Sweep Picking

To start things off I'm going to do a lesson on a technique that's becomming very popular as of late and that people on UG seem to talk about frequently: sweep picking.

Sweep Picking
81
To start things off I'm going to do a lesson on a technique that's becoming very popular as of late and that people on UG seem to talk about frequently: sweep picking. The idea behind sweep picking is that you're going to play notes, one after another, that are on strings next to each other, rather than playing notes on the same string. It's the same idea as strumming a chord, except with pick sweeping you want the individual notes to stand out rather than playing them all at the same time. This allows you to play notes one after another much faster than if we were using other techniques such as alternate picking. The first exercise we'll do will be an arpeggio in D minor (v = downstroke ^ = upstroke):
   v v v ^ ^ ^ v v v ^ ^ ^
E|-----5-3---------1-0------
B|---6-----5-----3-----1----
G|-7---------5-3---------0--
D|--------------------------
A|--------------------------
E|--------------------------
The first set of 3 notes are played strumming down, one after another. The next step are played in up strokes. When you play each note, instead of lifting the pick up after plucking, let it fall onto the next string. You're "sweeping" the strings. The next exercise is almost identical except we're adding another string.
   v v v v ^ ^ ^ ^ v v v v ^ ^ ^ ^
E|-------5-3-------------1-0--------
B|-----6-----5---------3-----1------
G|---7---------5-----3---------0----
D|-7-------------5-3-------------2--
A|----------------------------------
E|----------------------------------
We can then add a 5th string to this riff if we want.
   v v v v v ^ ^ ^ v v v v v ^ ^ ^ v v v v v ^ ^ ^ v v v v v ^ ^ ^   
E|---------5---------------3---------------1---------------0-------
B|-------6---6-----------5---5-----------3---3-----------1---1-----
G|-----7-------7-------5-------5-------3-------3-------0-------0---
D|---7-----------7---5-----------5---3-----------3---2-----------2-
A|-5---------------3---------------1---------------3---------------
E|-----------------------------------------------------------------
The possibilities are endless. You can use any notes, any arpeggios. We can even addhammer ons and pull offs if we want.
   v v   v ^ ^   ^ v v   v ^     ^ ^
E|-------5-3-------------1-0h1p0------
B|---5h6-----3h5-----1h3---------1----
G|-7-------------5-3---------------0--
D|------------------------------------
A|------------------------------------
E|------------------------------------
That concludes this week's lesson. I hope people find this lesson to be useful. I'd appreciate any input, corrections, suggestions, critiques etc.

- Garett Spencley (http://www.mp3.com/garett_spencley)

