Why You're Failing the 100 Days Sweep Picking Challenge

I've seen many videos of people attempting the "100 days sweep picking challenge," only to fail miserably. Why is that so?

Ultimate Guitar
Why You're Failing the 100 Days Sweep Picking Challenge
The main reason you fail at sweeping, whether it be the "100 days sweep picking challenge" or your personal attempt to acquire this technique is usually that you start by challenging something that is the last step in sweep picking, without already mastering what sweep picking is. Let me explain that:

The last thing you want to practice when learning sweeping is... Arpeggios.

And what is usually the first thing you try sweeping at? Arpeggios. Preferably 6-strings ones, because why not.
Does is sound like a bulletproof way to fail, or what?

Let's start with some mistakes and tips:
  1. Don't brush the strings like they're going to break. Too many people attack the strings too lightly, therefore not acquiring the right "touch" for sweeping. You have to pick deep into the strings and your pick must be blocked by the next string. You'll gently brush the strings later if you want to, but when learning sweeping, you want to get that percussive sound of your pick blocking against the strings.
  2. Sweeping is the opposite of alternate fast picking: when trying to go fast in alternate picking, you want to minimize the space between each pick stroke (you're picking just around the string). In sweep picking, though, you're picking until your pick touches the next adjacent string, so you're going to pick wider. Staying as close to the string as possible will prevent you from getting the right sweeping feeling.
  3. Practice with a clean or crunch sound, but not with a distorted sound at first. You want feedback. Not the siren one, the feedback of your sound telling you "you hit the string correctly and both of your hands are in sync". Having a distorted sound will not give you that feedback, because it smoothes everything.

"But if I can't play arpeggios, what I am supposed to play, then ?", you may ask.

Scales-like patterns. like 1 2 4, 1 2 4, or 1 3 4, 1 3 4 on the six strings. Here is why, and how:

What you're looking for, is getting a good grasp of what sweeping is, therefore you need to practice the "digg to the adjacent string" feeling. "ARPEGGIOS DO EXACTLY THAT!", you might say.

They do, but arpeggios are too demanding for both hands, and what you want NOW is focusing on ONE hand (the right one) to get a perfect sweeping movement. We're going to use scales-like patterns where you don't have to think about your left hand, so you can focus on the right hand.

The reason we use scales-like patterns and not open strings is because you want to practice having both hands in sync when doing wider pick strokes with the right hand (to be clear: though there is alternate picking involved in this exercise, you want to keep you pick strokes wide).

Practice goes like this (I assume you already know when to use downstrokes and upstrokes):

E (low) string: 1 2 4 (this is fingering, not the fret numbers)
A: 1 2 4
D: 1 2 4 4 2 1
A: 4 2 1 1 2 4
D: 1 2 4
G: 1 2 4 4 2 1
D: 4 2 1 1 2 4
G: 1 2 4
B: 1 2 4 4 2 1
G: 4 2 1 1 2 4
B: 1 2 4
E: 1 2 4 and reverse.

On each 4 and 1, the pick must be touching the adjacent string before you pick it (or else you're not sweeping). And keep the rhythm consistent: we don't want those little rushes because your pick went too fast on some consecutive downstrokes/upstrokes.

You get it: we do a tango 3 strings downward/1 string upward to maximize the number of sweep strokes across the 6 strings.

Once you get that correctly done and have a very good grasp of how your right hand should feel when sweeping, you may start practicing arpeggios on 2 (pentatonic scales fingerings, for instance) then 3, then 4, 5, and finally 6 strings.

Since most 6-strings arpeggios usually involve the "banana fingering" (finger rolling to play the same fret on 2 adjacent strings), you may want to start practicing that on 2 high strings only, then downward till you can roll all your fingers on the low E and A strings too. And then rolling all your fingers on 3 strings, a la Frank Gambale's "Sweeping statement" (the original one, not the 2015 one).

Chances are if you start that way, you'll end up not wasting 100 days of your life on sweep picking, only to be left with regrets, or worse: a feeling that sweep picking is too hard for you (it is not).

