One Very Versatile Jazz Arpeggio Lick

It’s often the case in music that one simple thing can be re-purposed and used in several different ways. One of my favorite ways to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time is by using jazz arpeggios – arpeggios that contain not just the triad, but the 7th and 9th of the chord as well. Here is my favorite:

This is such a nice way to outline a chord progression. Notice how we’re surrounding the root with an enclosure at the beginning of each octave. This gives us a way to turn around while giving the lick a more rhythmic sound than if we just played it straight up and down. Let’s use this in a 5-1 progression:

Like so many other concept in music, what works on the major chord, also works on its relative minor. Let’s see how this same lick sounds on a Dorian sound (Amin7) in the context of a 2-5-1 in G:

Nice! This thing is so versatile that we can use the same lick on a Lydian chord (maj7#11). Check out this sound on a common cadence:

Ok, we have three great uses for one lick. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s see what happens when we flat the 3rd and get a melodic minor sound:

Now, simply by flatting the 3rd, we get several new and beautiful possibilities. The most obvious is a minor 2-5-1:

And just like the major lick, we can superimpose this on its relative minor, or in this case its relative minor7b5! Check out the same lick used on a Amin7b5 in the context of a minor 2-5-1 in G:

That sounds so cool! And again, as we used the major lick over the 4 chord to get a Lydian sound, we can do the same with the melodic minor to get a Lydian Dominant sound:

And finally, my favorite iteration of this jazz arpeggio lick: Using it over an altered dominant – in this case B7alt.

How great is that!


There are seemingly endless possibilities with this arpeggio. I encourage you to explore your own ways of using this and your own variations on it.

Happy practicing,

Adam Maness

Play Jazz Better