#1
So My musical tastes have started to turn to pretty technical prog metal/rock and death metal lately, so I of course have become quite interested in arpeggios and sweep picking. And I get how sweeping works, I just don't understand how people go about choosing chords/arpeggios to sweep for the sweep sections.

Take this Dream Theater song for example:
https://youtu.be/B2ImxfctL4M?t=2m20s

EDIT: The sweeps start at 2:20-12. It was supposed to start at that point, but it seems to not be doing so.

I know the first three arpeggios that Petrucci plays are: Minor, Diminished, Diminished. But how exactly does he get that pattern? How does he determine that those arpeggios would work well right next to each other? Is he playing the chords of a scale? If so could somebody tell me which one, and maybe give me somewhere to read a bit more on this? I have a small bit of theoretical knowledge, but looking at stuff like this stumps me.

Thanks in advance.

p.s.: Before anyone mentions it, yes I know Petrucci alternate picks these arpeggios instead of sweep picking. Although I am still in disbelief.
Last edited by Cheeseshark at May 25, 2016,
#2
First of all, when you want to share a song, give a time stamp for us. It's a long song and I'm not familiar with it or what part you might be talking about.

Anyway, a general thing is that sweep picked arpeggios are now different than any other arpeggios. They contain the notes of a particular chord. Generally sweep arpeggios are played over the same chord or over chord tones that fit well with that arpeggio. So you would play an A arpeggio over an A chord for example.

Also sometimes with arpeggios a guitar player may play a different triad to create an extended harmony. For example, a C# dim arpeggio (C#-E-G) against an A chord would imply an A7.
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#3
Quote by theogonia777
First of all, when you want to share a song, give a time stamp for us. It's a long song and I'm not familiar with it or what part you might be talking about.

Anyway, a general thing is that sweep picked arpeggios are now different than any other arpeggios. They contain the notes of a particular chord. Generally sweep arpeggios are played over the same chord or over chord tones that fit well with that arpeggio. So you would play an A arpeggio over an A chord for example.

Also sometimes with arpeggios a guitar player may play a different triad to create an extended harmony. For example, a C# dim arpeggio (C#-E-G) against an A chord would imply an A7.

I actually set the video to start playing exactly where the sweeps start, but that doesn't seem to have worked. It starts at 2:20-ish. Sorry about that.

On the note of apreggios, I get that the chord you play over dictates the arpeggio you play, but I'm confused about how you go about getting say: B minor, A# Diminished, A diminished for this song. I'm more asking about what tools one would use to construct a pattern like that.
#4
I just don't understand how people go about choosing chords/arpeggios to sweep for the sweep sections.


Similarly as how you choose the chords when you write a song. Arpeggios are just chords played one note at the time.

It really has little to do with sweep picking (or any other fancy technique) and more to do with harmony. If you want to play something similar as Petrucci, you want to come up with a cool chord progression. How did Petrucci choose exactly those chords? Well, I guess he knew the sound he was after. It's a lot about ear training. You want to hear a musical idea in your head. If you have good ears, you can hear harmonies in your head. And I'm sure that's what Petrucci did.


The arpeggio thing starts at 2:22. There's a pedal tone behind it and this basically gives Petrucci the freedom to play almost anything (because when you are playing over one note that doesn't change, almost anything will work). He came up with a cool sounding progression that he repeats over different pedal tones/in different keys.

It starts in B minor and the chords are Bm A#dim7 Adim7 Em C#7 Bm Bdim7 A#dim7 G A. Then the same chords repeat in a new key - Dm. Then a key change to C#m, again same chords.

Understanding chord functions and voice leading helps. Look at chromatic movement between chords, common chord tones, dominant-tonic relationships, that kind of stuff. The last chord also functions as the dominant of the next key (Dm). The key change to C#m is more chromatic, but if you look at the chord tones, C#m and C major both have an E and the other chord tones are a half step away from each other (C goes to C# and G goes to G#, E stays the same). That's chromatic voice leading.

It also uses a lot of diminished chords that are very flexible. That's because one diminished chord can function as the dominant of four different keys (and there are also things like common tone diminished chords). The progression certainly takes advantage of the flexibility of diminished chords. There's a chromatic movement between A#dim7 and Adim7 but the Adim7 also functions as the dominant for the next chord (so you could actually look at it as D#dim7 because it's the dominant of Em). Same thing with Bm-Bdim7-A#dim7-G. Bm and Bdim7 have a common chord tone - B (this is what we call a "common tone diminished chord"). Bdim7 moves chromatically to A#dim7. But A#dim7 also has a common chord tone with the next chord, G. And you could actually look at it as Bm-Bdim7-Gdim7-G. So you are actually going from Bm to G and adding two common tone diminished chords between them.


