Sweep Picking Arpeggios

author: ironwolg date: 12/23/2009 category: guitar techniques
rating: 9.5
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First things first there are certain materials that you will need for this lesson: 1) A guitar 2) A pick 3) A metronome(yes, you need a metronome, there is no way around it) I know some of you guys out there are on a budget and can't afford to buy a metronome, however, there are several websites that have free metronomes that you can use. Shredacademy.com has one that's very easy to use. If you don't like that one, just google search metronomes and I'm sure you'll find plenty. Let's talk about the materials you will need. We'll assume you already have a guitar(you probably wouldn't be looking up lessons on sweep arpeggios if you didn't). As for the pick, that's entirely up to you. You WILL need one of course, but for the pick brand and size, it's really up to you. I prefer the Dunlop Jazz III stiffos but if you're happy with a green tortex or a big stubby or whatever else, that's perfectly fine. Now for the metronome. A metronome is a little device(in most cases, although there are the old timey oens that are pretty large) that produces a little clicking noise to help you keep perfect time. Do NOT trust yourself with keeping time in this. You never know what kind of little mistake you might be making. The metronome prevents you from making the mistake of miscounting or getting offbeat. It is absolutely vital to this lesson that you rely heavily on the metronome during practice. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's look into arpeggios. Obviously the first question that should be asked is: What is an arpeggio? An arpeggio is simply a chord with the notes played separately. Arpeggios can be alternate picked, sweep picked, picked with all down strokes or picked with all up strokes. Today we're going to be talking about sweep picking them. If you have questions on chords, check out my music theory lessons, they've got a lot of information in them. If you still have questions, you can always message me and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Now, without further adieu, here is the secret to sweep picking! The big secret is.... *drumroll* MUTING! That's right, something as simple as muting. When I first started out with sweep picking, the actually picking part was a breeze but it still sounded horribly sloppy. Finally, John Petrucci explained the problem to me in his book Wild Stringdom. Now that the secret's out, let's analyze the picking technique for those who are new to this form of picking. Basically, all you have to do is drag the pick down across the strings and then pull the pick up the strings again. Think of a broom sweeping the floor. You're not gonna smack the dirt around with the broom, you're going to sweep it into the dustpan. The same principle applies to sweep picking. Imagine that right under the high E string there is a dust pan and there is dust all over the strings and your pick is the broom. So, pick an arpeggio, set the metronome to 80 bpm, and slowly sweep the dirt into the dustpan. It's as simple as that. Now, for decending the arpeggio, you can imagine that there is a dustpan just above the low E string and there is still dirt all over the strings. So sweep that dirt right into the dustpan! Of course, before you tackle these huge 6 string arpeggios, you're going to watn to start small. Personally, I think that 3 string arpeggios are easier than 2, so we'll skip 2 string arpeggios and jump right into three. Before we get into playing any arpeggios, we need to discuss the proper muting technique. When ascending(sonically, not physically, your hand will be moving towards the floor when ascending), you want to make sure you keep your palm very close to the strings so you can quickly mute them as soon as the pick has left the string. You don't want any of the strings to ring out, otherwise it will sound like a strummed chord which is obviously not what we're going for. Another important part playing sweep arpeggios is to keep the left hand moving, make sure that your fingers leave the string as soon as the note has soudned, you don't want your fingers stuck on the G string when they should be at the E string. Now that you've succesfully reached the E string, it's time to descend(once again, you're only descending sonically, not physically). Obviously, you can't mute with the palm of your picking hand, so what do you do? You use the palm of your fretting hand. I use this type of muting when I do legato playing, much like Rusty Cooley. When he descends using legato technique, he doesn't use his pick. John Petrucci also rarely uses a pick when descending in legato. To master this muting technique, plug your guitar into an amp, crank up the distortion but keep the volume down so the neighborhood doesn't panic and call the police, and then try to use legato technique while decending down a scale wihtout using a pick to change strings. Practice very very very slowly. Lower than the metronome can go. Pay close attention to your left hand and what it's doing. When you have succesfully muted the strings while legatoing, give yourself a pat on the back and then get back to work! Apply it to the arpeggio. If this technique doesn't work for you, you can also try using your pinky to mute the strings as you descend. I sometimes use a mixture of both my lefthand and my right hand to mute when descending. Now that we know the muting techniques, let's actually play an arpeggio.
There's an easy one for you. A simple C Major arpeggio. You can really make yourself sound like a shredder by repeating the part on the high E string like this.
Once you get that up to speed the friends that were laughing at you for playing at 80 bpm will now look more like this -->> :O The best way to get these things up to speed is to practice at your starting tempo(80 bpm) and then play it 10 times perfectly. After you've accomplished that, you get to increase it by 1, or the lowest ammount your metronome will allow. Is that extreme? Yes. Is that overkill? Absolutely. Do you have to do it? Definitely. The point of this is to make sure that you play the arpeggios not only at high speeds, but cleanly at high speeds. Well, teaching guitar techniques without video is definitely challenging but hopefully I've managed to write a decent lesson. If any of you have questions you can always message me. If this lesson did not help you at all, I should have a youtube video up soon on sweep arpeggios. You can subscribe to my channel at www.youtube.com/ironwolg good luck and keep shredding!
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