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Notation and execution

Arpeggio (plural: arpeggios or arpeggios ) is the musical technical term for a chord in which the individual tones do not sound simultaneously but one after the other (at short intervals). One speaks of an arpeggiated , broken or dissolved chord.

Definition, sound, notation and usage

The word is derived from arpa , Italian for harp , and literally means that the chord should be "harp-like", like one string after the other on a harp. This also means that the tones played one after the other should overlap one another, which is, however, primarily true for single-part instruments, e.g. B. wind instruments means that they can only implement the component of the chronological sequence.


If the arpeggio is not written out, i. H. is notated in exact note values , it is indicated by a vertical serpentine line just before the chord to be arpeggiated.
Arpeggios written in exact note values ​​or as a vertical chord are usually played from bottom to top. From top to bottom, on the other hand, these tightly layered chords are less common. For the latter reason, arpeggios to be played from top to bottom are usually also provided with an arrow to indicate the direction of the arpeggio (from the highest to the lowest note or vice versa). Sometimes, however, there are also arrows in the standard direction to ensure that the chord is interpreted correctly.
In a two-part staff combined with an accolade , the arpeggio notated by a serpentine line either extends over both staves (see example above right), or each stave has its own line. In the first variant, you usually “work your way up” from the lowest to the highest note (e.g. from the bass to the treble clef), in the second the arpeggio sounds simultaneously, therefore in two voices.


Arpeggios are a simple and very effective way of progressive diminution ('chord variations with increasingly smaller note values') and can therefore serve very well to liven up a piece of music. There are therefore many pieces that are mainly composed of arpeggios, for example the C major prelude from WTK volume 1 by Bach, the G major impromptu by Schubert, and many 'show etudes' from the 19th century, such as the C. -Dur Etude by Chopin.

In a broader sense, "arpeggiated" or "arpeggiando" means a form of accompaniment in the composition : The accompaniment is not only provided by independent contrapuntal voices and also does not consist of homophonic accompanying chords, but of chords split into eighth or sixteenth notes, often also dotted . This achieves a greater density of events in the accompaniment and thus a more dense sounding composition. This form of accompaniment was especially popular in the pre-classical period.


Originally, the arpeggio, like the trill , was one of the musical ornaments that were not written down by the composer, but left to the taste and skill of the musician. Around 1500 the first indications of ornamentation are documented by signs. The characters (e.g. · / · or : /:) for the execution were determined in the 18th century, in particular by François Couperin and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach . Robert de Visée called the broken chord separer .

More recently, electric guitarists have often combined the arpeggio with the economy picking (sweeping) technique to achieve higher playing speeds . In electronic music , such as synthesizers , an arpeggiator is used to record an arpeggio, which can then be played with a touch or a signal.

Typical chiptune arpeggio

In early video game music and the resulting chiptune , fast arpeggios are often used due to the limited number of sound channels and have therefore become an acoustic symbol of these genres for many people.


  • Heinrich Lindlar (ed.): Rororo music manual. In 2 volumes. Volume 1: Music theory and musical life (= rororo 6167 rororo manual ). Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1973, ISBN 3-499-16167-2 , p. 36f.

Web links

Commons : Arpeggios  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Arpeggio  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Duden: Arpeggio .
  2. James Tyler: A Guide to Playing the Baroque Guitar. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 2011, ISBN 978-0-253-22289-3 , pp. 18 f.
  3. ^ Heinrich Lindlar (ed.): Rororo music manual. In 2 volumes. Volume 1: Music Theory and Musical Life. 1973, p. 36.