Beginner's Guide to Sweeping

In this lesson we cover some of the most common questions people ask about sweeping.

Ultimate Guitar
Hey guys. In this tutorial I where going to be talking about the fundamentals of a good sweep arpeggio technique.

Step 1: Gliding Motion

The most common problem in sweeping will be your picking hand. A lot of people rush this "gliding" motion and almost treat it like a chord strum, or alternatively try to do a lot of consecutive down picks in a row which is impractical and sounds pretty awful. In my video I talk about gently pushing from one string till you're resting on the next. Let's say you're working on a C major arpeggio like the one we see below.
To get the first stage of the sweep we need to get from the 5th string (A) to the 1st string (E). You'd start on the 5th string and push till you're resting on the 4th and then keep going till you're at the 1st string. Do this slowly so that each string gets individual and equal attention. Once this pushing gently to the next string gets arduous you can increase the speed of pushing through the strings till you have the gliding motion happening.

Step 2: Fretting hand and arpeggio

This may seem obvious but it's important you learn your arpeggios inside and out as regularly picked arpeggios before you get the sweep involved. Another important thing when practicing them like this is to do hammer ons and pull offs on strings that have 2 notes in the arpeggio. You'll need to do this when you start sweeping at full speed.

Step 3: Hammer ons and Pull offs in sweeps

Most sweeps will have a string that has 2 notes on it. Going back to our C major arpeggio, you'll notice that on the first string we pluck 12 then hammer to 15 then pull off back to 12. You picking hand gliding motion will need to pause before you continue the sweep or your hands will be out of sync. I refer to this in the video as "wasting enough time." Once you get the hang of these pauses you can sweep up an arpeggio, wait for you hammer ons and pull offs to finish then work your way back smoothly.
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Hope this has helped guys. By Chris Zoupa

16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    As a guy that can't sweep for crap, I find anything on the topic very useful, good article!
    Probably the one technique I'm never going to use.
    Mr Winters
    I would probably over-use it if I was any good at it. I can do slow sweeps, but when I try to go faster it starts sounding like total butt.
    Teaching my son guitar. Found your video to be most useful. Keep up the good work. Cheers!
    found this useful as the only sweeps i ever seem to do are 5 string sweeps with hammer ons on the high string so i never know whether to start the descend with an up or down stroke
    This was really good, I think sweeps are an amazing way to play fast and impress your friends but it can be over done,
    Great stuff,i was kind of picking each note. Alsao good to hear an aussie accent on the site!
    I'll be honest. Right now, I'm having trouble keeping my hands in sync. My pick hand is fine, but my fret hand is tripping over itself trying to keep up. For the moment, I'm sticking to playing this at a much slower 63 bpm.
    A month later, I've nearly doubled my speed at this. It's still a learning process, but I'm getting there. I'm actually playing this on an acoustic on a different part of the neck. I figured that if I can master this on an acoustic, moving over to an electric won't be an issue at all.