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Sweep Picking Basics

Hey guys,

back when I was a young padawan I used to watch a lot of Guitar videos (and I still do).

Every now and then I would come across some crazy, mind-blowing, hand-wrecking solo and think "How the **** does this guy plays like that?!"... And most of the time, the thing that totally blew me away was some Sweep Picking lick.

I've always loved this technique. It sounds amazing, feels amazing under your fingers and the feeling you get once you can finally freely incorporate Sweep Picking into your playing is very rewarding. After so many years of playing and teaching I dare say I've become a decent sweeper, so I figured it's about time I wrote something about it.

Here are the basics and some exercises to get you started with this beautiful technique:

First of all, I'm going to show you 6 (3 Major & 3 Minor) basic Sweep Picking shapes (Arpeggios) for your left hand. There are a lot more, but I find these 3 are a good starting point. The Major Shapes are in the key of A and the Minor Shapes in the key of A Minor (C), but you can move them around to any key you want. Here they are:

So, those are the 6 basic shapes that will work as a fundament for everything else.

Now, before we start using these arpeggios, we need to train both hands.

The way I (weirdly) see it: Sweep Picking is essentially like strumming chords, but instead of hitting the strings fast and playing all the notes at the same time, you have to play each note (low to high, high to low) separately. Your left hand needs to be able to press, release and mute the strings in a very controlled way and your right hand needs to maintain a "sweeping" movement, like a "slow" but precise strumming. Don't pluck the strings separately like when you're playing scales, but rather, while playing from low to high (6th string to the 1st), let your pick fall on the next string until you reach the 1st string without pulling your hand away. When you're playing from high to low (1st string to the 6th string) you just have to reverse the movement you did while playing from low to high. It also helps to move your right hand thumb a bit to add an angle to your pick.

Precision is key here. Always practice with a metronome and start at a slow tempo so that you can learn all the small movements as best you can and develop a good muscle memory. Also, the less you move your hands, the better.

Here's a good exercise for both hands. Remember to play the notes separately, each note should ring alone. If two or more notes ring at the same time, you're probably forgetting to release and mute the strings with your left hand.

Here it is:

You can also move this exercise around and play it on a different set of strings (5th to 2nd or 6th to 3rd)

Once you get comfortable with it, start trying out the first 6 Shapes.

A piece of advice: be patient and practice slowly!

Now, once you have the 6 arpeggios under your fingers, try practicing only half of the arpeggios.

Separate the lowest 4 notes from the highes 4 notes and start playing them up and down. Some arpeggios have an uneven number of notes so the lowest and the highes 4 notes might overlap, but don't worry about it.

Here's how this exercise should look like with the 4 higher notes:

When you're done, try doing it with the 4 lower notes.

You can also connect the some shapes to create some nice melodies, like this:

And you can do the same with the lower notes of the arpeggios.

Try experimenting and creating your own melodies! You don't have to use Sweep Picking ALL the time, you can mix various techniques and add some Sweep Picking for the final touch, or you can just sweep the s*** out of the guitar, it's up to you! I really recommend learning this technique as best as you can tho, it really opens a world of possibilities and sounds. And you can really show off with it.

That's it for the basics!

Stay tuned for more Sweep Picking stuff in the future and don't forget to subscribe if you liked what you saw!

See you guys next time, and I wish you all the best in 2023.



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