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

1 thought on “One Very Versatile Jazz Arpeggio Lick”

  1. Celio Eustaquio dos Santos.

    Good well that versatile arpeggio lick. I’d like know if have some vídeo Romero Lubambo instructed the Jobim song: Quiet nights of quiet stars, it’s a song that eveybody likes to play good Ok? In case affirmative, can you send to me? Thanks a lot..! Célio Santos.

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