In music, an arpeggio is a broken chord where the notes are played or sung in sequence, one after the other, rather than ringing out simultaneously. The word, like many other musical terms, originates from Italian, in which it means "in the manner of the harp."


An arpeggio is a group of notes which are played one after the other, either going up or going down. The notes all belong to one chord. The chord may, for example, be a simple chord with the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale in it (this is called a "tonic chord"). An arpeggio in the key 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. Arpeggios can rise or fall for more than one octave.

Students of musical instruments learn how to play scales and arpeggios. They are often a requirement for music examinations.

An "arpeggiated chord" means a chord which is "spread", i.e. the notes are not played exactly at the same time but are spread out. Harps very often play arpeggiated chords. In piano music they are quite often used. An arpeggiated chord is written with a wiggly line going from top to bottom in front of the chord. An arpeggiated chord is spread from the lowest to the highest note. Occasionally composers such as Béla Bartók ask for them to be played from top to bottom. This is shown by adding an arrow pointing down. Arpeggio's are known at the end of scales.


Any instrument may employ arpeggiation, but the following instruments use arpeggios most often:
*String instruments are used to play arpeggios in classical music. Along with scales, arpeggios are a form of basic technical exercise.
*Bass guitarists often use arpeggios to play out chords.
*Guitarists use arpeggios extensively in certain genres, such as Neo-classical, and often while employing the sweep-picking technique.
*Synthesizers are often called upon to play arpeggios, especially in electronica. Some synths contain arpeggiators especially for this purpose.
*Keyboards, such as piano and accordions are used to play arpeggios.

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 computer music, arpeggios were often the only way to play a chord since sound hardware usually had a very limited number of oscillators. 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.


See also

*Music theory
*Musical terminology
*Bell effect


External links

* [ Guitar arpeggios] at

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Arpeggio — (spr éddscho, Arpeggiato, ital., von arpa, »Harfe«), musikal. Bezeichnung, die andeutet, daß die Töne eines Akkords nicht gleichzeitig, sondern wie auf der Harfe nacheinander gebracht (gebrochen) werden sollen. Das A. wird entweder durch die… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Arpeggio — (Arpeggiāto, spr. Arpedscho, Arpedschalo, ital.), harfenähnlich, die Andeutug, daß die Töne eines Accords auf Clavier od. Geigeninstrumenten nicht zugleich angeschlagen, sondern gebrochen vorgetragen werden; das Zeichen dafür ist ξ. Daher… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • arpeggio — (n.) 1742, from It. arpeggio, from arpeggiare to play upon the harp, from arpa harp, which is of Germanic origin (see HARP (Cf. harp) (n.)). Related: Arpeggiated; arpeggiation …   Etymology dictionary

  • Arpeggio — Ar*peg gio, n. [It., fr. arpeggiare to play on the harp, fr. arpa harp.] (Mus.) The production of the tones of a chord in rapid succession, as in playing the harp, and not simultaneously; a strain thus played. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Arpeggio — (ital., spr. éddscho) und Arpeggiāto, musikal. Bezeichnung, daß die Töne des Akkords nicht zusammen, sondern nacheinander (harfenweise) angeschlagen werden sollen. Arpeggiatūr, Reihenfolge von dergleichen gebrochenen Akkorden. Arpeggieren,… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Arpeggio — Arpeggio, arpeggialo, ital., harfenähnlich, ein musikalisches Zeichen, daß die Töne eines Accords bei einem Saiteninstrumente nicht zugleich angeschlagen, sondern gebrochen vorgetragen werden sollen. Deutsch: Harpeggiren …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • arpeggio — s. m. Ver arpejo.   ‣ Etimologia: palavra italiana …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • arpeggio — (izg. arpèđo) pril. DEFINICIJA glazb. način izvođenja akorda, u kojem tonovi ne nastupaju istovremeno, nego jedan za drugim, kao na harfi ETIMOLOGIJA tal. ← arpeggiato: na način harfe …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • arpeggio — ► NOUN (pl. arpeggios) Music ▪ the notes of a chord played in rapid succession. ORIGIN Italian, from arpeggiare play the harp …   English terms dictionary

  • arpeggio — [är pej′ō, ärpej′ē ō] n. pl. arpeggios [är pej′ōz, är pej′ēōz] [It < arpeggiare, to play on a harp < arpa, a harp < LL harpa, of Gmc orig: see HARP] 1. the playing of the notes of a chord in quick succession instead of simultaneously 2.… …   English World dictionary

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