The Art Of Sweep Picking. Part 1 - Two String Arpeggios

The idea is that by practicing this series of exercises you can learn the principles of sweep picking.

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The important thing that lot of guitar heads forget is that you have to learn technique to make music and not to just make stupid ultra fast arpeggios that musically sound like shit and make no sense at all. Now, if you want to learn to sweep pick you have to understand some things: 1. Be patience 2. Read again rule number one and understand it 3. You have to find the hand positions (Not the fingerings) that feel more natural to you (if you watch different guitar players you will see that their hand positions are different). 4. The more you practice, practice, practice the better you get
Symbol Guide.
p - pull off
 - natural harmonic
 - down stroke
 - up stroke
When you practice you have to really focus in all the movements you make. By this I mean don't just look how your fingers move. Your mind has to be really into what you are doing. And this is not easy because once you start playing if you pay attention you will see how easy your mind starts to think in another things that have nothing to do with what you are practicing. You don't have to practice 3 hours to learn any technique. It takes time. So I think the practicing an exercise for 5 or 10 minutes really concentrated is enough. It depends on every person. Some people learn fast and for others take more time. Just spend at least one hour every day. And you will notice the improvement. You will feel that in your hands. Another thing is to have a pretty decent tone from your amp. And use the neck pickup, it might help to get a better and cleaner tone but it's pretty much the same really. Just avoid trash scooped equalized sound here. Okay with that said I just wanted to remind you that this lesson has the basic two stings arpeggio paterns. Once you learn the technique you will be able to make millions of arpeggio etudes and licks to show your buddies how good you play guitar. Here we go! The first exercise is oriented to your picking hand, to learn the picking motion. It's not that hard really. Another things that you have to keep in mind are: 1. Use a heavy pick. So it doesn't bend when you play and change to another string. 2. Play softly! You don't have to pick hard. That's really important. 3. Don't separate the pick strokes. You really need to master this one. Looks easy. Hope it is. Don't play with distortion Fx. Clean channel and if you want a little reverb. EX.1: Put your 1 finger on the 7th fret from the 4th string to the 1st. You have to play natural harmonics here so don't press the strings. Strum slowly and hear if you can make all the harmonics on each strings sound. When you are ready play the exercise tapping with your foot and count 1 & 2 &. Repeat.
 e|-----------7--7-----------|
 b|---------7------7---------|
 g|-------7----------7-------|
 D|-----7--------------7-----|
 A|----------------------------|
 E|----------------------------|
                 
Congratulations you are sweep picking! Now, this lesson is about two string sweeping. I made that exercise because it feels more natural for the picking hand. EX.2:
 e|-------7-7-----7-7--------|
 b|-----7-----7-7-----7------|
 g|------------------------------|
 D|------------------------------|
 A|------------------------------|
 E|------------------------------|
                  
It's basically the same as Ex. 1 But a bit trickier. Practice and try to keep a constant tempo. Then try it backward, starting in the 1st string with an up stroke. EX.3:
 e|-------7-7--7-7--------|
 b|-----7-----7-------------|
 g|---------------------------|
 D|---------------------------|
 A|---------------------------|
 E|---------------------------|
               
This one feels different because of the triplets. Accentuate the first note of each triplet so you don't loose the feel and how it has to sound. Try it backwards. It's harder. I know that these 3 exercises can be boring as hell. But if you really learn them you will be able to play really cool stuff. Two string sweeps! Now try these arpeggios. They are basically Major, Minor and diminished chords patterns played in the 1st and 2nd strings you have to look for patterns in other strings too. Now you may use distortion (A nice shred guitar tone). Don't use reverb. EX.4: Use your 4th finger for the D note in the 1st string 10th fret, 1st finger for the B and your 2nd finger for the G note in the 2nd string 8th fret. It's a G Major Arpeggio with the root in the 2nd string. Now you have to do an up stroke in the first note and then pull-off. And then play a down stroke in the G note 2nd string and keep the motion and down pick the first string. Repeat that pattern. Now you can see why was important to learn exercise 2.
 e|-----10-7----7-10-7---7-----|
 b|----------8---------8-------|
 g|----------------------------|
 D|----------------------------|
 A|----------------------------|
 E|----------------------------|
          p      p  
If you hear background noise try doing this. Just before you down pick in the 2nd string try lifting your 1st finger a bit and kill the sound with the rest of your 2nd finger. You press the G note with the tip of your 2nd finger then let it rest softly in the first one like if you where playing a natural harmonic. It's difficult to explain really. But it's not that hard to play. If you can't get it. Do the exercise playing just the 3 first notes of it and let the note in the 2nd string ring. Up stroke, pull of, down stroke and hold the G note. This is the best way to solve the problem. With all this information you are ready to play all the patterns. Some of them are trickier because you have to use 1 finger to play a sweep like you did in exercise 2. EX.5: A minor arpeggio. Use 4th, 1st and 2nd fingers for each note.
 e|-----12-8----8-10-8-----8-----|
 b|----------10---------10-------|
 g|------------------------------|
 D|------------------------------|
 A|------------------------------|
 E|------------------------------|
          p      p    
EX.6: E major chord. Use 4th, 1st and 2nd fingers for each note.
 e|-----12-7---7-12-7---7-----|
 b|----------9--------9-------|
 g|---------------------------|
 D|---------------------------|
 A|---------------------------|
 E|---------------------------|
          p     p  
EX.7: Diminished arpeggio. Use 4th finger for the D, 1st finger for the B and 2nd or 3rd for the G# note.
 e|-----10-7---7-10-7---7-----|
 b|----------9--------9-------|
 g|---------------------------|
 D|---------------------------|
 A|---------------------------|
 E|---------------------------|
          p     p  
Okay now the next one is a bit more difficult. EX.8:
 e|--------8-12-----8-12-----|
 b|-----10-------10----------|
 g|--------------------------|
 D|--------------------------|
 A|--------------------------|
 E|--------------------------|
                  
