Sweep Picking On Bass Guitar

author: HooligansBass date: 08/13/2008 category: bass lessons
rating: 8.4 / votes: 40 
The best way in my opinion to approach sweep picking through arpeggios is to start out small out first and work your way up. So the first thing covered will be two string sweeps on bass. Throughout this lesson I will show you arpeggio shapes in the key of D minor and will use a I-VI-VII chord progression(D minor, Bb major, C major) which is an often used and one of my favorite chord progressions. All of these shapes are also movable so they can be played anywhere on the fretboard. The fingerings and downstroke/upstrokes shown are merely my opinion in what is the best way to approach these shapes, you are welcome to do them whatever way feels most comfortable to you.

Guide Key


D = Downstroke
U = Upstroke
1 = Fret with 1st (pointer) finger
2 = Fret with 2nd (middle) finger
3 = Fret with 3rd (ring) finger
4 = Fret with 4th (pinky) finger
T = Tap
P = Pull off
h = Hammer on

Two String Arpeggios (In D Minor)


I Chord (Dm)
   D  D  U  D  D  U  D  D  U  D  D  U
G|----10-14----10-14----10-14----10-14-|
D|-12-------12-------12-------12-------|
A|-------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------|
   1  2  4  1  2  4  1  2  4  1  2  4

VI Chord (Bb)
   D D U  D D U  D D U  D D U
G|---7-10---7-10---7-10---7-10-|
D|-8------8------8------8------|
A|-----------------------------|
E|-----------------------------|
   1 2 4  1 2 4  1 2 4  1 2 4
 
VII Chord (C)
   D  D U  D  D U  D  D U  D  D U
G|----9-12----9-12----9-12----9-12-|
D|-10------10------10------10------|
A|---------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------|
   1  2 4  1  2 4  1  2 4  1  2 4
The next shapes I will show you are three string arpeggios for bass, when attempting to figure out these shapes it seemed hard to keep the shape having the root note as the bass note of the arpeggio, so the next following 3 and 4 string shapes are sweep inversions meaning that another note of the chord other than the root is the bass note. These three string shapes are 2nd Inversion Sweep Arpeggios meaning that the 5th of the chord is the bass note.

Three String Arpeggios (2nd Inversion, 5th As Bass Note)


I Chord
   D  D  D  U  D  U  U  D  D  U  D  U  U
G|-------10-14-10----------10-14-10-------|
D|----12----------12----12----------12----|
A|-12----------------12----------------12-|
E|----------------------------------------|
   1  2  1  4  1  2  1  2  1  4  1  2  1 

VI Chord (Bb)
   D D D U  D U U D D U  D U U
G|-----7-10-7-------7-10-7-----|
D|---8--------8---8--------8---|
A|-8------------8------------8-|
E|-----------------------------|
   1 2 1 4  1 2 1 2 1 4  1 2 1

VII Chord (C)
   D  D  D U  D U  U  D  D U  D U  U
G|-------9-12-9----------9-12-9-------|
D|----10--------10----10--------10----|
A|-10--------------10--------------10-|
E|------------------------------------|
   1  2  1 4  1 2  1  2  1 4  1 2  1
Next are four string sweeps, these can be tricky at your first attempt, but with constant practice they are no harder than the rest of these shapes. Also these shapes contain the third of the chord as the bass note making them first inversion shapes.

Four String Arpeggios (1st Inversion, 3rd As Bass Note)


I Chord (Dm)
   D  D  D  D  U  D  U  U  U  D  D  D  U  D  U  U  U
G|----------10-14-10----------------10-14-10----------|
D|-------12----------12----------12----------12-------|
A|----12----------------12----12----------------12----|
E|-13----------------------13----------------------13-|
   2  1  2  1  4  1  2  1  2  1  2  1  4  1  2  1  2

VI Chord (Bb)
   D  D D D  U D U U U  D D D U  D U U U
G|--------7-10-7------------7-10-7--------|
D|------8--------8--------8--------8------|
A|----8------------8----8------------8----|
E|-10----------------10----------------10-|
   3  1 2 1 4  1 2 1 3  1 2 1 4  1 2 1 3

VII Chord (C)
   D  D  D  D U  D U  U  U  D  D  D U  D U  U  U
G|----------9-12-9----------------9-12-9----------|
D|-------10--------10----------10--------10-------|
A|----10--------------10----10--------------10----|
E|-12--------------------12--------------------12-|
   3  1  2  1 4  1 2  1  3  1  2  1 4  1 2  1  3
Lastly, I would like to include the basics of adding tapping to your sweeping. This example is still using the I-VI-VII chord progression, and in each shape the note tapped is the root note of the chord. This example is just using the three string sweep but will work with any number of string sweep.
   I(Dm)                       VI(Bb)                VII(C)
G|-------10h14T19P14P10------------7h10T15P10P7------------9h12T17P12P9-------|
D|----12----------------12-------8--------------8-------10--------------10----|
A|-12----------------------12--8------------------8--10--------------------10-|
E|----------------------------------------------------------------------------|
Unlike the rest of the previous shapes, you have no choice in these but to hammer on and pull off when you reach the G string in order to tap the high root note. Before this lesson is ended I will leave you with something other than a three chord progression to practice these with. This is a three string sweep&tap arrangement of Pachebel's famous "Canon" that I wrote it's a little tricky and takes some reach in spots but enjoy! This is also in Guitar Pro format if you would prefer it that way
G|-------11h14T19P14P11--------6h9T14P9P6-----7h11T16P11P7---|
D|----12----------------12---7--------------9--------------9-|
A|-12----------------------7--------------9------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------------|

G|-----2h6T11P6P2-------4h7T12P7P4------------------|
D|---4------------4---5------------5-----4h7T12P7P4-|
A|-4----------------5------------------5------------|
E|-----------------------------------5--------------|

G|-----4h7T12P7P4-------6h9T14P9P6---|
D|---5------------5---7------------7-|
A|-5----------------7----------------|
E|-----------------------------------|
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