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PIMA Arpeggio Pattern for Classical Guitar

The PIMA arpeggio pattern is very common, and is one of the more useful patterns to practice.

It is created by combining one of the primary arpeggio patterns (IMA) with an extra note (P).

You could write this P-I-MA

So the end result is this:

  1. P plays, alternates with I
  2. I plays, M and A throw
  3. M plays
  4. A plays, alternates with P

The Common PIMA Argument:

Another way of doing the PIMA pattern would be to throw all three (I, M and A) when the thumb plays (P-IMA). And this is fine. You won’t “get in trouble” if you play it this way.  The Arpeggio Police won’t shine flashlights in your window.

Nonetheless, there are benefits to thinking of it as an IMA pattern with a P in front (P-I-MA).

Benefit #1:  When practicing to ingrain good fundamentals, it’s helpful to make demands on your hands that require you to stay focused and aware of what you are doing. Playing with the added complexity (P-I-MA) connects more synapses and trains the hands more effectively than with the simpler version (P-IMA).

Benefit #2:  Next, it’s easy to get going too fast when playing the P-IMA version. This leads to a lilting rhythm. Many beginners try to attain a “perpetual motion” type of movement, not realizing that this is only accomplished by properly ingraining the movements first, and even then with massive focus and direction.

Benefit #3:  Lastly, and perhaps the most pragmatically, when you throw I, M and A all at once, and plant them on the strings, you effectively mute out all three strings at once. This doesn’t matter if you are starting from silence. But if you are playing a repeating pattern, this will mute out the sound too early, and undermine the beautiful, flowing effect of the arpeggio pattern. Playing it as described here (P-I-MA) allows for the strings to continue ringing for longer, which generally sounds better.

However you go about it, consistency of tone and rhythm should be your main focus.  It’s worth your time to ingrain this pattern slowly and intentionally into your muscle memory.  You will definitely see is cropping up often in your pieces.


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2 Responses to PIMA Arpeggio Pattern for Classical Guitar

  1. mark June 20, 2015 at 4:51 am #

    Dear Maestro,

    Once again, thank you for your lessons and articles. They are beautiful, easy to digest, and enjoyable to practice.

    The only area in which I am having a problem is with the links. There are so many of them, and I have a bad habit of clicking on them, which takes me somewhere else for the time being, and before I know it, I am off on a side topic… but this is MY problem! Haha!

    I am so grateful for your generosity. Never before have I seen so much matierial in one place. It is overwhelming to say the least.

    Thank you!

    • Allen June 20, 2015 at 9:26 am #

      Thanks Mark! I appreciate the feedback. You’re right: It’s easy to get overwhelmed when confronted with lots of info. I have an addiction to link-clicking as well!
      Best of luck!

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