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...versus broken chord figuration...

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In written or spoken language the ambiguity is frustrating.


Broken chord is an unambiguous term. Arpeggio is the ambiguous term.

When arpeggio is used - without qualification - is one of the two meanings more commonly implied or assumed? Or, are most people - like me - left wondering what exactly is meant?

Personally, I think of the noun arpeggio to mean a broken chord figuration and the verb argeggiate to mean execute with the embellishment. But, that's just me. In now way to I think that is conventional meaning.

  • How about 'arpeggio' and 'broken chord'? Feb 15 '19 at 14:30
  • It the exact same question, and all the answers are very good. I'll close my own question and go feel like a schmuck! Feb 15 '19 at 22:30

In German we say AKKORDZERLEGUNG. This would literally be translated chord distribution.

Looking up Akkordzerlegung I am guided to the fingerpicking of the guitar what actually would be what in the question is meant.

So the fingerpicking would be the equivalent to the embellished arpeggio.


The wiggly line in your first example is a quasi arpa (like a harp), although pianists will often call it a "rolled chord". It's always executed note by note, starting from the bass and going up. If you want it to start from the soprano and go down, you'd put an arrowhead at the bottom.

The word arpeggio comes from the Italian arpeggiare (to play the harp), and it generally means playing a chord in pieces - not just individual notes as in your second example, but in any combination and any order: the second measure of that example shows the intervals B-G and C-E, so neither the term arpeggio or "broken chord" is specific and unambiguous (and they're frequently interchanged). Arpeggio or arpeggiate simply means you're not playing block chords.

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