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Sweep Picking

What is Sweep Picking ?

You’ve probably heard about the sweep picking technique or already begun to practice it on your guitar.

Sweep picking is particularly useful for arpeggio oriented licks where many of the notes lie on adjacent strings, one note per string. When you’re sweeping across the strings, the  pick should not be lifted after each string, but rather, should flow across the strings with one “brushing”  motion. Lift each finger slightly as the subsequent notes are played so that your left hand “rolls” across the neck. Also, lean the top of your pick slightly in the direction you are sweeping.

The sweep picking technique has been used successfully by guitarists such as Yngwie Malmsteen, John Petrucci, Vinnie Moore, Rusty Cooley, Michael Angelo Batio, Frank Gambale, Steve Vai and many others.

A series of notes played with sweep picking will distinguish themselves with a sound closer to classical music rather  than the blues. The effect is maximized if you use the neck dose, which is sounding cleaner and is better defined than the bridge pick up. You can try practicing arpeggios with both of your neck and bridge pick ups and see what sound you like the most.

The 3 note sweeps, 3 string sweep picking.

The most common arpeggios played with the sweep picking  technique are the 3 notes per string sweeps.

Let’s start with the basic structures, three-string arpeggios are among the easiest to execute. You’ll focus first on a downward sweep, until you get used with the motion.

Like this:

C major                               C minor                            A minor

sweep picking sweep picking sweep picking

After you get comfortable with the downward motion, now it’s time to do the same thing with the upward motion.

It is important for you to use a metronome when practicing arpeggios, and try to play all the notes with the same intensity.

C major                                C minor                           A minor

sweep picking sweep picking sweep picking

As soon as you feel more confident about playing the above shapes, it’s time to combine the ascending and descending motions .

Like This:

C major                                             C minor

sweep picking sweep picking

After  you master the 3 string arpeggios you can play along with 4,5 or even 6 string arpeggios.

Now you are probably wondering what is an arpeggio.

Arpeggio Definition

An arpeggio is a group of notes which are played one after the other, either going up or going down. Executing an arpeggio requires the player to play the sounds of a chord individually to differentiate the notes. The notes all belong to one chord.

So all you have to do is to take the chords you know, and start applying the sweep picking technique.

I recommend you to focus on 4,5 and 6 string arpeggios after you master the 3 strings ones.

For more information about chords you can visit my guitar chords article so you can start messing around with all 3 chords inversions.

How to master the sweep picking technique ?

  • Always practice this technique with a metronome
  • Start slow until you can play every shape cleanly
  • Lead with your left hand, not with your right one
  • Raise The BPM only after you play a shape effortlessly and cleanly

With that said i wish you all the best with your sweep picking practice.

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