Easy Sweep Picking Techniques

This lesson focuses on simple "Sweeping" patterns, that once mastered will open up a world of new musical possibilities.

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Exercise 1: Standard Tuning for all exercises. Strings from bottom to high in this order, E A D G B E for all exercises.
|------------15-------|
|---------14----------|
|------13-------------|
|---12----------------|
|---------------------|
|---------------------|
In a "down stroke pattern", play each one of those notes INDIVIDUALLY. That is the art of sweep picking. You aren't playing it as a chord. The strings shouldn't ring out. Play it slow first, just hitting one note at a time, muting each one as you get to the next. For the second part of that exercise, reverse the order, and start on the 15th note descending to 12. With this you will use an upstroke. Down stroke for the first, upstroke the next. Do you see the pattern? It's obvious why it was called sweep picking because when you Sweep a floor, you sweep from one direction, then back to another. Ask your mom she will give you a demonstration if you are unsure. This pattern is used for all Sweeping material, otherwise it wouldn't be a sweep. Down, Up, Down, Up, Down, Up. Practice this simple exercise until you can descend and ascend with ease. Exercise 2 Now once you have mastered the first exercise, you realize what you must do in order to become a successful "sweeper." In this exercise, we will use a more musical pattern. Most artists who "Sweep" live by this pattern and use it very often. Of course they throw in variations such as playing it in a different key and in different positions on the fretboard. But this simple exercise, once mastered, will have you owning all of your friends in a guitar battle.
|-------12--15--12--------| From notes 12 to 15 high E, a simple hammer between notes
|----13------------13-----| will make it sound all the better. Picking it is fine too.
|-12------------------12--|
|-------------------------|
|-------------------------|
|-------------------------|
Just like the first exercise use downstrokes for the ascending notes and upstrokes for the descending. This is a very easy exercise once you have mastered it. On the high E with the notes as follows, "12---15---12", You will use the hammer on to get a nice effect on the sound. Exercise 3 This is the ultimate sweep exercise to build your chops. It will incorporate the exercise from lesson 2, and an all new exercise using 5 strings. A, D, G, B and the E.
|----------------------12--15--12---------------------|
|------------------13-------------13------------------|
|--------------12--------------------12---------------|
|----------14---------------------------14------------|
|-12---15-----------------------------------15---12---|
|-----------------------------------------------------|
This is a 4- part process. First thing is on the A string. For the "12---15" notes, I recommend a hammer on because it gives it a smoother sound, but pick away. As soon as you hit the 15th note, start with the downstroke ascending until you hit the 12th fret on the high E. Once you have reached that point, you will hammer on from the 12 and 15 back to 12, descending back now with an upstroke. Formula = hammer on, downstroke, hammer on while going back to original note, and coming back up with an upstroke to complete the sweep. Hope you enjoyed this lesson as much as I did, this is my first ever on UG. Honestly, I think it will help you out a ton, because when I first learned, there weren't lessons like this that just got straight to the point. These 3 exercises, once mastered, will have you stepping your guitar game on so many levels. Play with a metronome at a slow BPM rate, then gradually increase. Cheers guys! Thanks for using my lesson, I hope you learn something from it. ProgJazzMath (c) 2010

30 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    guitarsftw
    It would be nice to see a sweep picking lesson that isn't the same as every other sweep picking lesson. This lesson is also way too abbreviated.
    ProgJazzMath
    malmsteensolo wrote: Most sweeps are really limited because if it's a c minor sweep arpeggio, then it has the same shape as an e minor sweep. Same thing for c dim sweep, same shape as e dim sweep. Its up to you to improvise to add in legato, bending, vibrato, and tapping where you feel makes it sound good.
    Thank you for the wise words, that is very true. Considering this a beginner's lesson I didn't go into heavy detail on that, just wanted to get noobies up and going!
    ProgJazzMath
    They don't call it an "EASY" lesson for no reason. If you would like me to upload a more intricate lesson, then I will. But for now, I'm doing something for those just learning. This lesson would have benefited me greatly when I started out. I covered some basic things, and personally I like getting straight to the point. I don't know anything about music theory so I didn't go to in to detail because making my self look like a dumbass is not something I am willing to do. Thanks.
    malmsteensolo
    I think the first exercise was more of a chromatic sweep exercise that Steve vai and John petrucci use a lot. That was more of a way to warm up your fingers before going into the actual "sweeping".
