Bass Sweeping

Sweep picking is a technique that has been used by great guitarist for decades. This is a summary of doing it on bass.

0
Sweep picking or sweeping, what every you may call it is a technique used to play arpeggios by "sweeping" across the strings. Guitarists have used this technique since around the 80's, popularized by names like Yngwe Malmsteen and micheal anglelo batio. Sweeping on bass is different than guitar however in the 2 ways. First obviously you have 4 strings rather than 6 (unless your crazy rich) and even on a 6 stringer it's a different tuning. The second way it's different is that there is more than one way to do arpeggios on bass. By what I've gathered I've found 3 common methods: Sweep picking, Fingerstyle, and tapping.

Sweep picking:

This is the most common method, since it's already been done on guitar. If you use a pick this is the method you'd use. You can also do it with fingers if you sweep down with your thumb and up with your finger. Heres how to do it. First you have to get the right hand motion of the sweep. In fig 1 you first sweep across the strings down, then leave a rest(you'll see why later) and sweep up back to the original note. Fig 1.
G-------x-r-x-------| D-----x-------x-----| A---x-----------x---| E-x---------------x-| D D D D you U you U
Once you've got that you can start playing notes Like in fig 2.(all examples are major sweeps) The rest in the last one was to leave room for the hammer-pull.(this position works any where on the strings). Fig 2.
G-------14h17p14--------| D-----14---------14-----| A---17-------------17---| E-19-----------------19-| D D D D you U you U
Tip: to make it a arpeggio rather than a chord you have to lift your finger after you play each note; to mute it before moving on to the next.(This applies to all techniques. This however isn't the full arpeggio it ends on the 5th note. To complete the arpeggio you have to tap the last note like in Fig 3. Fig 3.
G-------14h17-23-p14-------| D-----14------------14-----| A---17----------------17---| E-19--------------------19-| D D D D you U you U

Fingerstyle:

This is another method of doing arpeggios on bass. Heres the concept: 4 strings, 4 fingers. Coincidence? This is a harder method I find but remarkably easy to explain. 1 means index, 2 means middle ect.(on the right hand I mean) Heres fig 4.(and like the last one try without tapping first) Fig 4.
G-------14h17-23-p14-------| D-----14------------14-----| A---17----------------17---| E-19--------------------19-| 1 2 3 4 (1) 3 2 1

Tapping arpeggios:

This is a technique I mainly learned off of protest the hero. Like the finger style principle only 4 strings, 8 fingers!? In this technique you just tap every note (the position is different) here it is in fig 5.
G-----------9-14p9-----------| D--------10--------10--------| A---7-10--------------10-7---| T= right hand tap E-8------------------------8-| t= left " " t t T t t T t T t t
Its easier than it looks once you get a hang of it. Now once you got the hang of those I'll show you a minor sweep position and tap position. (sweep is the same position as fingerstyle) Sweep
T G-------14h16-23-p14-------| D-----14------------14-----| A---16----------------16---| E-19--------------------19-|
Tap
G-----------8-14p8-----------| D--------10--------10--------| A---6-10--------------10-6---| T= right hand tap E-8------------------------8-| t= left " " t t T t t T t T t t
These positions also work anywhere on the stings. I'm not the biggest pro at sweeping so don't blame me if some of this is wrong but it's at least 80% right.So that's it for bass sweeping. Have fun with it. Now you'll have something to show off to your guitarists. At least that's what I use it for. Enjoy.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Jeezer_1570
    btw, 8 finger tapping isnt sweep picking, it's just 8 finger tapping. Sweeping consists of a freting hand and a "string" hand if I may. And yes, pth does kick ass.
    psychokannibal
    The technique I've been using for years involves using three fingers and is a different method than the ones you offer. I use them sparingly and usually during bass fills. They only sound good when used tastefully. The best technique to make them sound good is to use tapping harmonics with the picking hand 5 frets apart from the notes you're hitting with the fretting hand. Use compression for maximum precision otherwise it will just sound like a chainsaw cutting through pudding and despite looking cool it will sound terrible. I learned it from Billy Sheehan's video. He's an excellent point of reference.
    Tremolo Arm
    Check out Racer X bass player. Juan Alderete (I think I've written good). And check the song SCARIFIED. You'll see what means shredding on bass
    Here, I found it. Actually in this band should be Paul Gilbert, but he was of some reason I do not know. Scott Travis from JP on drums, and the mighty bass player. Check it out guys.
    tommytomtomtom
    Death_Bat_6661 wrote: FIRST! Bass sweeping...iunno,seems kinda pointless to me i mean, who does Slap n' Pop on guitar? thus my point although who knows it MIGHT sound good...
    alot of people do slap and pop on guitar
    Mr.Tea
    every technique should be learned, just shut up and play if you don't like it then don't play it or bash someone for playing it.
    CurbstompBass
    ^Bass sweeping at the beginning. It's a pretty cool little trick and shuts up a lot of elitist guitarists.
    xHellbound
    SocKo? wrote:
    vict or wooten's brother does slap n' pop guitar.
    Was there also a bass sweep at the end or a string skipping riff?
    strat0blaster
    You can also do arpeggios by finger slapping or 'tipping' as I call it. Basically you hammer the tips of your first through fourth fingers against the string at the base of the neck (same place you slap your thumb to pop and slap)in the same way you do with your thumb for.... pop and slap. It's a lot faster, but gives the same percussive sound as a thump with a thumb. Plus, you can also ring out chords this way. That's what I do. Just watch Ryan from Mudvayne - you'll see what I mean.
    strat0blaster
    Additionally - I forgot to mention - you've gotta keep your hand parallel to the strings (like it's crawling up the neck) so that the four fingers line up with the four strings. It makes it sound cleaner, plus you can angle your palm to mute the other strings if you want particular notes to sound.
    N031
    i think bass sweeping is kind of pointless, though. It's practical on a guitar cuz the strings are close together and letting the pick drag across the strings just flows where as I notice It's not as smooth if you do it on a bass. sure you can get it eventually by learning to control the flow but your time and energies would be better spent mastering other methods of playing arpeggios if that's your purpose or simply improving your finger picking since it is just four strings for the most part.
    ntchode
    theres nothing wrong with popping strings on the guitar, you can pick harder with your fingers and get much more percussiveness than with any kind of pick. its just another way to add a new dynamic to your playing people shouldn't be so close minded.
    Paddles
    Death_Bat_6661 wrote: FIRST! Bass sweeping...iunno,seems kinda pointless to me i mean, who does Slap n' Pop on guitar? thus my point although who knows it MIGHT sound good...
    You claimed first. Your argument is invalid.
    irishblade89
    My
    N031 wrote: i think bass sweeping is kind of pointless, though. It's practical on a guitar cuz the strings are close together and letting the pick drag across the strings just flows where as I notice It's not as smooth if you do it on a bass.
    My teacher can sweep very fluidly on bass with the above mentioned thumb-down, finger-up technique.
    Death_Bat_6661
    FIRST! Bass sweeping...iunno,seems kinda pointless to me i mean, who does Slap n' Pop on guitar? thus my point although who knows it MIGHT sound good...