Another Sweep Picking Lesson

Fed up with getting lessons on various sweep picking exercises but not being certain about how to pull them off? This lesson will get you started with the technique.

Ultimate Guitar
Hi people, today, I will be focussing on the ways to make sweep picking a little easier so that you can practise exercises from other lessons on the internet accurately. By a little easier,' I mean that I will show you how to do it properly first through slow steps that a lot of people (including myself at one point) forget about sweep picking. Right, here we go. Sweep picking is a picking technique which involves raking (or sweeping) the pick in a downwards or upwards for more than one string. However, it is NOT STRUMMING. Once you pick one string you do what is called a rest note, where the pick rests on the next string afterwards. During the rest note, you need to do two things with the left hand fingers, 1) Lift the finger that was on the previous string off. Otherwise with a lot of gain and distortion, the notes will all bleed in together. It's like mixing your colours with the whites to get pink clothes. 2) Place your finger on the next string ready for the pick to move once more. Repeat all these steps until you run out of strings. So if you put this knowledge into an exercise like this
E            9 h 12 
B      10
G  9
(Down pick all these notes) You should get some impressive results. All the notes last a semiquaver long (quarter of a beat) so they can be pretty fast once you get up to 120 beats per minute. Therefore, if you're new to this, I recommend you start off slowly at a pace which is comfortable for you, and then start working on speed later. This is so that you can see the rest strokes and how they work. The problem most people have with sweep picking is that they pick out of time with the left hand fingers, causing a hell load of crap noise. OK, we've looked at sweep picking from low strings to high strings by using a downward motion. Now supposing we want to go back to the note we started with using an upward motion. Like so,
E   12 p 9
B              10
G                   9
(all the notes are up picked and last a semiquaver each) Before you pick the first string, you need to buckle the forefinger of the right hand (assuming you hold the pick with your index finger and thumb) by pressing it into the pick. Thus, the pick turns to a 45 degree angle. Now, pick the first string and apply the same technique from the second paragraph to pick the rest of the notes. Let's combine the two exercises together into a sweep picking pattern. The D represents down stroke and the U represents an upstroke. The short lines after tell you to repeat.
E         9 h 12 12 p 9
B    10                       10
G 9                                 9
D D -   -          U        -   -
To start the sequence again after playing this, I suggest that you pick the 10 fret on the second string and skip the upstroke back to the third string, so that you down pick the third string back towards the second string. To do so just release the pressure from your index finger so that the pick is now 45 degrees from the string in the opposite direction. I know it requires more movement from the wrist to down pick and up pick the notes in this way, but it's easier to do this than hold the pick 90 degrees from the string as you have to pick harder to get the pick to slide over the string. Remember to keep your wrist motion quite loose as well because any tension can slow it down. Here's some more exercises to practise this technique
G  7 10            7 10          7 10         7 10 
D  D  -  7  10   etc.    7 10          7 10        7 10
A          U   -
                    (each note is a semiquaver long)
E 12          15p12
B   13      13     15
G     12  12         15
D       14             14
A                        15 
(this is a triplet rhythym '123 123 123 123') Want more practise listen to. Ywangwie Malmsteen Marty Friedman and Jason Becker in Cacophony Alexi Laiho from Children of Bodom Trivium or Avenged Sevenfold are also disciplined disciples of the art of sweep picking. As I said, the amount of sweep picking exercises on this website is enormous, I'm sure they should give you something to practise. Despite the lack of real exercises, this lesson will hopefully help you develop your own style, especially in the heavy metal genre. Remember that this lesson will help if you take everything slowly and practise without distortion until you can play these exercises accurately. Peace.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Hm... this would be a bit easier to read if you included hyphens in the tab.
    The first half of the last exercise didnt make sence to me. You cant sweep on the same string you sweep across the strings. Also some of the text was a little hard to read. Good beginner lesson tho