    Weaponxclaws
    The first example you provided is disgusting. I think maybe you have it backwards (starting with the 12th fret on the e, 13th on the B, 14th on the G, 15th on the D. This gives you an F min7 arpeggio.) The one you wrote has two tritones in it...
    ProgJazzMath
    Weaponxclaws wrote: The first example you provided is disgusting. I think maybe you have it backwards (starting with the 12th fret on the e, 13th on the B, 14th on the G, 15th on the D. This gives you an F min7 arpeggio.) The one you wrote has two tritones in it...
    Just an exercise, not for any musical purposes. It is just to get a groove for how sweeping will be like. Once you you can handle sweeping that back and forth you would be ready for the next exercise. It is just a warm up.
    ProgJazzMath
    TsarBomba wrote: No offense to the the guy who wrote this, but sweep lessons are over saturated, with no one saying anything truly original at this point. Once you have the classic arpeggio shapes down and their inversions, you're far better off practice scales with economy picking, ala Frank Gambale, or going through inversions within a single sweep, like Marty Friedman or Ralph Santolla. I mean, I know this is just a beginner lesson, and it's definitely informative. But nothing I haven't read before from countless John Petrucci or MAB lessons.
    For me to throw economy picking into a beginner lesson is too much. I understand what you are saying, but if you want something different that no other lesson has, stay tuned for my next lesson. Send me a friend invite and when I have a new lesson up, I will let you know.
    SilverSpurs616
    In your next lesson, could you give some advice on finger-rolling? I think a lot of those new to sweeping struggle with that
    jazar94
    wat if i strum up and down really fast, so id only be hitting 1 string a stroke but im still playing just as fast? the only problem i hav with it is muting strings.. idk tho, i just realized my hands r fast enough to do it now and i thot it was the right way until i read this
    Witz32
    Nice lesson. Very clear and simple which is very helpful for me given all the "noise" on the internet. This lesson has really helped me.
    BillyRamone
    Perfect, thanks! I love to strum chords, but even complex stuff gets old after awhile. Great lesson, thanks for posting.
    jolly_26
    Cheers for making a lesson that I can read in a couple of minutes that doesn't screw around and just gets to the point. Finally!
    Dumpster510
    malmsteensolo : Most sweeps are really limited because if it's a c minor sweep arpeggio, then it has the same shape as an e minor sweep. Same thing for c dim sweep, same shape as e dim sweep. Its up to you to improvise to add in legato, bending, vibrato, and tapping where you feel makes it sound good. Ah yes, I love to take those normal sweep shapes and mess around with them. There are literally zillions of things you could do. Just for example, starting with a major arpeggio for your first three notes, C E G for example, then instead of just doing the usual thing you'd do with the arp-play those notes again in the next octave, you switch it to a minor arp (C Eb G), and then back to major on the way down. Or you could do minor first and major second. It's almost like playing a trick on your ear. I also like to add in the 2nd into those standard major and minor shapes. For example: -----12-14-17-14----- -----15-----15----- ---- -14-----14----- ----15-----15----- -17-----17----- ----- As you can see (or hear), it starts with a d min arp and then changes to a d maj arp with an extra major 2nd. Of course, you could start with a d maj and just flat the F# to make the second part minor. Though it sounds weird if you play it, you'll notice it doesn't sound wrong-just strange to your ear.
    MarcinM
    Thanks for this lesson. I haven't practised sweep picking much but now I decided to try something new. As for the muting, I also noticed that the strings fretted on the 12th fret don't stop ringing completely after lifting off the finger. I usually use the edge of my picking hand thumb. I also mute the other strings with the palm (lower strings) and with the fingers of my fretting hand (higher strings). The skill of muting the strings we don't want to sound seems to be very underrated. I am looking forward to your next lesson.
    malmsteensolo
    ProgJazzMath wrote: malmsteensolo wrote: Most sweeps are really limited because if it's a c minor sweep arpeggio, then it has the same shape as an e minor sweep. Same thing for c dim sweep, same shape as e dim sweep. Its up to you to improvise to add in legato, bending, vibrato, and tapping where you feel makes it sound good. Thank you for the wise words, that is very true. Considering this a beginner's lesson I didn't go into heavy detail on that, just wanted to get noobies up and going!
    No problem, considering I got the advise from a Jeff loomis clip on YouTube. After who here hasn't had trouble with sweeping. But right now I'm working on playing diminished sweeps. If you could post some diminished sweeps as your next lesson I know that would help out everyone a lot.