So how did Petrucci come up with those chords? I don't know. As I said, maybe he just heard it in his head. Or maybe he wanted something with kind of a "neoclassical" vibe and something that he can modulate to different keys easily. Maybe he wanted to experiment with chromatic stuff and diminished chords. I don't know.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at May 25, 2016,
#5
Yea, understanding things like voiceleading, common tones, chord substitution, chord functions, etc. can be very helpful for describing what's happening, a way of naming things, or as a framework as a way of thinking about things, maybe even to give you clues for different directions you could go that may spark an idea, but it can't tell you what to do. A better understanding of what's going on in other's music can help you creatively, but it still can't tell you what to do, why they did what they did, how they got the idea, etc. You'd have to ask the person that wrote it.

Learn the way the different chords and their extensions sound, some of the ways they commonly interact with other chords, and experiment with them, use your ears. My general thought process is sorta like: should the next chord go up or down? how far? major, minor, or something weird? what kind of weird? inversions? any extensions and if so which ones? is there a chord or key I'm trying to get to? Sometimes I know exactly what I want next, other times I know I want such and such major chord and then have to play around with the quality of the chord til it fits, other times I try different combinations until I hit on what I'm trying to find. Sharping and flatting notes, adding and removing notes, etc. until I find what I'm looking for.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if there is an overall chord that the rest of the band is playing you can play a different chord that overall will sound like an extension of the main chord. Like if the band is playing C major and you play a G minor then together as a whole it works out as a C9. There are tons of options, which can be overwhelming or freeing depending on your perspective.
#6
Quote by Cheeseshark
I actually set the video to start playing exactly where the sweeps start, but that doesn't seem to have worked. It starts at 2:20-ish. Sorry about that.

On the note of apreggios, I get that the chord you play over dictates the arpeggio you play, but I'm confused about how you go about getting say: B minor, A# Diminished, A diminished for this song. I'm more asking about what tools one would use to construct a pattern like that.
They's passing chords essentially. The bass is pumping away a B through all that, so the underlying chords are not changing (as far as I can tell). It's a B minor background, IOW, so that obviously determines the arp he starts with. The two dim7 arps are then "outside" chromatic descents, but connect down to what seems to be an Em arp, before another chromatic dim7 arp. (I didn't go beyond that.)

The over-riding concept is that you can choose "outside" notes - dissonances against the current harmony - provided (a) you resolve back into the chord before it changes; and (b) - if you choose a whole string of outside notes rather than just one - your outside notes create strong phrases in themselves.

I.e., you can use any note you like, in or out of key, as long as it connects notes in the current chord. The arpeggios Petrucci is using may contain a series of notes which are all (or mostly) outside the chord, but they work because they form strong logical patterns in themselves, and also because they come back "inside" before too long.
Dim7 arps are ideal for this, because they're very distinctive sounds, always outside on pretty much any chord, but symmetrical and therefore highly adaptable.
Following dim7 arps down the neck (1 fret at a time) is also a classic movement in voice-leading - downward movement connotes release of tension (or in this case, seeing as the dim7s are tense in themselves, an eventual release). To increase tension, you'd take the dim7 arps upward!

I.e., to emulate something like this (regardless of its speed, which is simply technical display), pick two positions on the fretboard where you can confidently play the arpeggio of the chord in question. Start at the top one, then create dim7 arps flowing down from there (could be any dim7s), ending up on the lower arpeggio. Check in particular how notes in the dim7 arp can slide by half-step into a note in the main chord arp.
Naturally you have to do this before the chord changes to another chord!

An alternative (easier) way to practise this kind of temporary outside sound is simply to play an arp 1 fret higher or lower than the current chord, making sure you come back in by half-step. Got a Bm chord for a few bars? Throw in a Cm arp for a beat, sliding back down a fret to the Bm. You can use pentatonics in the same way. Cm pent resolving back into a Bm pent phrase. ANY chromatic is OK, if it leads into a chord tone, but sustained groups need structure,
#7
Jongtr, that's very interesting and sounds useful (I should try it some time). Your saying that moving arpeggios down by step releases tension. You also said outside notes can become strong phrases over a chord by themselves. Did I get that right?

Also I believe JetPenguin said that the main triad of the key can override complex chord progressions.
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#8
Quote by RonaldPoe
Jongtr, that's very interesting and sounds useful (I should try it some time). Your saying that moving arpeggios down by step releases tension.
Well it depends on the chords.
There is a principle of "tonal gravity", whereby certain common chord progressions produce descending voice-leading (more then ascending). This is the case with "circle" progressions of 7th chords in which the roots move up in 4ths of down in 5ths. Although the root movement is jerky, overall it's downward: up 4 down 5 up 4 down 5 etc is typical, so it drops a whole step every pair of chords. But meanwhile, in addition, the 3rds and 7ths of the chords mostly lead down alternately to each other - either they lead down by half or whole step, or the notes stay the same. This is a very "satisfying" progression (although we can experience it as predictable or cheesy, because it's so familiar).
Eg, E7 - Em7 - A7 - D7 - Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 - Cm7 - F7 etc

The word "cadence" itself derives from the Latin for "fall", and it does seem a natural psychological response to hear descending moves as "relaxing", or at least heading for relaxation, as if following gravity.

