An arpeggio is actually the technique of playing the notes from a chord in rapid succession. Not so fast that you hear every note of the chord at once, that would be strumming, but slowly and sharply, making each note clear.

Arpeggios don't have anything to do with scales as mentioned in an earlier node, and I'm not sure what an "outline of a scale" is, exactly.

In regards to guitar:
The arpeggio technique can be applied to more than one chord at a time using a technique called sweep picking, where you change the fingering of the chord you are making halfway through the arpeggio so as to retain the arpeggiated sound and make a chord that would be impossible to make normally, perhaps because you'd have run out of fingers when trying to make it while strumming, or because you'd be barring notes that you don't want to play.
A form of arpeggio has been used in older game consoles and computers, as a replacement for chords in music. It gives video game music its peculiar 'chirping' or 'bubbling' sounds.

For example, the first trackers could only play four notes at a time (i.e. they had a polyphony of four). Hence a typical chord of three simultaneous notes would leave only one channel available for other instruments. The solution was to play the required notes in a rapid succession in just one channel. If the notes are alternated quickly enough, they will appear to blend together slightly, giving a vaguely chord-like effect (e.g. major or minor in a certain key). The sound is quite different from a proper chord, but it can sound nice and interesting if it's not overused. Even some modern bands like Machinae Supremacy ( use arpeggiated sounds to create a retro electronic feeling.

Ar*peg"gio (#), n. [It., fr. arpeggiare to play on the harp, fr. arpa harp.] Mus.

The production of the tones of a chord in rapid succession, as in playing the harp, and not simultaneously; a strain thus played.


© Webster 1913.

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