Learn To Sweep. Technique

This is not one of the three parts of my sweeping lesson, but covers what sweeping is, and how exactly you do it. Sorry, no exercises.

Ultimate Guitar

What is Sweeping?

Well, basically boys and girls, sweeping is the notes of an arpeggio played separately. Among other things, it is one way that a seasoned guitar player can get from one note to another very quickly, without leaving a gap. You'll find there are many different ways to sweep, but every way you do it, the concepts behind them are very much the same.

Sweeping: a Very Brief History

Sweeping is one of many techniques developed on the grand old electric guitar. Many guitarists you know, use this technique quite frequently, and utilize the unique patterns to the key they are playing. Examples of guitarists: Yngwie Malmsteen, Jason Becker, Brandon Smalls, Chris Brodericks, Marty Friedman, Buckethead, Jeff Loomis, and many others.

How to Sweep

Sweeping is done by playing the notes of an arpeggio, one by one, with a rolling hand/finger motion. This being done you use your picking hand to move WITH your playing hand to pluck every note individually in one direction.

Focusing on your Playing Hand

Because the motion of playing the notes whilst picking them in sync with each-other, is difficult, we will separate the two. Your playing hand is very important (as is your picking hand) because it must play quickly and accurately. After your playing hand is finished playing the note, you must quickly remove it from the string. This will stop from creating a chord.

Focusing on your Picking Hand

Your picking hand is the most important in relation to sweeping. It is best to learn the notes for your playing hand, so that you can focus solely on your picking hand. Your picking hand has to move in perfect synchronization with your playing hand, lest it not play all the notes, making it sound unclean. The easiest way to learn is by using a metronome (I'm told, I personally never used one) and practicing often. Your picking hand must go in one direction, playing every note until you get to a string that has more than one note. Here you play the first note in the direction you were picking, you then go the opposite direction hitting the second note, pulling-off to the first note, and continuing on through your sweep. Along with releasing the fingers of the playing hand, you must also use the palm of your picking hand in a gentle motion along with the picking pattern muting the notes you've already played, this wil prevent the lower notes from sounding out over the higher notes. The higher notes, especially the highest, are the most important notes in the sweep, so must have a lot of emphasis placed on them.

Beneficial Tips for Sweeping

-Make sure that if your playing hand has a finger that has to hold down more than one note, keep it STRAIGHT! This will prevent you from missing those notes, making it sound more clean. -Keep the pick angled away from the strings, opposite the direction your picking in.

Ways to Practice Effectively

Sweeping is a very advanced guitar technique, so many people just give up. You clearly don't want to be that person, so here are some practicing tips to keep you going. -I said it earlier, and though I never used one, it is very beneficial. Use a Metronome! Metronomes will keep you on time, start at 50 BPM and work your way up. The biggest problem people have with sweeping is synchronization. Using a metronome will make practicing much more effective. -Warm-up before going into sweeps. If you haven't played guitar all day, you'll probably find that your grip is weak. If you begin practice with sweeps, then you'll just be wasting your time, and will probably start doubting your abilities. The number one reason people give up sweeping is because they doubted they could ever really learn it. -Build your finger strength. Whether you do it by constantly fast finger motion, or by speed trainers (grip bar things, not sure what they're called, never used them) they will be very useful, and you will have more stamina to practice. -Maximize the distance you fingers can stretch while playing effectively. By playing notes very far apart (hammer-ons, pull-offs), and building your finger strength, you will be able to sweep much easier. -Dedicate at least 10 minutes to sweeping. I know it's hard to find time in your busy lives to practice, because I barely have any time at all to myself. I don't practice very often, but when I do, I sweep it out, and I only practice for about a half-hour every other day.


The only thing that gets in the way of actually doing it, is You! If you find after practicing slowly, that you just can't do it, chances are A) you didn't practice long enough to remember the sweep, or B) you're thinking about it TOO MUCH! Believe it or not, the brain memorizes patterns subconsciously. If you think too much about what you're doing, then your brain can't concentrate on the task ahead. If you just, do it, your brain will most likely remember the pattern, and relay the message to the fingers. Remember, your fingers move faster than you can think about them moving aster. Thanks for reading my lesson, there are still exercises to come out, so be patient, and above all, have fun. If you have any questions, or you want more exercises PM me and I'll see what I can do. If you have any tab requests (particularly for Bb tuning to D tuning) just PM me. My E-mail E-mail

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Er.. when you roll off, how do you avoid 'plucking' (sorta like a pull off...)? When I go slow it's fine, but as I speed up I start to pluck it..
    Life Is Brutal
    Invokke You pull more perpendicularly off than at an angle. Pull straight off from the string, don't accidently twang it.
    Haha, thats what I thought it just seemed so slow. (I guess practice will fix that) The term rolling to me.. implied a 'roll' thanks Brutal
    start slow russian,starting slow is a huge factor of getting past the 1st step of sweep picking.