Not Another Sweep Picking Article

author: UG Team date: 11/25/2013 category: guitar techniques
rating: 9.5 / votes: 6 
Not Another Sweep Picking Article
Sweep picking as it is widely used today, is a method of playing arpeggios rapidly, and fluidly by smoothly moving your pick across several strings as your fret hand frets each individual note. It has its origins in jazz as a means of playing piano and horn lines that were nearly impossible with technique of the day. This is a very simplified definition of the technique, In reality it is actually a combination of three guitar techniques; hammer-ons, pull-offs, and economy/directional picking, and doesn’t always have to apply to triadic or seventh arpeggios. For those who do not know, hammer-ons and pull-offs are a method for playing notes without picking. A hammer-on is performed by, as a string is vibrating, fretting a higher note on the same string. A pull-off is almost the opposite, to perform this technique, you must play a note, fret a lower note on the same string and sort of pluck the lower note with either a downward or upward motion of the finger that is fretting the higher note, then removing that finger from the fret board. The other technique known formally as economy picking, is better described as “directional picking”. The technique is based around economy of motion. It involves transitioning between strings by picking in the direction of the next string. For example if you were to move from the D to the G string you would use a down stroke, and if you were moving from the B to the G string you would use an upstroke. The advantage of this technique is that the economy of motion leads to a much more fluid method of playing scales, sequences and arpeggios, at the cost of the twitch based speed of faster alternate picking. For examples of this technique used in action, I highly recommend checking out Eric Johnson. So how do these techniques fit together to form sweep picking? Lets examine the shape of a five string E-Major 7th arpeggio. --------------------7--11--7---------------------- -----------------9--------------9------------------ -------------8---------------------8--------------- ---------9----------------------------9------------ 7--11-----------------------------------11--7---- ---------------------------------------------------- The picking and hammer on/pull off pattern for this would look like
-----------------d-h-p-------------------------------------------------------
-------------d-----------u----------------------------------------------------------
---------d------------------u-------------------------------------------------------
------d-------------------------u---------------------------------------------------
d-h--------------------------------u-p---------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
As you can see, there is one attack per string, but not necessarily one note. All additional notes per string are hammered on or pulled off. In addition, all attacks are done in a fluid directional fashion, much like economy picking. The combination of these three techniques allows for the fast and fluid playing of not just standard 7th and triadic arpeggios but also wider intervallic sequences, extended arpeggios and runs. For example… Fifthy/fourthy sweeping sequence
-------------------------------------10---------------------
----------------------------10----8-------8-----10--------
-----------------11-----9------7--------------7------9------
------11-----9-------7-----------------------------------7--
---9------7----------------------------------------------------
7--------------------------------------------------------------


--------------------------------------d-------------------
--------------------------d------d------u-----d---------
----------------d-----d------u-------------u-----u-----
------d----d------u----------------------------------u--
---d----u--------------------------------------------------
d-----------------------------------------------------------
C 13 arpeggio (stacked thirds)
------------------5-------------------
-----------3-6------6-3-------------
--------4-----------------4-----------
-----5------------------------5-------
3-7------------------------------7-3
-------------------------------------
Tips for developing and using the technique
  • PRACTICE SLOW AND TO A METRONOME! You will save yourself so much time and frustration if you do this
  • When watching "How to" videos pay close attention to the picking hand, and only watch ones by credible guitarists (someone known for the technique)
  • Develop an understanding of music theory that will actually allow you to apply the technique
  • Sweeping's cool, but being a one trick pony isn't, don't base your whole style around this technique.
  • Listen to players known for the technique, I recommend Frank Gambale, Tal Farlow, Tosin Abasi, Paul Waggoner, and Jason Becker.
  • More UG Team lessons:
    + Scales - Think Outside the Box. Part 2 Scales 09/24/2013
    + Effective and Fun Practice Using Guitar Riffs Correct Practice 09/24/2013
    + The Amazing & Mystical Win of the Spanish Phrygian Scale Guitar Techniques 09/24/2013
    + How To Read Tabs For Beginners 10/18/2013
    + Introduction To Lead Guitar. Part 2 For Beginners 11/03/2006
    + Introduction To Lead Guitar. Part 1 For Beginners 10/06/2006
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