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How to Play Jazz Guitar Arpeggio Enclosures

Learning how to play jazz guitar means learning how to properly outline chord changes using scales, licks, patterns and other melodic ideas in your lines and phrases.

While learning how to play jazz guitar scales over ii-V-I chords is an important tool for any jazz guitarist to explore, often times learning the arpeggio for each chord can be just as helpful in building interesting and appropriate jazz-guitar lines over any chord progression.

Though playing the arpeggio for each chord is a great way to outline each change in a progression, it can quickly become a bit boring if we simply stick to the exact notes in the arpeggio.

So, in today’s lesson we’ll be explore ways that you can add Enclosures to your jazz guitar arpeggios in order to properly outline chord progressions, while keeping things interesting at the same time.

In this lesson we will focus on one type of enclosure, adding a half-step above and a half-step below each note that we are targeting in our lines.

So, if you want to target the root of each chord in a ii-V-I progression in C major, you would play Eb-C#-D for Dm7, Ab-F#-G for G7 and Db-B-C for Cmaj7.

If you would like to explore this concept further, various enclosures and how to apply them to your jazz guitar lines, check out my in-depth article “Building Bebop Vocabulary – Enclosures for Jazz Guitar.”

Click to download the PDF for this Jazz Guitar Arpeggio Enclosures Lesson.


Arpeggio Enclosures – Root


The first interval that we will enclose is the root of each chord, as applied to a ii-V-I chord progression in the example below.

As with any new concept, learn this idea as written in C, then take it to other keys with the same fingering, at various tempos. Followed by adding a root enclosure to other fingerings you know for these arpeggios, and finally using this enclosure to build lines in your jazz guitar solos.

Once you have this idea/concept under your fingers and in your ears, feel free to move on to the next enclosure in this lesson. If you have this enclosure down, it will make learning and applying all of the other enclosures much easier when you tackle them in the jazz guitar woodshed.


Arpeggio Enclosures Example 1


Arpeggio Enclosures – Third


Here is an example fingering for how you would apply enclosures to the 3rd of each chord in a ii-V-I chord progression.

After you have learned this approach in the key of C major, practice bringing it to other keys around the neck. As you do, try picturing the 3rd of each chord and targeting that note with an enclosure instead of only memorizing the fingering below.

Knowing a fingering for this, or any, enclosure can be very helpful when learning to apply this concept to your jazz guitar licks and phrases.

But, if you can develop the skill to recognize any interval in an arpeggio and then add in an enclosure by targeting that note in your lines, that is when these exercises become truly beneficial for your jazz guitar playing.


Arpeggio Enclosures Example 2


Arpeggio Enclosures – Fifth


You can also add enclosures to the 5th of each chord you are using in your soloing lines. In the following example you can see an enclosure added to the ii, V and I of a ii-V-I progression in the key of C Major.

Work this enclosure out in the example fingering below, then take it to any other 1 or 2 octave arpeggio fingerings you know for these chords, as well as bring the progression to other keys in your practice routine.


Arpeggio Enclosures Example 3


Arpeggio Enclosures – Seventh


The last single enclosure we can explore is the 7th of each chord, we will stick to the basic Root-3rd-5th-7th arpeggio in this lesson rather than add extensions at this point in your exploration of enclosures.

If you feel that you have a strong command of enclosures on each of those four intervals, in both a technical and improvisational context, then feel free to explore adding enclosures to Extended Jazz Guitar Arpeggios as well, such as the 9th, 11th and 13th of each chord.


Arpeggio Enclosures Example 4


Arpeggio Enclosures – Root and 5th Combo


To finish up our exploration of applying enclosures to arpeggios, here is an example of using two enclosures over each chord in a ii-V-I chord progression.

I have chosen the root and 5th for this example, as they tend to sound the best and be the easiest intervals to use when combining 2 enclosures over 1 chord.

Try working this pattern out in the key of C, and in the example fingering below, before moving on to other keys and fingerings across the neck in your practice routine.

As well, make sure to learn this from a technical standpoint, but also to put on a ii-V-I backing track and use these enclosures to build lines in an improvisational context as well.


Arpeggio Enclosures Example 5


Arpeggio Enclosures Blues Solo


Here is an example of these different Arpeggio Enclosures in action, as applied to a Jazz Blues Chord Progression in the key of Bb.

Start by learning this sample solo as written, in various tempos and perhaps in various octaves across the fretboard.

Once you can play it from memory, put on a Bb Jazz Blues backing track and try playing this solo for the 1st chorus, then improvise your own lines in the 2nd chorus. Continue to alternate between the written solo and your own solo as you begin to integrate these lines more organically into your own playing.


Click to hear audio for this solo.


Arpeggio Enclosures Example 6


Arpeggio Enclosures Practice Guide


To help get you started on your exploration of Arpeggio Enclosures, from both a technical and improvisational standpoint, here are some of the ways I like to work these ideas out in the practice room.


  • Learn 1 enclosure, such as around the root of each chord in a ii-V-I chord progression in 12 keys and in various tempos/fingerings around the neck.
  • Move on to the next enclosure and repeat the above exercises.
  • Mix two or more enclosures together over a ii-V-I chord progression in various keys, tempos and fingerings.
  • Put on a ii-V-I backing track in 1 key and solo over those chords using 1 enclosure. Repeat in various keys and tempos.
  • Mix more than 1 enclosure into your lines over Exercise 4.
  • Apply each enclosure on it’s own, and together, over a jazz blues chord progression in various keys.
  • Write out your own solo etudes over the jazz blues progression, as well as other Jazz Standards that you know or are working on in the practice room.



Have a question or comment about this lesson? Visit the Arpeggio Enclosure thread at the MWG Forum.

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  1. Mike C., November 20, 2014:

    Do you always do enclosures as above-below-target, or do you sometimes reverse then to below-above-target? I was thinking maybe reversing the direction of the enclosure if the line is descending. Does this make sense is thinking of it off any real value?

  2. Matt Warnock, November 20, 2014:

    You can do other enclosures for sure, but this is the most common so it’s good to start with.

  3. Harrison Picot, May 6, 2015:

    Enclosing the third answers a question I had about starting arpeggios on the third. I am learning a lot, now all I need is practice so I can actually do it! Thanks (the idea of starting on the the third followed a comment by Mimi Fox that the third was good note to signify a change in chords since the third in next chord is rarely in the current chord).

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