How to Arpeggiate a Chord on the Guitar

By Christina Martinez ; Updated September 15, 2017
Pick each string with your thumb or use a pick.

To use an arpeggiated pattern with a chord on the guitar means to play each string separately rather than strumming them all at once. Arpeggiated chords are laid out in a specific fashion when reading notation or tablature: Rather than placing the notes or numbers directly on top of one another, which indicates a single strum, they will be slightly to the left or right of one another. This indicates that the notes should be played separately.

Start with a basic chord shape. For example, try out Em. With Em, all the strings are strummed. When using an arpeggiated pattern for this chord, each string is played separately.

Use a pick or your thumb to pick each string in succession, from the heaviest to the lightest.

Play each string from the top with the exception of the lightest string; pick this string from below.

Play each string going in the opposite direction, from lightest string to the heaviest. Practice going up and down the strings a few times in the arpeggio manner.

Switch to a new chord and continue plucking the strings in the same manner. If you're playing a chord such as A, Am or C, only pluck the strings that you're supposed to play with regular strumming.

About the Author

Christina Martinez has been writing professionally since 2007. She's been published in the California State University at Fullerton newspaper, "The Daily Titan." Her writing has also appeared in "Orange County's Best" magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and print journalism from California State University.