Sweep picking is a pretty tricky technique that requires good coordination between both hands. It is basically playing notes on different strings while moving your pick in the same direction.
Both the fret hand and picking hand need to work together, the best way to achieve this is by actually sweep picking. It differs from tradition picking so practice is essential to develop muscle memory.
e—————————-5————— A major Chord
B———————–5——————- Play from low E to high e with a single
G——————-6———————– down stroke. When going from high e to
D————–7—————————- Low E use an upstroke.
You should let your pick flow in one direction across the strings while your left hand moves the fingering on the frets. The tricky part is muting and moving your left hand fingers in these patterns, you can’t really hold the shape as you would in a bar chord. You have to touch the string and let off slightly as your pick goes across it in effect muting the strings so they don’t ring out. There are many different shapes and patterns, much of the time they are based on shapes of chords or fragments of the chords, but sometimes other shapes are used.
Sweep picking one of the mostly economical ways to cross the strings. In my diagram I chose a simple A major bar chord I did this just to provide an example. You can make up your patterns, use other chords or even use as few as two strings from a chord. If your moving across the strings in one direction of your pick – holy cow your sweeping.
A lot of guitarists try to get this style down and think that what you need for speed. In my experience I have had best luck using this technique for composing, it does not always have to be fast. A nice medium rate or even a slow sweep can sound very pleasing to the ear.
Also noteworthy, I have the best luck being gentle and easy with this technique, finesse not force. You can try to hide it behind a lot of effects but it may tend to sound like mush. Notes most sound single and not really run together.
Economy picking that some of you may have heard about is a variation of sweeping. A lot of people use strict alternate (up down up down) even when changing strings. With economy picking you are still using alternate, but when it comes time to go to the next string you keep your pick going in that direction. It does not mean it is faster, but I guess if that is the technique that your more comfortable with, go for it. Some say it has a little bit different sound, others say it sounds the same.
Summary of this tutorial
1) Sweep picking means using a single direction across 2 or more strings
2) You can use shapes or pieces of chords or patterns that you think sound good
3) They don’t always need to be used for blazing fast runs
4) Let notes sound singly and not mush together.
5) Fretting and picking hand need to work in unison, (takes practice)
6) Most important – finesse not force.
© Brad Corpus 2005