Getting Fluent Sweep Picking

Here is a guide to Sweep picking!

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Ultimate Guitar
6
Sweep picking isn't for beginners in my perspective. You MUST learn an abundance of scales and different chords in those scales to get sweep picking. Sweeping is pretty much, insted of picking, your hand moves down and up the string in one solid motion, sweeping scales or single notes. Every note is sounded out seperately. Some scales you can sweep are the Eminor scale in Aeolian mode, Ionian, or Dorian. I forgot which one but it's one of them so try all? :) Or for practice, you can sweep these tabs I found on another site. Please start Very slow! d = down stroke u = up stroke
  d  d  d  u  u  u
e|--------12-14--------|
b|-----13-------13-----|
g|--14-------------12--|
d|---------------------|
a|---------------------|
e|---------------------|
Trying sweep picking with hammer-ons and pull-offs are very melodic-metal like and are used A LOT without you even knowing. Try this VERY slow.
  d     u  d  d  d        u  d  d  d        u     
e|--15p12----------12h15p12----------12h15p12-----|
b|--------13----13----------13----13----------13--|
g|-----------12----------------12-----------------|
d|------------------------------------------------|
a|------------------------------------------------|
e|------------------------------------------------|
My theory is, and probably many other guitarist's theory also, is that you must play on clean first. No distortion. IF you can master this technique on clean, and make each not sound out perfectly, you have mastered it. Here is another sweep I found on a site that you could practice also. I love this one, of its simplicity, and the fact it combines both sweeping, AND hammer-ons and pull-offs!
    d     u  u  d  d  d  d        u  u
e|--19p15----------------15h19p15--------|
b|--------17----------17----------17-----|
g|-----------16----16----------------16--|
d|--------------15-----------------------|
a|---------------------------------------|
e|---------------------------------------|

    d  d  d  d        u  u  d  d  d  d        u  u
e|-----------13h17p13----------------13h17p13--------|
b|--------15----------15----------15----------15-----|
g|-----14----------------14----14----------------14--|
d|--13----------------------13-----------------------|
a|---------------------------------------------------|
e|---------------------------------------------------|
Sweep picking is something you HAVE to practice if you're going to get it perfect. I say practice each of these three tabs 20 minutes to get the motions down, then increase the speed. Every time you run through all these, increase your tempo. Soon you will get sweep picking like a pro!

