to really make use of this, you
have to get to where you're
not thinking about it, and that means,
make it a little faster.
About that tempo, it's not that,
that's not super fast, that's not as fast
as a lot of bluegrass tunes.
But it's a good tempo, and if you can get
through that,
without making a little mistake, or
without going.
Yeah, okay.
You don't want any
of those little glitches.
You just wanna be able to smoothly run up
and down these three-note arpeggios,
just the same way, as you'd be able to
play them.
That was a sca a major scale.
So, start with G, get G together,
then get A, get A together, and then get
B's a little tough,
you know, cuz we're stretching.
We're making these stretches.
So, that will be an interesting challenge
right there, at the end of that cycle.
So yeah, that's my challenge the diatonic
arpeggio, challenge to you all.
Go for it.
All right.
Diatonic arpeggios, part two.
And this is part two of a huge subject.
And, I don't want you to work on this part
until you've really gotten comfortable
with those three-note arpeggios and
maybe even taken them into some closed
But it's always good to think about this
stuff and, and
think about it in context even though you
may not be physically working on it yet.
So if you're thinking about like really
following through on this stuff,
go back to that first diatonic arpeggio
part and really get kind comfortable
with those three note arpeggios going up
and down and open and close keys.
And then come back and we'll talk more,
which we are talking more right now.
So, let's look at four note arpeggios,
starting with our most simple area here G.
Now we are really spelling out as
arpeggios are just exploded chords.
So what's really interesting about these,
the way these arpeggios work is that they
do spell out a chord and
the fact that, each arpeggios starts ona
different note of the major scale.
These are all notes that are found on the
major scale.
Why dont all these cords describe a major
They dont they describe all kinds of
The first scale of course is some kind of
a major cord.
Its like a major seven cord.
Right it's-
it's like major seventh,
like a G majr seventh, the second one is
some kind of minor scale.
Something like
And then the third one,
another kind of minor scale.
And then what's the fourth one?
Oh, that's interesting, it's like a-
It's like a minor, a major seven.
It's got that nice major seven.
Woo, that's interesting.
Starting on the fifth degree we have a
major but with that.
We got that nice we got the blues,
we got the mix of Lydian.
That kind of thing so, very interesting,
one and then-
Another kind of a minor scale.
Minor, minor, minor chord.
Ooh, that's interesting.
Ooh, it sounds a little bit like.
Or or somebody like that.
What is that, exactly?
It's, like, it's minor
and then we've got a flat five, right?
Minor seven flat five chord in the middle
of a major scale.
Well, it's not in the middle, it's at the
very end of the major scale.
It's, like, the last thing, before you get
to the major scale, so in a major scale,
you have all this, these other different
kinds of chords that get generated just by
playing the notes in a certain sequence
through and, a very systematic way,
through the major scale and that's where
things really, start to get interesting.
Because what we're doing, is we're
spelling out pretty much
the basis of, of Western music, and how
Western music works.
All the stuff actually hangs together in a
really beautiful and amazing way,
which, will be gone into in future
iteration's of this stuff.
This is we're kind of on the edge of jazz,
and of course,
as the great fiddle player Benny Martin
said, bluegrass
fiddle is kind of on a line between
bluegrass, and jazz, which is great,
because anything that's on a line between
itself is something else is, is a, is a
great, you know, beyond logic thing.
And jazz is hard to pick.
And Benny was right about that.
You know, definitely you know, one of the
things about jazz,
is that it is hard, you know?
But bluegrass is hard.
And you know the fiddle is hard.
So you come this far so why stop right.
Anyway so what I'm saying is that as we
build these little arpeggios, we actually
moving through not only these different
but we're actually spelling out, the
And these when I use to talk about the
I mean the the seven Church Modes, which
are also the Greek Modes,
invented by the Greeks which mean there's,
there's seven of these modes, and which
are really scales.
Modes are scales, but this, this idea was
sort of,
apparently codified by the Greeks, the
first one is the major-
It's the Ionian.
Apparently, the Greeks, somebody, some
Greeks said well this is the scale that
the Ionians played when they went to the
folks that lived in Ionia.
You always play that scale, you Ionians.
And then the next one of course is the
Dorian mode it's like a minor.
And that's really common, you hear that a
lot in folk music, and
in not just Indoria, you hear it in all
kinds of it's like Pretty Polly,
and all those kinds of things.
So you have the doiy mode-
And your next one is...
What is the next one?
This is.
also a minor scale.
But with a Flat 2.
So it kind of has this little feeling of
like, Spanish kind of a-
Out on the Spanish Steps somewhere.
[LAUGH] Or in a Spanish desert.
Or in Mexico, some place like that.
You got the you know, you can get to like.
Think about Clint Eastwood.
Except Clint Eastwood was in Italy when he
made those westerns.