So that's the underlying psychology, if you like - a tendency to prefer downward moves (or to hear upward ones as increasing tension). But when it comes to specific harmonies, you can obviously increase tension with a downward move if you introduce dissonance at the same time. So, in this case, the first move down from the "inside" Bm arpeggio is to a highly dissonant A#dim7 arpeggio. To release that tension, the quickest way would simply be to return to Bm (upwards)! But following the dim7 downwards (with another dim7) starts us on an appealing path... we hear more dissonance arriving, but we also hear a familiar downward series beginning.

Also, dim7s descending by half-step very much resemble dom7s moving in a circle sequence. A#dim7 followed by Adim7 is a little like F#7 followed by B7 (and the next dim7 down would resemble E7). In the dom7s, only the 3rds and 7ths descend by half-step. In the dim7s, of course, everything does!
What that means is that a whole string of descending dim7s quickly gets tedious: dramatic but not very musical. So the answer is to move into a different chord type - which Pertrucci does by moving from the Adim7 to an Em arpeggio.

Compare the following:

Bm - A#dim7 - Adim7 - Em
Bm - F#7 - B7 - Em

It's essentially the same thing.
Quote by RonaldPoe

You also said outside notes can become strong phrases over a chord by themselves. Did I get that right?
Yes. Melodic and rhythmic strength is very important. That's because our ears pick up on that sort of thing much more than they do subtle harmonic sequences. We feel rhythms and we can sing melodies. Chords are more obscure - or rather they are a series of simultaneous melodies, but very simple ones, rhythmically inactive.
Quote by RonaldPoe

Also I believe JetPenguin said that the main triad of the key can override complex chord progressions.
He may well have...

I'm not sure I'd put it quite that simple. I.e, I think it's true, but I don't think it's very fertile as an idea.

ANY kind of triad is a strong structure. The tonic triad is consonant over the IV, vi and ii chords. Dissonant on the V, iii and vii. (But its strength could still allow you to repeat it over those chords, because the dissonance would be resolved once one of the other chords turned up.)
The dominant triad is actually more interesting in this respect: consonant on all the chords! (to varying degrees, but not seriously dissonant on anything). Same applies to the iii triad.

A good rule of thumb for what causes dissonance (specifically dissonances you normally want to avoid, rather than useful tensions) is half-steps above chord tones. Half-steps below are usually OK, as are whole steps above.
It's worth going through all the chords in a key and experimenting with every note in turn, to test this rule. (When you find a half step above a chord tone, such as F above the E on an Am chord, how does it sound against the E? Does it make a difference which octave either note is in?)
Last edited by jongtr at May 26, 2016,
#9
Man, there is a lot of theory being mentioned here. A lot of the chordal stuff goes over my head. But that just means I have something to read up on over this extended weekend!

Quote by jongtr
They's passing chords essentially. The bass is pumping away a B through all that, so the underlying chords are not changing (as far as I can tell). It's a B minor background, IOW, so that obviously determines the arp he starts with. The two dim7 arps are then "outside" chromatic descents, but connect down to what seems to be an Em arp, before another chromatic dim7 arp. (I didn't go beyond that.)

The over-riding concept is that you can choose "outside" notes - dissonances against the current harmony - provided (a) you resolve back into the chord before it changes; and (b) - if you choose a whole string of outside notes rather than just one - your outside notes create strong phrases in themselves.

I.e., you can use any note you like, in or out of key, as long as it connects notes in the current chord. The arpeggios Petrucci is using may contain a series of notes which are all (or mostly) outside the chord, but they work because they form strong logical patterns in themselves, and also because they come back "inside" before too long.
Dim7 arps are ideal for this, because they're very distinctive sounds, always outside on pretty much any chord, but symmetrical and therefore highly adaptable.
Following dim7 arps down the neck (1 fret at a time) is also a classic movement in voice-leading - downward movement connotes release of tension (or in this case, seeing as the dim7s are tense in themselves, an eventual release). To increase tension, you'd take the dim7 arps upward!

