Easy Jazz Arpeggios – ii V I VI Chords

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Arpeggios


One of the big struggles that many guitarists face when first learning jazz guitar arpeggios, is that they learn large shapes (usually two octaves), which can be hard to connect when applied to a soloing situation. While two-octave shapes are essential learning, there is an easier way to get started with arpeggios.


This approach involves learning one-octave shapes for each arpeggio, and then placing them in one position on the fretboard when applied to a jazz chord progression, which will be the focus of this lesson.

Learning smaller, one-octave, shapes, and then working them out on a single position over chord changes will allow you to quickly and easily move between shapes, without any shifting, in your jazz guitar solos.

Easy Jazz Arpeggios – Position 1

The examples in this lesson are all in the key of C major, so start by learning these shapes in that key before moving them to other keys on the fretboard.

As well, once you can play these shapes from memory, put on a ii-V-I-VI backing track and solo over those changes using the shapes from this lesson to create your lines. Here is a Dm7-G7-Cmaj7-A7b9 backing track that you can use in your practice sessions.


Listen & Play


Here is the first position for the easy jazz arpeggio fingerings, starting with the Dm7 shape on the 6th string and moving to the other chords in that same position from that starting shape.

Notice that you can play all four arpeggios, meaning you can now solo over all four of those chords, without moving your hand – you are staying in one position on the fretboard the whole time.


Listen & Play


To help you take these shapes to a musical situation, here is a sample lick that you can learn that uses these four shapes in its construction.


Listen & Play



Easy Jazz Arpeggios – Position 2

Moving on, let’s take the easy arpeggio approach to a new position, this time playing the Dm7 arpeggio from the 5th-string root note, with the rest of the arpeggios being in that one position from there.


Listen & Play



Again, here is a sample lick that you can practice to help you take these shapes from a technical to an improvisational standpoint in your practice routine.


Listen & Play



Easy Jazz Arpeggios – Position 3

The final easy jazz arpeggio position begins with the Dm7 arpeggio on the 4th string root, with the rest of the changes played in that same position.


Listen & Play



Lastly, here is a sample lick that you can learn which demonstrates the arpeggios in this position over the ii-V-I-VI chord progression.

Once you have learned this lick, and the other two in this lesson, try writing out a few licks of your own to see and hear how these shapes sound over the chords before you being improvising with them over a backing track.


Listen & Play



Any questions or feedback? Let us know by leaving a comment below…

  1. MartinMar 24, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Exactly, what I need now. Thanks. Martin

  2. Amin SamaniMar 24, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Tnx it was usefull.

  3. RobertMar 24, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    I used to be able to print these lessons to take home with me but now I just get blank pages when I try to print. It would be great to be able to print them for later review. Thanks for your efforts!

  4. mattMar 24, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Robert, you should be able to click “print screen” on your browser and that will print the page.

  5. RobertMar 24, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks Matt; you’re right, it was a browser issue. I switched to a different browser and it worked fine.

  6. LennyMar 24, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Very useful for any guitarist ! Thank you very much !

  7. MohammedMar 25, 2015 at 2:17 am

    thank you Matt for giving & sharing your kindness god bless you man to say that much is never enough so…. LOVE FROM WILD MOTHER AFRICA ….@..QTHY..@….

  8. downhill240Mar 25, 2015 at 4:35 am

    Wow! This is a great lesson. I will be studying this for more than a few days!!

  9. MikeMar 25, 2015 at 5:01 am

    I’ve been thinking about this for months !Working it out was a bit daunting Thankyou so much.!!!

  10. Jez durantMar 25, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Thanks very useful.

  11. JohnMar 25, 2015 at 10:05 am

    So that’s how I get the Jazz sound! Well, now… And there was me fiddling with scales and wondering why I sounded as if I was extemporizing rather than jazzing! Thanks! Lol!

  12. JohnMar 25, 2015 at 10:06 am

    It’s only taken me about 40 years! 🙂

  13. kimMar 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    excellent,allthough I wish you would show which fingers you use.I mean do you change position before each new lick

    • Matt WarnockMar 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Hey, there are a number of ways to finger these so you can try a few out and see what fits best. In the licks, I used the same fingerings that I used for the arps, so once you get an arp fingering you like you can keep it for the licks.

  14. JohnMar 25, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Fingerings can vary for sure. You should see how fast I can play an Ebm arpeggio, when I play ‘Round Midnight’ Wow… I couldn’t do it if I didn’t use slurs and slides! And that isn’t really ‘fingering’. Just play what feels comfy, and ‘muscle memory’ takes care of the rest. Good Luck… 🙂

  15. RodgerMar 25, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    To give so much, and ask for nothing in return is an outstanding character trait! We all should be so willing to share knowledge.
    Thanks for a great lesson for guitar, and life.

  16. Mark RhodesMar 25, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Good lesson! I like the lick(s) used for example number two. Nice.

  17. Rich WiegandMar 25, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Dirk, thank you SO MUCH for this lesson. It’s exactly what I need!!!

    If you have a collection of these arpeggio studies I’d be happy to buy them from you!

  18. DavidMar 26, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Great work my friend.Very useful

  19. DanielleMar 26, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Just thought I would say that I like the look and appearance of these bite sized lessons. Any chance you can share a little as to what goes into the production of the presentation on the staff and tab? Software used? Does the rhythm track come from Band In A box? Does the rhythm track get tied to the music on the staff automatically or is that a separate entry?

  20. NicolásMar 26, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Matt for president!!! Dont forget to vote

  21. KrenwinMar 29, 2015 at 3:21 pm


  22. Tomi from NigeriaApr 4, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I’m just picking it up n I find it so interesting to learn

  23. George from Glencoe NSW OzApr 10, 2015 at 3:48 am

    A bit confused…wouldn’t the normal ‘tonal’ sixth chord be a Am7th?

    • Matt WarnockApr 10, 2015 at 4:02 am

      In jazz we mostly use a V7b9 chord as it is the V7 of iim7 and so has a stronger movement to that chord.

  24. JohnApr 10, 2015 at 10:39 am

    When I play arpeggios they just sound like, well… arpeggios. Nothing like the bebop sounds I hear on these clips!

  25. HenrikApr 19, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Suddenly , a lot of things suddenly fell into place for me. This is great . Thanks so much

  26. BrianAug 7, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    This reminds me of something I saw Eric Johnson talking about but with chord substitution. If I remember correctly he said one could eliminate the 3rd and play a triad of 1, 5, b7 and play it over either a Dominant 7th or a Minor 7th chord and it would fit. If you look at the last arpeggio on the 12th fret and play the 1, 5, b7, and the 9th on the 1st sting you have a 4 note arpeggio or chord you can play over the Dm7 for a different sound or just play the triad as a chord/arpeggio.

  27. RupamOct 18, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Remarkable lessons..Thank you so much.

  28. Evgeniy ZemlyanskiyNov 29, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you for the lesson

  29. TheusApr 8, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    That’s an extremely simple but clarifying lesson!

  30. AlanApr 28, 2017 at 3:23 am

    thank you

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