Sweep Picking is all about mastering the right hand technique! The
key to this technique is the way you use your right hand.
You must use the space where you think your middle pickup would be and anchor
two or more of your fingers there. This will give you a fixed point which you
can use as a lever for the right-hand sweep.
Holding the pick:
For sweeping, it is important that you hold the pick with plenty of excess
plastic showing. The pick should move in a straight sweeping motion not a
strum. This method of holding the pick will increase note clarity.
Unwanted string noise:
In order to prevent this noise you must use your thumb to mute the strings after
you have played the note on that string. You don’t mute at the bridge with sweep
That covers most aspects of the right-hand sweeping technique.
The left hand technique is important in sweep picking too. The left hand thumb
needs to be placed behind the neck as an anchor, no thumb coming over the top of
the fret board, as this lowers your stretching capability! Your fingers must
glide across the strings. Time must be taken to practice clean with every
single note heard. Speed will come with practice.
Fretting the notes:
You should try to have the lightest touch possible that still sounds the note.
This way you can move your fingers faster. If you have two or more notes on a
string you must use legato techniques (such as hammer-ons and pull-offs) to
articulate the notes.
A good tip is to work out where your fingers need to go, and then let them
glide! Don’t think about it! As long as you have the techniques a mentioned
above perfect then you won’t need to think about it!
That covers most aspects of the left-hand sweeping technique.
Here are some examples of sweep-picked arpeggios, they start off relatively easy
with 3-string arpeggios until ending on 6-string arpeggios with tapping!:
The key here is to make sure that your right-hand and left hand are coordinated!
You also must make sure that the legato techniques sound clear.
With this diminished arpeggio you need to watch the hammer-on from the B to the
D as it can prove tricky at first. Otherwise this shouldn’t pose too much of a
problem if you have mastered the 3-string arpeggios. You can move this
arpeggio around the fret board in a sequence if you like ALA Yngwie!
This example is a two-octave A minor arpeggio across 5 strings. The key with
this is to maintain clarity even with the 3rd finger barre across the notes E
and A. Apart from that these won’t provide too many problems for you. (Hint:
Try linking these licks, you’ll have to transpose them into the write key
signatures. You can use licks like this for sequences where you need speed and
Essentially these 5 string major arpeggios are quite easy. The only thing you
need to be aware of is note clarity in the 3 string barre.
This example is E minor arpeggios across six strings; the main difficulties here
are note clarity, you must make each note stand out, and secondly you must keep
the right-hand technique consistent throughout.
Tapping with these arpeggios:
When tapping you must make sure that the note is the same value as all the
others, you must think of the technique as having an extra left-hand finger,
rather then just hitting the given fret.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson, and also taken away the most important elements of sweep picking. Remember, these are just examples of arpeggios you
can do with this technique. You need to explore to find better, more interesting and musical arpeggios, so that you can use them in your own playing!