I.e., to emulate something like this (regardless of its speed, which is simply technical display), pick two positions on the fretboard where you can confidently play the arpeggio of the chord in question. Start at the top one, then create dim7 arps flowing down from there (could be any dim7s), ending up on the lower arpeggio. Check in particular how notes in the dim7 arp can slide by half-step into a note in the main chord arp.
Naturally you have to do this before the chord changes to another chord!

An alternative (easier) way to practise this kind of temporary outside sound is simply to play an arp 1 fret higher or lower than the current chord, making sure you come back in by half-step. Got a Bm chord for a few bars? Throw in a Cm arp for a beat, sliding back down a fret to the Bm. You can use pentatonics in the same way. Cm pent resolving back into a Bm pent phrase. ANY chromatic is OK, if it leads into a chord tone, but sustained groups need structure,

Ah, so he's just doing some outside playing, just play whatever and stick the landing, right? Cool! At least that's something I understand. And I'll definitely make sure to experiment with that.

So is this another example of that same idea that you guys are speaking of?:

The sweeps begin at 00:16
https://youtu.be/lhGUu6NVXvk?t=16s


I know Jari here plays one D Minor arpeggio and some diminished ones, so I'm kinda assuming he's using a similar idea.
#10
Dm C#dim7 Dm C#dim7 (higher position) Dm G#dim7 A Dm (terminal)

higher notes make a nice line: F G A Bb A G# A D

substitute dominants are nice (C#dim7 is like A7b9 without the root, G#dim7 E7b9 sans root)

learn chord functions.
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lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
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you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#11
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u9KDMWJsAM

this song is basically a case study in how to adapt a simple progression to sweeps

iirc it's basically all c minor, in drop c, it's been like 4 or 5 years since i learned to play it though and i haven't played guitar/listened to metal actively in 2-3 years so take that with a grain of salt
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Last edited by Hail at May 27, 2016,
#12
Quote by Cheeseshark

Ah, so he's just doing some outside playing, just play whatever and stick the landing, right? Cool! At least that's something I understand. And I'll definitely make sure to experiment with that.

I wouldn't really call it "outside playing". The beginning of it is basic functional harmony. Bm-A#dim7-Adim7-Em could be seen as Bm-F#7-B7-Em. Pretty basic stuff in B minor. You start with the tonic, follow it by the dominant, then resolve it normally but instead of playing the minor tonic chord, you change it to a dominant of the IV (that is the dominant 7th chord built on the first scale degree). So basically it's I-V-I-IV, but the second I is actually the dominant of the IV. Nothing actual "outside" stuff here.

The only a bit more "strange" chord here is the C#7 chord. It's a non-resolving dominant chord. But if we ignore that, the next chords are Bm G and A. As I said, there are two diminished chords between the Bm and G chords, but they are both common tone diminished chords.

Or you could see the A#dim7-G as a deceptive cadence (again, A#dim7 is basically the same thing as F#7) and the Bdim7 as the "dominant" of the A#dim7. So if we use dom7 chords instead of diminished chords, it's just Bm-C#7-F#7-G - actually pretty basic stuff, and maybe that's a better explanation than common tone diminished chords.


So is this another example of that same idea that you guys are speaking of?:

The sweeps begin at 00:16
https://youtu.be/lhGUu6NVXvk?t=16s


I know Jari here plays one D Minor arpeggio and some diminished ones, so I'm kinda assuming he's using a similar idea.

As said above, learn about chord functions. This is also pretty basic stuff. Again, the C#dim7 and G#dim7 chords could be seen as A7 and E7 chords. So if we simplify the progression, it's basic I-V-I-V-I stuff in the beginning. The G#dim7 (or E7) is the dominant of A major that is the dominant of Dm. So the whole progression would be I-V-I-V-I-V/V-V-I. So you really only have two different functions in the progression - tonic and dominant. And that's what tonal harmony is based on.
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#13
I don't consider that using related dim7 chords as substutes for 7 chords is basic!

If you don't know what chords can be generated from the major and minor scales, that's your first port of call in terms of understanding what's available to you.

Youi will find that there a shared tones between different chords generated from the scale, which allows some choice between using one versus the other, to change the sound more or less subtlely. e.g. using Cmaj7 against Am(7).
#14
Quote by jerrykramskoy
I don't consider that using related dim7 chords as substutes for 7 chords is basic!

Well, I didn't really mean that when I said it's "pretty basic stuff". What I meant with "basic stuff" is that the chord progression has very basic harmonic functions in it. Only dominant and tonic. It is the basis of tonal music. So in that sense it's "basic stuff" - there's nothing really "strange" happening in the progression and the chords are used the way you would kind of expect them to be used.

Why I used dominant 7th chords instead of dim7 chords is because as I said, a single dim7 chord can function as the dominant of four different chords. Substituting them with dominant 7th chords makes it easier to demonstrate the functions of the chords in the context of the song.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115