Shred Guitar Lesson 08. Sweep Picking

In this lesson I will teach the very basic major, minor, and diminished patterns in sweep picking. I will explain the technique and give many examples. There will be more creative sweep patterns in my lesson: "Creative Shred Ideas 02. Arpeggios".

Ultimate Guitar
Hey guys. In this lesson I will teach you all the basic major and minor sweeping patterns. I will also teach you a basic diminished pattern. I will not show any scales in this lesson for the fear of it being much too long of a lesson, even without the scale. Sweep picking is a very difficult technique to learn. I remember when I was first learning I had bleeding fingers because I practiced it so much. It is very difficult, but it is the funnest technique, in my opinion. Explaining the technique is very hard, but I shall try to put my descriptive powers to good use. Sweep picking is where you pick across multiple strings in one up or down motion. Personally, I believe that sweeping is across 3 or more strings because "sweeping" across 2 strings is economy picking. Sorry, but that's the way I think. Whenever you perform a sweep you must mute the strings you are not playing, because this technique can be quite noisy. Many people will tell you that when you sweep you should also mute the string you're playing, but this is incorrect. It will ruin the sound of the arpeggio, so DON'T MUTE THE STRING YOU'RE PLAYING. Also try to make the motion very fluid and don't stop in between playing the string. It is easier to see within an example. I will show you the major arpeggios first. They will be 3 string sweeps and will be in the key of G major, which, if you remember, is relative to E minor. Take this example really slowly. I will show you the pick stroke to make it easy to understand. U=Up Stroke D=Down Stroke Ex. 1
   D  D  D  U     U U   
In that example, I recommend that you use your second finger on the 12th frets in the sweeping pattern. You have now just realized that doing that pattern was difficult so here's a trick. On the 12th fret in the above example you will have to use a technique called "barring". You use your second finger on both the G-string and B-string. When you go to play the B-string you need to kind-of callapse your second finger so that you are playing the B-string while MUTING the G-string with your second finger. It will take some getting used to, but it is an essential way to economically play these sweeping patterns. Here is a simple example that will get you into the habit of barring. Ex. 2
   D  D  D  U  U  U  
In that example, you will be barring over 3 strings. You must take it really slowly and in the above example you should practice the barre with fingers 1, 2, and 3 to really help your barring for later. Ok. Now back to the patterns. Actually, I lied. We're going to get into a little theory first. Major and minor chords are made up of 3 different notes and so are our sweeping arpeggio because an arpeggio is just the notes in a chord played at different times. In the key G major the 3 notes in the chord are G, B, and D. If we start our arpeggio on the first note, like we did in Ex. 1, we get a G major arpeggio in 1st position. If start on the second note we get a G major arpeggio in 2nd position. In our next couple of examples I will show you the other 2 arpeggio positions respectfully. Here is the second pattern: Ex. 3
   D  D  D  U     U  U  
That one also involves a barre. Use your first finger to barre. Now here is the third patter which starts on the note D: Ex. 4
   D  D  D  U     U  U  
Those are all the 3 string G major arpeggios. There are also arpeggios that use 4, 5, and 6 strings. I will explain about 4 and 5 string sweeps, but I hate 6 string sweeps, so I will not explain them. Sorry. I will show you the sweeping patterns in one tab arranged by the amount of strings used. I will start with 4 string G major sweeps. The 4 string sweeps are my favorite, but when I first learned them they were really different than 3 string ones, which, in return, made them difficult to perform. Here are the three 4 string G major sweeps in order from 1st to 3rd: Ex. 5
   D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U   D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  

   D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  
Remember to play these very slowly. In the first pattern remember to use your second finger and use the barre technique. In the 5 string sweeps there are going to be a hammer-on in the beginning of the sweep. You don't have to play it, but I like the hammer-on. Here are the 5 string sweeps: Ex. 6
   D     D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  U     

   D     D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  U     

   D     D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  U     
Those are all the 5 string sweeps in G major. Now we will look at minor sweeps. I'm just going to list them like I did in the examples above starting with 3 string up to 5 string sweeps. We're going to be in the key of E minor. The notes in E minor are E, G, and B. Here are the 3 string sweeps: Ex. 7
  D D D  U   U U  D  D  D  D     U  U  D  D  D  D     U  U    
Now, here are the 4 string sweeps: Ex. 8
  D D D D  D   U U U  D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  
Finally, here are the 5 string sweeps with a hammer-on in the beginning of the sweep. Ex. 9
  D    D D D D  D   U U U  U     D     D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  U     

