Are you not yet the sweep picker you desire to be? If so, then continue reading and this article will give you several helpful ideas for how to improve this part of your playing.
In the last article on the topic of sweep picking, I described to you several of the most common problems guitar players have with sweep picking technique. If you missed that article, watch this free 16 minute video sweep picking lesson on how to overcome 4 of the most common sweep picking problems. This video is a good summary of the last lesson and will help you to get the most from the rest of this article.
To help you further with getting better at this technique, I want to tell you several more strategies that will help you with both the physical aspect of sweep picking as well as the creative aspect of using this technique in your music. Of course, these practice ideas aren't the 'only' approaches to use when practicing sweep picking, but if you add them to what you are doing already you will begin to progress faster.
Double Pick Each Note Of The Arpeggio
This means play each note twice with the pick as you are playing through your arpeggio licks. This will help you with your coordination and will challenge your picking hand much more. Because you are picking each note twice, your hand has to move much more than it would if you were doing regular sweep picking motions.
As I discussed in this free sweep picking video lesson, normally you want to have the pick move in a single continuous motion when sweep picking. By double picking each note you would be purposely breaking away from that to intentionally create a greater challenge for your picking hand. The good news is that after doing this for a few days (or a week), going back to regular sweep picking motion will feel much easier than ever before.
Here is an example of double picking each note of an arpeggio:
Make sure that you are playing cleanly when practicing this example. Slow down as much as necessary to make sure you are playing cleanly. Also, don't let the pick travel too far away from the strings (minize that motion as much as possible).
Play Arpeggios In Unusual Place On The Neck
This can mean 2 different things:
1. Practice sweep picking on the extreme ends of the fretboard where you don't normally play arpeggios a whole lot. (such as in the range of frets 19-24 and frets 1-5). Doing this will not only make your fretting hand more coordinated, flexible and relaxed while playing, but also will help to increase your awareness of the notes on the guitar neck. This in turn, will help you to familiarize yourself with the layout of arpeggios all over the fretboard.
2. Play arpeggios on groups of strings where you don't normally play arpeggios. For example, consider this arpeggio:
(notice that here you are playing on strings 4 3 and 2, which is not the most common place on the guitar to sweep pick). When playing shapes like these, you should MUTE the strings that you aren't playing (this is very important!).
or this one:
Here we purposely isolate the part of the arpeggio which is played on the lower strings.
Practicing unconventional arpeggio shapes (in terms of WHERE they are played on guitar) such as these will do a lot to make your hands more comfortable with playing arpeggios on any group of strings. These exercises will also have a lot of carryover to the traditional arpeggio shapes which you already know.
In addition, playing arpeggios on the lower strings will really test how clean your sweep picking really is. Most guitar players can sweep pick reasonably cleanly on arpeggios on the high strings, but sweep picking on the lower strings requires great control over your picking hand articulation and can sound very sloppy if you are not careful.
If you have trouble with playing these arpeggios cleanly, or want to see how the picking hand motions for sweep picking should be practiced, watch this free video sweep picking lesson.
Pick every note of the arpeggio (without any hammer ons or pull offs)
This is one of my favorite ways to play arpeggios and it is also one that is very easy to speed up after only a little bit of practice. Look at the example below:
Notice that every note in this arpeggio is picked (there are no hammer ons and pull offs). This is an easy exercise to build speed with and it will help you with getting control over the picking hand for sweep picking. The reason why licks like these are easy to speed up is because the picking hand only has to move up or down and is not interrupted by hammer ons and pull offs. That being said, if you are used to playing arpeggios that use only hammer ons and pull offs, it will take a little practice getting used to the new way of picking through these examples. But you will soon get the hang of it if you practice consistently.
What you should do now is take the ideas I discussed in this article and begin applying them to your practicing. The specific licks/arpeggios from this article are only isolated examples of each idea, but there are dozens of variations that you can come up with within the general parameters which I discussed.
Ideas like these will do a lot to help your sweep picking. Use them in your practicing and your skill with this technique will greatly improve.
About the author:
Mike Philippov is a professional virtuoso guitarist, music composer and instructor. He is also a co-author of several instructional products, numerous articles and other free instructional resources available on http://mikephilippov.com. 2010 Mike Philippov. All Rights Reserved.