170 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Mazzakazza
    The^Unforgiven wrote: Does "Sweeping" mean those fast n cool little things that guitarists like Timo Tolkki, Luca Turilli and Alexi Laiho use a lot, like in the intro of "Towards dead end (Children Of Bodom)"?
    Yes. heh. And thanks for lesson, helped me pin it down...i think. Was trying to work it out myself...but needed a few pointers =)
    Donkey Fly
    first_aid wrote: phil5000 wrote: wow this guy definetly should have mentioned that you cant hold your hand in the same place when you sweep pick. You have to have your hand in the shape of the chord or whatever it is your going to sweep, but just hold them over the strings then put the first one down just as you start to sweep then lift it up as you come to the next note and put that finger down on the string then lift. but just lift enought to mute it. Ok article anyway. omfg i actually understood that. what he means is that you have to hover your hand above the string and let go as soon as the pick played the string, just enough to mute it. wow, great minds think alike lol
    I think that is quite a big thing that was left out of the lesson...doing it where your moving your fingers constantly like you would if you were playing a scale makes sweeping twice as hard...although it does make you look better on stage....
    Dick6Valentine
    does anyone have good sites that teach sweep picking I've been playing for like 4 years and want to start learning. thanks
    Saofan12
    AWESOME LESSON! extreamly usefull, i highly recomend it to anyone who wants to learn to play fast
    One Way Ticket
    utter crap. You didn't explain anything about the actual technique of sweeping. No muting techniques, no finger rolling technique, no nothing.
    .::AHF4LIFE::.
    you didnt explain the technique of sweeping at all the exercizes are neat but you not explaining anything
    Hoa
    Heres another piece of advice you know how you see people drumming with their fingers going from left to right so pinky-ring-middle-index? try going index-middle-ring-pinky. helps alot with rolling also try going up and down scales as fast you can without a pick helps to
    lester2215
    this is good but on question..when u sweep dont u palm mute or something?? sure sounds like it...
    metal4life91
    hey this was really helpful, thankx i am learning some really fast avenged sevenfold stuff and i was only alternate picking, sweep picking is making it so much easier!
    HGDUDE
    I don't think ANY of you know what sweep picking is which sux cuz I need to learn it
    jacacak
    I recently was noodling licks with this dude and he says..."yep, I have all the techniques....check my sweep picking..." Alas, more muted string barre chords. "Really" I said..."hmmm...let me try that". This ended with him storming out of the room and he won't even look at me now...egotist!!! Anyway, the truth is I had worked diligently on this technique for about 1 year straight. As of now I can finally do the 15 note hammer/pull sweep runs clean and pretty dang fast. I have two important recommendation: (1)Pick Hand First!!!! Put a towel over the fretboard, turn the metro on and just sweep pick your right hand in time...down,down,down,down,down....up,up,up,up,up....etc... You can hold some harmonics with your left hand if you get bored of hearing the clink,clink,clink. I guarantee your left hand will fall in place in short order.(2) Once you get it....and you will!!! Video yourself doing it....man, that is one rewarding experience...
    danfry29
    jimmy hendrix 2 wrote: what are some good sweep picking songs
    I think that an easy song to get down once you learn the technique is "Bleeding Mascara" by Atreyu... Then once you become amazing listen to Children of Bodom and Protest The Hero...
    first_aid
    phil5000 wrote: wow this guy definetly should have mentioned that you cant hold your hand in the same place when you sweep pick. You have to have your hand in the shape of the chord or whatever it is your going to sweep, but just hold them over the strings then put the first one down just as you start to sweep then lift it up as you come to the next note and put that finger down on the string then lift. but just lift enought to mute it. Ok article anyway.
    omfg i actually understood that. what he means is that you have to hover your hand above the string and let go as soon as the pick played the string, just enough to mute it. wow, great minds think alike lol
    Killedmt
    For people who didn't understand: Sweeping is natural for speed. Speed techniques for picking are all about conserving or utilizing your motions. It's not magic, it's economy of motion. Alternate picking utilizes the time you normally would take to bring your pick back up to hit the string again. Economy picking is alternate picking even more economically, using upstrokes and downstrokes in an undefined pattern that best suits whatever you're playing. Sweep picking just eliminates extra motion; i.e., the time it takes to lift your hand up and pluck the next string. It's like strumming a chord, but not all the notes at once. You play the notes individually, but without lifing your picking hand.
    grim999
    SoilWzelot wrote: i just have problem to change betwean "chords" when playing fast...
    use slides to change ur entire position every time.
    codynw42
    its very simple for the people who dotn egt the concept, what i do is try to time my pick strumming the string the same time as my finger hits it. it may be different for u. i dont know why but i learned how to do this easily in about a day.( not extremely fast stuff of course.)
    Azzy666
    you didnt go into much detail about the actual way in which you do the sweep picking motion. if it is as simple as you said that means i am doing it correctly and i just need to keep practicing to build up speed. but anyway thanks, at least i have a shape to work with hehe
    a0kalittlema0n
    ^ for jummy hendrix 2 no boundaries by michael angelo batio has a good sweeping portion in it but as the lesson goes it doesn't help with any technique it just tells you what sweep picking is and gives you 3 riffs to practice and those riffs don't cover most chord formations of sweep picking horrible!!!!
    Under_Score247
    hey this is great! ive been learnin fr 2 yrs and this is the best lesson on sweep picking ever... thanks a lot man,
    enooox
    fade2dust wrote: RustyGold wrote: here's a question i've had for a long time. when you're sweep picking say an arpeggio like -3----- ---5----- -----5----- -----5---- the way i play do is i use my index finger for the g notes and my third ring finger for the e, c, g (a quick barr roll) or are you supposed to use yer pinky & and the other three fingers? yeah rustygold, u got it. for those situations a rolling bar is the way to do it. its even harder then using single fingers so good on ya. ive been playing for almost a year know and ive been trying the c major shape. its got a nice sound and is movable and ull even find it in a some trivium songs, just done very quickly of course.
    I'm a bit new to sweep picking, so can anyone please tell me what a "rolling bar" is? =)
    tony d
    bassetrox: use the palm of your hand to mute the string you have just played. it takes a while to get used to but it works
    Orneblad
    Edge_Rocks wrote: Emergency? wrote: dum kids you hold it like a chord and pluck eaco string in a downward or up motion DONT LIFT FINGERS! keep the hold of the cord its hard at first but you get better as u go along Dumb Kid... Dont listen to this noob, he clearly doesnt have any idea what sweeping is. Hey einstein, try your version of sweeping on Eugene's Trick Bag, I hope you have 12 fingers on your fret hand... Do what everyone else is saying, lift your finger only high enough so that it prevents you from causing an open note,which you will definently hear if you do it wrong. It takes a hell of a lot of practice to get that part right, Id say its undenyably the hardest part of sweeping. ESPECIALLY if you're doing 3 string sweeps, where the light muting becomes very hard when your going so fast. Takes years to perfect, but only minutes to learn the concept, if you really love the sound, just keep cracking at it, starting slow and speeding up, always working at Just below the speed where you start making errors, thatll make it a hell of a lot easier than just going fast right at the start, cuz when you do that, itll cause you to make tiny errors that became built in when you started it, and theyll practically become second nature, making it incredibly hard to correct. Good Lesson G, keep at it
    thanks, great to hear. that's the only thing i didn't get..
    supersaianGohan
    I don't know if everyone's seen it, but here's the link to the extremely well-explained lesson by pick n' grin on sweep picking that should very well eliminate any questions you might have.
    The visuals do a much better job of explaining the process than any text can.
    bassetrox
    Okay, Before this article i could kinda do it, so i was hoping for a few "improvement" nudges to help me get better, think it could do with a bit more detail. In particular about how to mute strings after playing them. My problem is that on sweeps of 5 strings, the open g string rings out after ive played the fretted note and muddies up the sound. Any other advice, hand position etc, other than just, "dont lift off so far"? Cheers Not a bad lesson though.
    panhead4jesus
    this lesson helped me out thx! oh and by the way jetman_james i understand exactly what u r saying with ur picking hand doin stuff on its own, probably cuz im crazy 2
    mgdeath02
    How do you make the sound fluent and fast. i tend to slow down on the upstroke part. how long does it take to learn how to sweep??
    johanlrninggtar
    it takes about a month to get the hang of the sweep picking both hand coordination while playing fast, but i don't know how long it takes to play super clean though cus i haven't got there yet.
    dangerdan92
    i love sweep picking.. i cant really do it that well but i wanna learn it so bad that im determined to practice hard.. but great little lesson here i understood it perfectly
    leftylikejimi
    Hmm...so is a good idea to rest your hand on the bridge to dampen the strings or should I not be doing that??