   D     D  D  D  D  U     U  U  U  U     
There are all the minor sweeps in E minor. Now we will look to expand our sweeping knowledge to include a tap. I will show a minor one and a major example. At the top of the sweep you hammer-on the notes, then simply tap and pull-off as usual. Here is a G major example with the E minor right next to it: Ex. 10
   D  D  D              U  U  D D D            U U  
There you go. Now all you have to is apply the tap-sweep to any position you want and use as many strings as you want. It's a really fun thing to do. Try making your own tap-sweeps. Now we will move on to the diminished sweep shape. It is a really simple shape. To move it up the positions all you have to do is shift the entire shape up 3 frets! It has a really cool sound to it. I will use a 4 string example starting on E and I will add a position above it, so you know how to move the shape up. Here is the sweep: Ex. 11
   D  D     D  D  U     U  U     U   D  D     D  D  U     U  U     U  
Notice that the hammer-on is in the middle of the sweep. This can make sweeping it more difficult, but it will come with practice. I'vve only scratched the surface with the sweep technique, so go out and learn more. I will have some of my favorite, odd-sounding sweeps in my lesson "Creative Shred Ideas 02. Arpeggios". I have no idea when my next lesson will be up as I am very busy. Remember to start out painfully slow when sweeping, then build up speed. Just keep practicing. Until the next lesson, see ya. :) Oh ya! I have uploaded one of my original songs. It is a sample, but I think it's pretty cool. Don't forget to check it out and rate. See ya. ;)

55 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Another awsome lesson, good job man. Also a good chance to show this video, there is a lot of good sweeping in this solo about 1 minute into it:
    That is indeed quite tasteful sweeping around the one minute mark. A lot of better than just sweeping arpeggios up and down continuously (like at 1:55...)
    This is good since I don't think you should learn a new technique by first mastering the theory. Instead, I want to learn the theory after my fingers can do the hard work. It's really frustrating for me to learn theory to some stuff I don't know how to do. Thank you very much for showing me clear examples of what to do instead of just teaching theory!
    Wow that dream theater solo is cheesy as hell
    My Last Words
    **** you because JP that's why In all seriousness, I truly believe that one will only be able to fully comprehend the mechanics of sweeping by watching a video or something.
    why is the world so obsessed with sweep picking? i mean don't get me wrong i love it to bits and sweeping is really fun and i did spend a lot of time learning it, but it seems since bands like Escape The Fate started electronically speeding up there sweeps like This War Is Ours everyone seems to be obsessed sweeping, there are many techniques that are just as interesting and challenging like Eight finger tapping for instance
    I think it's because it's more commonly used, especially in melodic shred which is gaining popularity, 8 finger tapping is more of a strictly shred technique not quite as melodic, with a few exceptions.
    i've never heard of escape the fate,sounds kind of made up.. i'm not obsessed with sweep picking per se, but seeing that the only sweeping I'm capable of involves a broom stick and dustpan, I stand in awe whenever I see/hear it incorporated in a solo- even though i can't do 8 finger tapping either, that still some how seems more possible to learn.. it looks like playing the piano with your guitar, only the piano keys vary in size
    I've been playing guitar for 10 years now and I still can't for the life of me sweep. I can sort of go down but not back up.
    It's all about getting used to the technique and playing cleanly, practice it the same way you'd practice anything else.
    These shapes are hard to play to a beat. You've grouped them into 7s, 9s, 11s and 13s which is very difficult to do to a beat. You really should mention something about how to practice them to a beat to keep them tight and not sounding like mush.
    Can't you assign your own rhythms to them? Just get out your metronome and make sure you're not totally off-base. /shrug
    All you have to do is find a song that you like that has sweep picking in it and sync with the song or get a backing track to play along with.
    You left out one technique when sweeping, it's called finger rolling, instead of barring the pattern you literally roll your finger over the strings.
    I call it different things lol. Its the same technique i just call it a different name. thanks for your interest. Id really like it if u check out my song. Id love your opinion
    There's just gonna be confusion from people who didn't know, and try barring, as they are actually two different techniques, but decent lesson, anyway,if you do another lesson on sweeping, I'd like to see you incorporate six string sweeps, as many people don't bother six string sweeps from what I've seen!
    Lesson is pretty good, however I'm not shure about the shown patterns: it seems all of them have random bar's lenth (from 7/8 at the first one to 11/8 at the last). So I'd like the author to post some explanation. Thanks
    They are random. I put it so that you can just get the pattern. Thats the important thing in the lesson. Thanks for the comment. You can squeeze the patterns into any time signature you like really.
    Hijo De Dios
    este solo esta ree biennn.. me lo voy a aprender,...
    usted puede hacerlo! simplemente reducir la velocidad y se le multa
    Quiero a comer tu corezon
    Once you all learn the main fundamentals of sweeping, you all should start sweeping dominant 7th, major/minor 7th, diminished, and augmented arpeggios
    Hey there, great lesson! I'm new into learning how to sweep pick and I was just wondering for the minor position sweeping, would I use my 2nd finger just to bar over the G and D strings? Would that mean I have to then use either finger 1 or 2 for the B string? Also I agree with what Krazy Kev said, positions in Dom 7th's and diminished 7ths etc would be helpful! Thanks alot, keep the lessons coming
    I would use your third finger then your first finger. And i just in another lesson. thanks dude
    Diminished 7ths or min7b5's? Because they're different. Heh, maybe patterns for both. Although, I'd probably make my own patterns, because...well, I like doing that.
    And how do you mute the strings that you are not playing ? Palm mute from low to high, and with left hand fingers from high to low ?
    I mute with my palm from low to high then i mute with my thumb going from high to low. Its an odd trchnique but it works for me.