Piano Lessons 101: How To Play Arpeggios Chords

If you are learning how to play piano or have some basic skills, you’re in the right place. This guide will show you how to play arpeggios. You might not have heard of them before (or even the name itself).

Rest assured, by the time you finish reading this, you’ll know what they are. And you’ll play them with ease. Piano players know their scales and chords well enough to play basic, newbie-friendly songs.

However, arpeggios can be a bit challenging. Before we show you how to play them, let’s discuss what arpeggios are.

What Is An Arpeggio?

An arpeggio is a chord where the notes are played one by one. A regular chord is when the keys are pressed down and the notes play at the same time. For example, let’s take a look at the CEG chord.

An arpeggio will sound like the following: C-E-G. A chord will be CEG since the notes will be played together. Now that you have a basic understanding of what an arpeggio is, let’s show you how to play it.

How To Play An Arpeggio?

Place your first, third, and fifth fingers on the following keys: C, E, and G. Start playing each note one at a time. So your first finger goes down to play the C note, followed by your third finger and the E note, and last, the fifth finger and the G note.

You can repeat this process and then use other chords as well such as F-A-C and other triad chords. Practice this until you start to get the hang of it.

How To Identify Arpeggios In Sheet Music?

Of course, following the sheet music when playing piano is important. For this reason, it may be a good idea to positively identify arpeggios in sheet music. So how are you able to find one?

Let’s take a look at a piece of sheet music that features chords. As you notice, a chord will have three notes stacked together. On its left, you’ll see an arrow pointing either up or down.

If the arrow is on the left and pointing up, you play the bottom note first and work your way up. If the arrow is pointing down, you start with the top note and play downward. Let’s use the following example using the CEG chord.

If the arrow is pointing up, start with the C note. If it’s pointing down, the G note is the first one you play and it goes GEC. Get the idea?

Practice these variations as many times as you like. Arpeggios can be written alternatively as notes themselves (not stacked). So you play the notes as they are written.

Why Should a Piano Player Learn Arpeggios?

A Woman in Red Knitted Sweater Playing Piano

Arpeggios are common in piano music. That’s one good reason why a piano player must learn them. The sooner you start learning them, the better.

It’s also a skill to possess whenever you need to break down each chord note by note. After all, that’s what arpeggios are. So if you practiced chords in the first place and somehow broke it down note by note, congratulations! You already have basic arpeggio-playing skills.

Pretty cool, huh? One more reason why you should learn arpeggios pertains to the dexterity and strength of your fingers. They’ll be getting quite a workout whenever you want to play different chords such as CEG and FAC (among others).

That’s why with regular practice, arpeggios can be a great warm-up exercise. Especially when you want to keep your fingers nice and loose. You might play some more challenging tunes that will put those dexterity skills to the test.

What Are Some Tips That You Should Follow?

Here are some tips that we suggest when you want to learn arpeggios on the piano:

  • Start with one hand: Of course, you can practice arpeggios on one hand. Then switch it up, playing the same notes on a lower scale. Once you have been able to do this with each hand without issue, you can move on to the following tip.
  • Play it with both hands: Specifically, you can play one arpeggio with your right hand and play the other with your left. Make sure that both of our hands are in position on the piano. 
  • Switch it up: Start by playing ascending arpeggios (CEG). Then switch it up by playing descending arpeggios (GEC). This will give your hands a bit more playing versatility. It can give your fingers and your brain a workout. But it will also help you play your arpeggios with flawless execution.
  • Pay attention to your finger placement: Finger placement is important. It may take one slip-up to mess with the entire song. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. You can start by playing your arpeggios by looking at the keyboard. Then you can look away and play them again as if you are looking at sheet music. 
  • Speed it up: Start out slow. Once you are comfortable playing the notes, you can move up the speed slightly. Then increase the speed whenever you feel comfortable. This may seem intimidating at first, but with enough practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Keep in mind, you’ll probably end up playing arpeggios faster because of the tempo of the music. Slow and steady wins the race. You may mess up at times during practice. But don’t worry, just keep going.

Final Thoughts

If you are playing piano, learning arpeggios will be a skill that you need to practice regularly. You can learn the basic steps and follow the tips we’ve listed above. It can be easy to master for most.

You can start off slow and then get creative with them over time. Spend a day learning ascending arpeggios and then do descending ones the next day. When your playing skills become more advanced, arpeggio exercises might just be the perfect warm-up.

Don’t be shy. Give arpeggios a try and you might find yourself playing with them a lot more than you expect. 

About the Author Linda Ritter

Linda Ritter is a passionate pianist and a songwriter for more than 7 years. With a Masters in Music, she has explored the world of music and has collaborated with several musicians and brands like Roland, Tune Core, and plenty of blogs.