So, what was that about?
I don't know.
I don't know what I'm talking about.
But I do know what I'm talking about, when
I talk about the Phrygian,
which is what that is, and those folks up
in Phrygia,
which was probably pretty far away, the
Provence of Greece.
And so they said Oh well those guys up
there they live so far away they don't
even know what they're talking about they
have to put that weird note in.
And then of course you have the fourth
degree the thing that
starts at the fourth degree of the scale.
What is that?
Oh, and we have, what do we have, we have
a sharp 4, right?
So, we're starting on C note.
That's Lydian, right?
That's not an unfamiliar sound to
Bluegrass people.
It's it's Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
It's that raised four.
And that is of course the Lydian Mode from
Look up Lydia on the web, you'll find a
great song about Lydia the Tattooed Lady
by Groucho Marx, aas nothing to do with
the Lydian Mode at all.
[MUSICv Okay, what's the next one.
Well is that, oh that was that.
our bluesy,scale which often refered to as
model, right.
This is the one that everybody says oh
it's model.
So it's like a major scale with that flat
So that's the rock and roll scale, it's
the blues scale.
It's the Mixolydian.
Where the heck Mixolydian was, Mixolydia,
I have no idea.
But I'm sure that Mixolydians were
perfectly aware of where they were and
their place in the world, and I'm sure
they were very proud of their scale
because it has taken the western world by
storm and we love this scale.
Right, so
that's our Mixolydian mode, so if you
wanna, you know, if you're on
stage at the coffee house, and, and you
wanna go to that, that, that mode.
I've heard some Irish musicians,
call it the minor.
You know?
Do you ever go into minor?
[LAUGH] Because it's, it's got the minor
It's probably, better for everyone if you
call it by its direct name,
which is the Mixo Lady or sometimes she
was called Mixo.
that'll you know, hopefully give you the
the result that you'd like.
Okay we've got a couple more.
We've got the sixth degree.
What is that?
The sixth starting on the E, right?
That is in minor, minor scale, minor mode.
It's actually what we call
the natural minor.
It's just a regular minor scale.
It's like, if you say, okay.
Play a minor scale.
It's just.
It's got that flat six.
And that is,
of course, the aeolian mode, oh, to which
the Aeolian
the Greek Ancient Aeolian harps were tuned
to that mode apparently.
And maybe those Aeolian harps,
which were actually wind harps, Aeolian
has also an association with wind and
they'd build these giant harps that the
wind would blow through,
and it would make these ghostly minor,
the sound of the sound of Charlie Daniels
playing The Devil Went Down to Georgia,
which I don't know, maybe there's an aioli
in Georgia or something, or
maybe they make a certain kinda mayonnaise
down or something like that, aioli.
But, that's pure speculation and
has no place in a serious, instructional
Okay, how much we got left, we've got the
seventh degree one more mode left and
this is definitely the most interesting
and the thorniest one.
Right and so it's like a, it's a minor.
then, but it's got like this weird flat,
flat five.
So it's got that in there.
And it's, it's got a flat seven.
And that flat five.
So, weirdly enough, it's called a minor
seven flat five.
And it spells out,
those minor, seven five, five, chords,
which we're teetering on the edge of jazz.
We're getting very close to jazz here.
So, we're just gonna back off a little
And that's, that's a subject for
a whole nother series of, videos which
will happen.
And i'm excited about them, but, right
now, we're talking about bluegrass.
But we have to continue all the way up the
modes, because, they're there.
And that is of course, the Locrian mode,
played by the Locrian's,
who were really the farthest out dudes, I
mean they were just completely,
they were probably you know, smoking some
sage brush or something.
I don't know what they were doing up there
in Locrian, but
they were definitely having a great scale.
They [LAUGH].
Do you think they, I don't know, it, it's
kind of a question whether you know,
they were all drawing straws to get their
scale, you know?
And did they draw the first straw or the
last straw?
That's what I wanna know.
Because if they drew the first straw and
they chose Locrian,
they must have been some really hip dudes
And, then, that it's, actually, there's
only seven.
So, when we do those four notes.
Platonic arpeggios, we are playing through
all the modes,
and, all those different kinds of scales,
no matter what key we're in.
We are, iterating through the basis of
Western harmony.
We are working out our Western harmonic
So that's pretty cool.
So I would recommend that, now that you
have mastered,
I'm hoping, those three-note diatonic
that you will now go to the four and out
diatonic arpeggio's and master those.
Get very comfortable with those.
And this is going to branch us out into a
whole new area of Greece.
And that's, that's pending, that's coming
I'm at this point I am just, finishing up
And we are gonna, like, continue to
explore bluegrass, but this is just
such an important part of music, that I
just wanted to share it with you, now.
So, please spend a little time with these
four note arpeggios.
Because they are gonna really do you a lot
of good.