Guitar Lessons Houston

Sweep picking

Sweep Picking

Sweep picking is a technique used to play 2 or more strings in one direction, either all as down picks or all as up picks. It is used in many styles of music from country to jazz to classical, but is probably most prevalent or extreme, in metal or shred guitar playing. An example of a player that uses this technique in Metal would be Yngwie Malmsteen. Examples of players in jazz-fusion that use this technique would be Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale.

Using this technique can be very beneficial in playing fast pre-arranged solo passages, as it allows the user to pick all the notes in one direction and is very ergonomic. This is the type of playing you hear on fast metal solo along with finger tapping. (Finger tapping will be discussed in a separate article).

I have arranged some exercises (see the attached pdf file) using sweep-picking techniques. The first few start simply and if you have never work on this technique these should be mastered before trying the later ones. The more advanced exercise uses the arpeggio tones for each of the chords of the D Major scale. In addition to the sweep picking technique it also uses hammer ons, pull offs and slides, so the exercise is very beneficial for these techniques as well.

In all of these exercises careful attention should be paid to keeping the picking wrist stiff, so that it does not move in either direction as it moves to the next string. The best way to get started, is to pick the first string note and let your pick drop hard to the next string. This assures you are not moving your picking wrist but keeping it stiff. As you go to the next string, the finger that is used on the first string is lifted so the note does not continue to ring out. After you have gotten used to moving your pick in this manner without moving your wrist, the idea is to relax and lighten up on your picking. Relaxation in both hands is the key to better technique and speed.

As you work on this technique particular attention should be paid to timing, it is the difference between being fast and sloppy sounding or sounding musical. I have heard many guitarists use or in my opinion over-use this technique, the ones that sound the best to me use it tastefully and have worked hard to make there timing spot on. The moral of this is to work with your metronome!

Work hard on the attached exercises and listen to some players that use this technique in their playing and try to duplicate some of things they do with it.

Alan Darby

Shopping Basket
Take the first step and book your first guitar lesson today. We offer online guitar lessons and private one-on-one guitar lessons with lesson plans customized just for you! Don’t wait any longer, book your lessons today.