P, I, MA Arpeggio: Lesson One
The P, I, MA arpeggio occurs in many styles of music from classical to folk to Brazilian Choro. I learned this particularly way of applying it to accompaniment thanks to my explorations in Brazilian guitar.
I can’t overstate how absolutely vital this arpeggio is—you may find that it quickly becomes your default accompaniment pattern.
If you’ve checked out my lesson on Three Foundational Fingerstyle Guitar Arpeggios, you’ve learned the basic P, I, MA pattern. In this lesson, I’ll review that pattern and begin to add variations to it. In future lessons, I will extend those variations until you have a comprehensive and very flexible P, I, MA arpeggio repertoire that can serve you well in a huge variety of musical settings.
Things to keep in mind with this arpeggio:
1. Work with a metronome! The goal here is to build your hand into a mighty, completely regular machine gun. This pattern needs to fall out of your fingers directly in time. Work consistently with a metronome and you’ll find yourself naturally developing impeccable timing. Regularly gives this arpeggio its power.
2. Make M and A simultaneous. You want them to sound like a single note rather than two separated notes. It takes attention and work in order to perfect this MA movement. Do what it takes.
3. Watch your hand as you play this arpeggio. Try to keep it as still as possible. Apply all the important technical aspects that I’ve talked about in my previous fingerstyle lessons. Refer to those if you need a refresher in how to hold your picking hand and how to move your picking fingers.
Here is the introductory P, I, MA pattern:
You can work this pattern on these strings using A minor or C major at first. Just work one chord initially to allow you to focus all your attention on the movements in arpeggio.
Check out this video for an introduction of this basic pattern:
Once you’ve completely mastered that P, I, MA pattern, we’ll add a slight variation. Instead of doubling the Index finger, we’ll substitute the thumb on a different bass string. That looks like this:
C/G works well here—play C major, but use your ring finger to fret the 3rd fret of the 6th string and your pinky finger to grab the C note at the 3rd fret of the 5th string.
The bounce in the bass leads back to the root bass note, and this double bass creates a driving feeling that really carries the music forward.
Here are two more videos that cover using this variation of the P,I,MA arpeggio:
Apply these patterns to your favorite chord progressions, and work them carefully with a metronome. Once you have them solid and clear, go for speed. I often use these patterns at a very high clip (above 120bpm) to create a bluegrassy feel in some of my music.
Build your solid P, I, MA foundation, and then go on and meet me in the next lesson where we’ll add even more variations to these basic patterns.