41 comments sorted by best / new / date

    theogonia777
    actually, it's probably best to practice both ways (clean and distorted) because certain types of mistakes can only be detected clean and others only distorted. good article by the way, although i would recommend explaining the theory of the arpeggios you used in the examples (at least saying what chord the arpeggio corresponds with)
    syzeh
    wrong. good article but I think it's universally known to practice with distortion, to amplify your mistakes and tighten your technique.
    mmkat
    you should always practice the stuff with the effects you mean to play with, means: practice sweeping with distortion is most likely the more reasonable option
    pigeonmafia
    theogonia777 wrote: actually, it's probably best to practice both ways (clean and distorted) because certain types of mistakes can only be detected clean and others only distorted. good article by the way, although i would recommend explaining the theory of the arpeggios you used in the examples (at least saying what chord the arpeggio corresponds with)
    This. Gain/disortion shows up any muting mistakes you make, and accuracy mistakes. Clean shows up bad syncronisation and bad consistency of attack, ie, how hard you pick. To say one should be used without the other is daft.
    AlexzGuitar08
    It's better to play clean, through an amplifier at a high volume. Or even better yet, acoustically! I was without an amp for about three months, and over that time all I had was my Les Paul, I don't have an acoustic right now. But I would still practice everyday for at LEAST an hour, most of the time I'd be there for two or three hours. But one of the things I practiced was sweep picking, and because the distortion wasn't covering up my mistakes I could find all of them, and now I can actually sweep pretty fluidly. Just working on speed and transitions now (:
    jshwak
    Oh I disagree completely SyZeh.. Using distortion to me doesn't amplify mistakes nearly as well as clean practicing does..
    Vampire_Prince
    distortion or clean.. doesn't matter, if you turn your tone down, THEN you'll mask up your mistakes
    pistols
    a decent attempt at an article, but could have been a bit more informative. technique is the key to 'fluent sweep picking,' and everything else, but technique wasn't discussed. sure, you do need to start off slow, but technique should be addressed. by the way, although i suck at sweeping, i find it more useful to practice both clean and distorted. i seem to find more errors in my technique when i practice with both tones.
    Life Is Brutal
    I learned to sweep at 4 Months in, and I knew no Chord/Scale theory at all. All I were Down, alt, and sweep picking lol... I still can't strum chords, but I know how to name chords/arpeggios, how to form them,and the general mechanics of them.
    Krieger91
    AlexzGuitar08 wrote: It's better to play clean, through an amplifier at a high volume. Or even better yet, acoustically!
    actually i leave my amp in the jam session room, so at home i only practse with my acoustic..and personally i've found that when you practise with an acoustic, the moment you get on an amplified guitar you make lots of mistakes that you don't make with an electric, simply because on an acoustic you can't hear them so you hardly take notice..and distortion just covers them, so i agree with you on the fact that the best is amplified clean..
    RMNT
    Thank you. I really don't care if you practice on clean or distortion. This is a beginners guide to sweep picking, i may have not made it clear... Butdistortion covers up your mistakes, you obviously want to hear them! When i teach my students, they all chose to play on clean so they can hear what they do wrong...
    hounddogmusic12
    just out of curiosity, has anyone really commented on the content of the lesson, or just whether to practice with or without distortion? seems to me that in the lesson says practice clean FIRST....it doesn't say overall one is better than the other..just my take
    REPTAR13
    syzeh wrote: wrong. good article but I think it's universally known to practice with distortion, to amplify your mistakes and tighten your technique.
    well that's only partly true, both are good ways to learn, i guess it depends on the person so do what you like that's what music's all about
    BallzMcGee1439
    ok.. so all i learned was that everyone here contradicted each other.. i have only been playing guitar for roughly two years and i would really like to know how to sweep.. if someone could help that would be great..
    korupt kitten
    @ life is brutal im about 7 months in and idk what the hell arpeggios are..or read music i dont know ANY chrods or keys or w/e im just too stupid to keep trying to understand it im just playing tabs over and over if anyone can recomend wth to do, please do
    wesselbindt
    You MUST learn an abundance of scales and different chords in those scales to get sweep picking.
    Wrong, it's just a technique. To learn it, you need to know nothing . To apply it however you need to know some chord shapes . It's quite handy to know some theory too, but it's not necessary.
    No distortion.
    Wrong too. It's useful to practice with distortion because it makes it easier to hear if there are any notes ringing besides the one that you're supposed to hear. You should practice using both clean and distortion.
    RMNT
    BallzMcGee1439 wrote: ok.. so all i learned was that everyone here contradicted each other.. i have only been playing guitar for roughly two years and i would really like to know how to sweep.. if someone could help that would be great..
    Dude this pretty much the base line to sweep picking..
    Trivium_Child
    Dude, everybody's lessons are the same....same examples, same everything. Not that I could do better but I what I mean is there will NEVER be a good article on sweeping in my opinion. Unless Yngwie joined UG...
    fenne50
    pigeonmafia wrote: theogonia777 wrote: actually, it's probably best to practice both ways (clean and distorted) because certain types of mistakes can only be detected clean and others only distorted. good article by the way, although i would recommend explaining the theory of the arpeggios you used in the examples (at least saying what chord the arpeggio corresponds with) This. Gain/disortion shows up any muting mistakes you make, and accuracy mistakes. Clean shows up bad syncronisation and bad consistency of attack, ie, how hard you pick. To say one should be used without the other is daft.
    thank you pigeonmafia that is all that needs to be said about it lol
    canvasDude
    "Some scales you can sweep are the Eminor scale in Aeolian mode, Ionian, or Dorian." E minor can't be in Ionian or Dorian, because they do not contain the same notes. Also, despite the fact that the E minor scale contains the same notes as E Aeolian, they are not the same thing. Modes are not scales! This article is full of fail. There was absolutely to reason to try and bring modes into it, especially when you obviously are misinformed about them or simply do not understand them. Finally, this article was ludicrously short and lacked any useful information pertaining to sweep picking (other than the concept of practicing on cleans, which is already known by 90% of guitarists).
    gp5395
    if you use a mild overdrive, you can get the best of both worlds and learn it twice as fast. this article was an utter ballsack of info. the only good thing i got out of this was the last practice tab. everything else was complete shit.
