Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Mwa, mwa, mwa, mwa ..."

One of my beginning students was in for a lesson today. She is in the early stages of learning root arpeggio patterns. She has practiced and has had some success in playing the "go to" left hand pattern, widely known as the shed pattern. Today, we tackled the "go to" right hand pattern. I call it the backwards checkmark because that's what it looks like to me and I've never heard a better name for it. Do these funny names mean anything to you?

I could tell she was on information overload. Her eyes were glazing over. Then she laughed, and said my voice sounded just like the teacher in the Charlie Brown specials! In case you can't remember what that sounds like, listen to this 14 second clip:  Charlie Brown's teacher's voice

I understand what she's going through. Chords, arpeggios, duplicated notes. Add to that the fact that sometimes you must reach down the instrument to strike a note that goes up in pitch! It's enough to make a person's brain explode. Just give me a good ol' melody line!

Mwa mwa mwas mwa .... But, wait! Hang in there!! The time spent working on chords, arpeggios, inversions, etc is time well spent. In fact, it's necessary if mastery of the instrument is your goal. Believe it. Do it!

  • Get the big picture. Chord patterns are next to and on top of each other all over the instrument. Learn how to find them. Take a workshop. Find a teacher. Read a book. 
  • Bite off a little at a time. Start simple. Apply ideas to tunes you've been playing for awhile. Learn about chord theory. Play backup to tunes you know using the chord progression as a road map.
  • Add complexity. Learn about chord inversions, 7 chords,  interesting rhythms. Remind yourself of the big picture. Try more ideas in meaningful tune settings. 
  • Keep at it. One day, you, too, will be fluent in Charlie Brown teacher talk!
PS .... Do you have a better name for the Right Hand root arpeggio pattern?... the one I call "backwards checkmark"? I'd love to hear what it is! Comment below ...


  1. I'm left-handed so that checkmark isn't backwards to me! (I make all my checkmarks that way.)

  2. There's my ego-centrism showing! Thanks for keeping it real with a different perspective, Kitty.

  3. One of the first things Sue ever taught me was the various ways of doing the chord progressions through Pachelbel Canon (sp?). I'm not sure anything before or since has been more helpful for learning about the instrument. It's not a backward checkmark.

  4. Thanks for that, Lee. Playing arpeggio patterns through a real (and recognizable) chord progression makes practice time more fun and meaningful.