27 comments sorted by best / new / date

    y no gpx? Reading finger numbers like neo in the matrix...
    You can think of it as a method to slow you down. So you can focus on each line understanding what you do instead of ripping through tabs.
    you're basically saying start them off with econo picking instead of sweeping? can't say i agree.... just start with simple 3 string triads with a hammer on the top, the motion and thinking behind econo picking is different from arpeggio sweeping and its important to get the motion of going across multiple strings at once
    Case in point, this guy :
    Don't you find VERY STRANGE that he is playing the same material at the end of his training that he is at the beginning ? Is that how you were taught in school, "Don't bother with the alphabet, guys, let's jump right into literature" ? It doesn't work in any discipline, nor in any instrument (never seen a piano beginner starting with Rachmaninov pieces), why should it work for the guitar ?
    like i said in the other comment, this guy started practicing the wrong way with his right hand and started off with a too complicated 5 string arp instead of a simple 3 string one, and no one corrected him on his motion... if he did it your way he'd just be doing the same wrong right hand motion, except with economy picking at the end of 100 days
    See, you just prove my point "start with a triad with hammer on top", yeah, right, add some tapping too and a slide to start with, and we're good to go. When sweeping an arpeggio, the most important part is NOT the right hand, but the left hand. The problem is that beginners starting with arpeggios will have a much faster right hand than their left hand, so what do they do to cope with that ? They slow down the right hand and break the sweeping movement. We don't want that. We want people with a solid sweep picking hand who can alter the speed without altering the nature of the movement. THEN, it becomes possible to sweep correctly with a slow left hand and increase the speed gradually. As I said, if people are failing the challenge, there is a reason, mainly them starting with arpeggios.
    like if you really want to break it down to the most simple don't even have them lift up fingers on the left hand, just hold down an open chord and get them to do a controlled strum and then slowly let them lift up their fingers as they get more comfortable with the strum
    the point of hammering on top is to give the right hand time to catch and turn around and go the other direction once you reach the top strings. the left hand is trivial in sweeping, it's just a piece of meat. it doesn't do shit. people have trouble with the smooth motion of the right hand. slowing down the right hand is the correct way to do it, you want the smooth sweeping motion and it doesn't matter if its fast or slow people fail the 100 day sweeping challenge because sweeping is hard and they're trying to teach themselves and no one is correcting them and it's not something that can be done in 100 days if you're a beginner anyways, not because they start with arpeggios
    Buffoons like Frank Gambale and Guthrie Govan disagree with you, but as I said, they're buffoons...
    and what is it that they've said? i've never heard of FG or guthrie recommending starting with economy picking. guthrie's creative guitar advanced technique vol1 starts you off with 5 string arpeggios and FG recommends starting with 2 strings
    I'll be more specific : 1) You definitely can learn sweep picking in much less than 100 days. 2 weeks is more than enough if you do it properly. 2) As a matter of fact, Frank Gambale DOES start his teaching of sweep picking with... Sweep picking, because "sweep picking= economy picking= sweeping". To be more specific, he starts with scales. You can read it here : http://www.docfoc.com/256711688-frank-gambale-... 3) One of the most brilliant things Guthrie Govan ever said was "the right hand eats what the left hand feeds it". This is especially true in sweeping, since you can't sweep faster than your left hand. So no, your left hand is not a "piece of meat". Hardly. 4) Still on Guthrie, what was the name of that material again ? "Creative guitar BEGINNERS Technique" ? Or was it ADVANCED technique ? People who start the 100 days sweeping challenge are BEGINNERS, therefore you can't give them a 6-strings arpeggio to start with. Actually, the only good way to teach a beginner something, is to take something he already has and add just ONE change. Every time you want to learn something new, especially a skill, you have to input the minimum changes, in order to be able to focus on that and integrate it smoothly into what you already have. That's basic teaching (but not every teacher respects that, unfortunately. Most people want to go too fast, only to give up too soon...) So, as I said : left hand does the minimum, right hand focuses on the minimum changes : sweeping to the next adjacent string once in a while until it has been integrated. Then we can move on to something else. To be completely honest with you, it IS possible to learn sweeping with a 6-strings arpeggio, but it WON'T be by sweeping the whole arpeggio slowly and build speed. it will be by focusing on only 2 notes on adjacent strings and work it long. Then another 2 strings, a bit of banana at the end, then connecting the parts 3 strings at a time, etc. until you can perfectly connect the perfectly played separate parts of the arpeggio and polish the whole thing. I DO think this is not the most efficient way, though.
    "The left hand is trivial in sweeping..." No. Maybe when you started learning the your first sweep and you're satisfied with only that arppeggio playing 8th notes at 60 bps and you want to say, "I learned sweep picking today." But when it comes to building speed and expanding your arsenal, the fretting hand is by far the biggest problem, which is what I think the Author's point is. The sweeping motion is unique and I agree with you that it's a tad different than economy picking even if the picking techniques are related (they're close enough it's not even worth arguing, I dont' care). But it's plenty easier to get the picking motion down than it is the various arppeggios.
    i mean i can sweep okay, not amazing, you can check out my youtube channel, but i find the right hand to be a much bigger challenge than the left
    Do u have any links for figures that are like good 3-4 tone sweeps that aren't arpeggios??? If so I would like to get them under my fingers !!!!
    I grasp what you are sawing man I think it's a good point the first sweep I learned other than the Coheed one in Welcome Home was one staring from the 5th string at the octave which isn't a six tone but Batio was teaching it and adding an extra 5th I believe it was at the top and bottom of the shape to allow for a continuous sweeping sound or something to that effect ... I wish I would have found your advice first because you make a very valid point people don't often realize u can make cool sweeps using 3 notes a lot of times.
    You need to understand the basic knowledge in doing solos are more important thing before you jump to sweep picking. I can do solo's already before i study sweep picking. For 30 days i can sweep pick already. Because of the fundamental skills that i already developed sweep picking is not kinda hard for me. Fundamentals like alternate picking, speed and accuracy (although sometimes i failed on this) might build up first before jumping to other one.
    1. get metronome 2. find tempo on metronome at which you can play smoothly (even if this mean playing extremely slow) 3. practice at that tempo only and do not change speed until your next practice (after sleeping so your finger muscles/memory can bank that shit) 4. next prac session (preferably the next day) move metronome up in tempo 5. repeat process
    This is something you can do once you have the technique and want to practice something with that technique. When learning the technique itself, you don't want a metronome, you want to take as much time as needed.
    Seems like an article which gives me enough information for my skill level, to help me finally learn sweep picking.
    slanting your pick will help with the sweeping motion, it gives it a smoother tone
    I will never understand why people are so fixated on this one technique. Once you learn how to rake arpeggios downwards it comes a lot easier.
    Several of the guys in the videos weren't even practicing the basic right hand movement. It's like watching someone practice the same horrible golf swing over and over again.
    I still remember getting sweeping down in 07- Whenever I went into a guitar store there'd always been some teenager trying to impress everyone with his sloppy sweeping using a heap of delay and distortion while also using the neck pickup. I made sure that when I practised I only used the bridge pickup and would alternate between clean and crunch tone like you said in the article. Helped me immensely. After getting it down clean I moved onto distortion and would only use the neck pickup for tone variation instead of trying to hide behind it.