    ProgJazzMath
    malmsteensolo wrote: ProgJazzMath wrote: malmsteensolo wrote: Most sweeps are really limited because if it's a c minor sweep arpeggio, then it has the same shape as an e minor sweep. Same thing for c dim sweep, same shape as e dim sweep. Its up to you to improvise to add in legato, bending, vibrato, and tapping where you feel makes it sound good. Thank you for the wise words, that is very true. Considering this a beginner's lesson I didn't go into heavy detail on that, just wanted to get noobies up and going! No problem, considering I got the advise from a Jeff loomis clip on YouTube. After who here hasn't had trouble with sweeping. But right now I'm working on playing diminished sweeps. If you could post some diminished sweeps as your next lesson I know that would help out everyone a lot.
    I will definitely look into it.
    ProgJazzMath
    DaveSustaine wrote: Im just learning to sweep and i found this lesson really helpful, is there any chance of you doing a follow-up lesson where you go into more detail??
    I figured it would be helpful. Yes I will be doing a follow-up, I am not entirely sure when because of school being priority right now, send me an invite as a friend, and I will keep you updated.
    DaveSustaine
    Im just learning to sweep and i found this lesson really helpful, is there any chance of you doing a follow-up lesson where you go into more detail??
    malmsteensolo
    Most sweeps are really limited because if it's a c minor sweep arpeggio, then it has the same shape as an e minor sweep. Same thing for c dim sweep, same shape as e dim sweep. Its up to you to improvise to add in legato, bending, vibrato, and tapping where you feel makes it sound good.
    SilverSpurs616
    I have a question! (the lesson was good by the way enjoyed it) I have decent sweeping techique except when involving the 12th fret. I can't seem to prevent the note ringing out whenever i use a pattern in that position. Any tips? Is it just a case of practising the articulation extra carefully?
    ProgJazzMath
    SilverSpurs616 wrote: I have a question! (the lesson was good by the way enjoyed it) I have decent sweeping techique except when involving the 12th fret. I can't seem to prevent the note ringing out whenever i use a pattern in that position. Any tips? Is it just a case of practising the articulation extra carefully?
    I think I know what you are talking about, you just have to learn to mute that string with the palm of your hand. I had trouble with that as well, just practice it a little slower than how you would while making sure to mute that string with your palm and you will easily fix the problem. Hope that helps!
    RockRolla
    Good lesson thanx,I am just starting to explore sweep picking and this should help.Sweep picking=one more tool in the tool box right?
    ProgJazzMath
    londoncalling! wrote: Hey man, I dig the lesson and it covers the basics which would have been sweet to have as a reference when I was learning to sweep. If you got the time, it would be cool to see an intermediate lesson.
    Yes I will be placing a new lesson on here, it will be a while but it will cover a lot of ground. I will be writing very intricate sweeps that hopefully will be a challenge to some users. That's what everyone seems to want. Also, Thanks for liking this lesson bro, I appreciate. Friend me and I will keep you updated on new lessons.
    londoncalling!
    Hey man, I dig the lesson and it covers the basics which would have been sweet to have as a reference when I was learning to sweep. If you got the time, it would be cool to see an intermediate lesson.
    SilverSpurs616
    ProgJazzMath wrote: SilverSpurs616 wrote: I have a question! (the lesson was good by the way enjoyed it) I have decent sweeping techique except when involving the 12th fret. I can't seem to prevent the note ringing out whenever i use a pattern in that position. Any tips? Is it just a case of practising the articulation extra carefully? I think I know what you are talking about, you just have to learn to mute that string with the palm of your hand. I had trouble with that as well, just practice it a little slower than how you would while making sure to mute that string with your palm and you will easily fix the problem. Hope that helps!
    Palm of my right hand? I'm quite used to muting lower strings when playing on higher ones with the palm so I'm try and extend that to sweeping. Thanks!
    TsarBomba
    No offense to the the guy who wrote this, but sweep lessons are over saturated, with no one saying anything truly original at this point. Once you have the classic arpeggio shapes down and their inversions, you're far better off practice scales with economy picking, ala Frank Gambale, or going through inversions within a single sweep, like Marty Friedman or Ralph Santolla. I mean, I know this is just a beginner lesson, and it's definitely informative. But nothing I haven't read before from countless John Petrucci or MAB lessons.