Practice all the arpeggios given using the same picking pattern. If you can't play it, practice Ex. 3 and when you get the feel try again. If you get to this part and you can play all the examples then congratulations. You have learnt all the basic stuff you need to know to sweep pick in two strings. As I said before you have to come up with your own ideas. You can do Pull Off's, Hammer on's between strings sweeps, Slides to change to different arpeggios, tapping, etc. Thanks for reading my lesson, and keep practicing.

105 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    1339
    I'm not finding being patient bloody easy on this , but great work!
    batboy420494
    i say this is everything you need to know for basic sweep picking. and i want to say for everyone that read this, your arent advanced. if you have to read this to know how to sweep pick, you arent good enoughf to cratique the awesome dude that put it up. so shut up and shred.
    jimbojetuk
    Great lesson! i will be using this an hour a day for the next few months. gave a 9 because I couldnt manage the final exercise, it wasnt as clear as the rest.
    Mr. spikyhair
    thanks a ton looking forward to part 2 i really needed to learn this and waterlock that would take forever
    faesaia
    i think it should be "be patient" not 'patience'. but anyways, this lesson helped me. great. *thumbs up*
    lumpy890
    Although I dont sweep myself, (I play mostly acoustic), I tried this lesson and found it pretty solid, nice job man.
    08don
    a good song to practice sweeping is the beggining of stairway to heaven, just keep playing it faster and faster
    DustyBannister
    BlackicN wrote: fingersofflame wrote: Seems a bit simple, considering it only covers two string sweeps...I mean this is definitely fundamental to sweeping, sort of, but I think you should have done this lesson on more than 2 string sweeps; Michael 3 strings would have been good
    Agreed also.
    ollie=]thrash
    i way reccommend the 2 string sweeping by malmsteen on the track rising force at 2:15 ish. pratcice it slow with a metronome and built it up. top advice tho =]
    DustyBannister
    DustyBannister wrote: BlackicN wrote: fingersofflame wrote: Seems a bit simple, considering it only covers two string sweeps...I mean this is definitely fundamental to sweeping, sort of, but I think you should have done this lesson on more than 2 string sweeps; Michael 3 strings would have been goodAgreed also.
    Just thought of this right after, sorry for the double post. But being only two strings it feels more like an lesson on directional picking rather than sweeping.
    Pyroduck
    I'm looking forward to part II This is definately going to help me with the scale in beast and the harlot Yay for lp08
    cholo11
    Too easy, prefer to make arpeggios without the pick, the classical way. It sounds brighter and more natural but might be harder for some because of the use of from 3 to the 5 fingers of your right hand.
    lambofgod0127
    I have only one issue, those tabs are breaking on of the rules of sweeping, that is, an even number of notes per string will change your direction and an odd amount will keep you going in the same direction. But other than that, it was good.
    andrewpledger
    Thanks, once i've mastered this I can move on to 3 string. Only gave it 9/10 because of the fact that 3 string shapes could have been added at the end. Still an amazing article.
    crazy8rgood
    I woulnt call myself a complete noob, but i had never really know what sweeping WAS... i mostly play stuff that DOESNT have sweeping, like incubus and stuff like that, but this is a great lesson. i could really play some cool stuff with this, thanks!
    TMF128
    Eh, it was a good tutorial, but didn't have repetitve backward sweeps
    Skylargann19
    haha I've been having trouble with sweep picking for awhile and just reading this I know its going to help me. Thanks man. Great lesson.
    chrome96
    Led_Zeppelin_27 wrote: in my opinion a nice riff to try for lower string sweep picking would be the intro to welcome home by coheed and cambria, it isn't really hard to get the hang of but it sounds cool
    i play that but did not no it was sweep picking cuz theres pinch harmonics in the intro
    blackflame21
    cholo11 wrote: Too easy, prefer to make arpeggios without the pick, the classical way. It sounds brighter and more natural but might be harder for some because of the use of from 3 to the 5 fingers of your right hand.
    Finger pick it at the speed of someone like Matt Heafy or Michael Padgett.
    DaMetalMaverick
    boredness wrote: yeah the funny thing for rule number one it says Be patience and rule number two says undterstand rule number one well first of all its either be patient or have patience, retard!! XP
    There's no need to be like that, is there? For all you know, English isn't his first language. I find this criticism odd coming from someone who couldn't even be bothered to spell "understand" properly.
    rule number two says undterstand ...
    Sure it does...
    DCH-guitar noob wrote: umm... wtf is an arpeggios? cause if its what i just did i dont see why its soo special.
    I'm pretty sure you don't know what an arpeggio really is if you think you got it from this article. To the poster, good job! This article has helped remind me of the fundamental basics of sweep picking. Thank you.
    boredness
    yeah the funny thing for rule number one it says Be patience and rule number two says undterstand rule number one well first of all its either be patient or have patience, retard!! XP
    freemoney
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    draceul
    as we can all see we're all practice maniacs, so in a while i might post some of the more advanced sweeps that for the people who are beginners and want to move up to a level after that or... skip a few... can start. these are very good for starting people on sweeps. =) cant wait to see the next one. =P