    liquidbassial
    anyone who can sweep should know that using distortion is the best way to practise sweep picking. it amplifys the ringing out of the strings etc
    TORCHERROR
    oh firebird, i totally forgot, NO DELAYS AND REVERBS/EFFECTS!!! thanks for mentioning it...
    firebird103
    facepalm... Aeolian wolf is correct, i meant to say uppick the g and down pick top notes. The picking seems to be right after me napping, its just the letters are WAY off of where they should be and he doen't talk about the small skip you make on 3 string sweeps which confused me but you still need distortion on sweeps
    RMNT
    Thanks for the good feedback. But to me, distortion covers up mistakes, you wanna hear your mistakes so you can go back and practice them. But this is MY theory, it doe'snt have to be yours
    iFire
    "IF you can master this technique on clean, and make each not sound out perfectly, you have mastered it." ~ not should be note for those slow to understand. Good Luck!
    iFire
    Oh and, I love the lesson. I'll def use it when I'm on my guitar. It's simple, concise, and most importantly, well written. Good job.
    iFire
    I think theogonia is the most sound atm, though all of are correct. It's only logical that if you play through both, you'll find your mistakes, some that you didn't hear on one, but is apparent in the other one. Hah. Using our heads, pro!
    hildesaw
    actually, it's probably best to practice both ways (clean and distorted) because certain types of mistakes can only be detected clean and others only distorted.
    Exactly. For the longest time I had practiced my sweeps only distorted, and they sounded great, but one day i decided to try them clean, and the end result was crap. Gain/Distortion covered up how unsynchronized my two hands were.
    Machado
    sweeping should be practiced both clean and with effects,clean for accuracy and distortion or what ever effect floats your boat so that you can get use to it so one doesnt fuch up live, plus if your not use to doing it with distortion you usually end up making alot of fret noise
    Skuzzmo
    syzeh wrote: wrong. good article but I think it's universally known to practice with distortion, to amplify your mistakes and tighten your technique.
    errr.... ball cocks! Distortion covers up mistakes, plain and simple.
    burn_the_lamb_
    you dont have to be able to read music, chords, modes, ect. i can sweep and ive been playin for 6 years. dont discourage the illiterate guitarist haha. all it is is a pattern. sync your hands and rip it up fools
    AeolianWolf
    LOL, firebird. you might want to get your picking directions straight. if you downpick the G, you're in prime position to hit the B string. if you pick up, you're going to the D string. just be sure to get that before you write your lesson.
    TORCHERROR
    Skuzzmo wrote: syzeh wrote: wrong. good article but I think it's universally known to practice with distortion, to amplify your mistakes and tighten your technique. errr.... ball cocks! Distortion covers up mistakes, plain and simple.
    HAhahahaha oh the young are so foolish..... to start, ill just post my work so people know that this comment is LEGIT www.myspace.com/torcherror So practicing sweeps with disto is KEY. there, i said it. The reason being is that while on clean, if you have two notes ringing out instead of playing by themselves, YOU CANNOT HEAR IT, i dont care what you *think*. Having your dirty channel ramped up will be ideal. Now it is possible (if you suck at sweeping, and have a terrible ear) to THINK that on a clean channel you can hear it more, and this is because your AMP's distortion channel probably sucks, or you cannot play at EVEN TIMES on EACH NOTE. you may be able to see if you're playing UNEVENLY on clean, but to any skilled guitarist with a decent amp behind them, you will be able to see this, AS WELL AS MAKING SURE NOTES DO NOT RING OUT on Disto again, if you think i dont know what im talking about, check out torcherror and then tell me otherwise -MesaDualRec Road King
    Seref
    I never knew why people advocated playing with the distortion cranked to practice accurate note hitting. On a clean amp I hear when my note is mute or buzzing. When I crank up the gain buzzing/half muted notes sound pretty much like normal notes.
    firebird103
    To: TORCHERROR Exactly sir! thank you for preventing me from saying this by myself. BTW the guy who wrote this article didn't do a very good job. I don't like to be negative but this isn't the best way to sweep. You must practice it as distorted as reasonably possible with no effects (IMO on the effects). If you put a bunch of reverb/delay etc. over your sweeps you won't be able to hear your mistakes. The most commonly missed "trick" to sweeping is learning how to properly mute the strings not in use so only the string being played rings out. Playing on a clean channel can be ideal for alternate picking exercises and such, but anything involving extensive muting technique (sweeping, two hand tapping over multiple strings, advanced string skipping licks) should be played with lots of distortion and of course a metronome,a guitar pro file slowed down, etc... Also, don't follow this articles picking suggestions... there simply wrong... almost completely wrong... example: WRONG! d u d d d u d d d u e|--15p12-----12h15p12-----12h15p12-----| b|-----13----13 -----13----13-----13--| g|-----12-----12-----| d|-----| a |-----| e|-----| Correct (x's mean no picking due to hammer on pull of) d x d u u u x d d u u u x d d e|--15p12-----12h15p12-----12h15p12-----| b|-----13----1 3-----13----13-----13--| g|-----12-----12-----| d|-----| a|-----| e|-----| The reason why you actually up stroke the g sting notes is to prevent "bleeding" and help with pick positions Think about it. If you do a down stroke on the low G you pick will be headed right towards the d string and you are completely out of position to go back up to the B string and will either be forced to repick the the g string going up or do a string skip while changing directions. if you up pick the g by doing a smaller string skip you will be in much better position to sweep up. This is one way of cleaning up your sweeps that many don't think about. I think I'm going to write an article thats correct on sweeping since i've seen so many players who have been misguided on sweeping and its kind of sad to me. I'll try and do it after my college finals end next week. I really don't mean to insult the author but this article doesn't give a good demonstration of proper technique. If the tabs are a bit off due to comment block, sorry but i put x's in to try and help in case.
    firebird103
    ^ yeah there off... sorry just look at the tab on the article and picking i posted, I'll try and make that article
    vIsIbleNoIsE
    you idiots, practice on clean and distorted. practice distorted because that's what you'll be using in your music (unless that's not true). practice clean because distortion compresses your sound and cuts the dynamics, making it harder to hear how shitty your technique is.
    rowan1234
    i would say always practice with both clean and distortion, clean firstly though. To practice with distortion solely would be to the detriment of your playing, no matter how counter intuitive this may feel. As people have said, it hides a multitude of guitar sins!