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Sweep picking

I'd like to start with one of the most popular techniques for playing arpeggios. Sweep picking became popular in the Shred era, and is one of the preferred tools for playing blazing-fast arpeggio sequences.

Sweep picking is a technique that requires the player to literally "sweep the strings" in a specific way, be it upwards or downwards. It is a very difficult technique to master, since it takes a lot of coordination between both hands. That's the tricky part of the technique: If there's no coordination between both hands, you'll end up dragging the pick up and down the strings without making any sense of anything: you'll only get to hear the first and last notes of the sequence.

First and foremost, we must get used to the right-hand picking motion. Try to push the pick against the string in an even motion, using one pickstroke only. Remember that we're not STRUMMING; we need to hear the separation between the notes. Remember to push down on the pick, making it fall on the next string.

To master the right hand motion, I'll show you a simple example to give you an idea, using nonsense fingerings: at this stage, I just want you to get the picking motion idea.

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As you already saw, there's no need to move your fingers around. I chose a pretty simple shape and what I did with it is to move it chromatically around the neck. As you play this exercise, remember to push down on the pick evenly using a single stroke: DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN. As you complete the ascending pattern, go backwards and just pull up on the pick in the same way, using just one upstroke.

Another thing that we have to keep in mind when using this technique is the separation. We don't want the notes ringing into one another, because we're not playing chords. As you play each note, try to mute it just a millisecond before you play the next. Try to release the pressure from your left hand finger just a little bit, so the note stops sounding before playing the next note on the next string.

Now we'll try the same exercise, but this time we'll come backwards using a "mirror image" of the ascending fingering. If we play 1 2 3 4 (left hand finger) as we go up, to come back we'll use 4 3 2 1. Let's see how it works and how it sounds in this coming example.

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Ok, it's time to tackle some real sweep picking, triad-based arpeggios!!! We'll cover some of the most popular shapes that most guitarists use today. So get ready!!

The first one is a G major arpeggio that starts on the 6th string and covers two octaves. Notice that I've added some hammer-ons and pull-offs; It's a matter of tastes and choices!! I just like how legato playing sounds in conjunction with sweep picking, because that gives the lick a flowing, seamless-sounding effect. But if you like, you can pick all the notes!! Just be sure to push and pull evenly on the pick when you reach the sweep picking ascending/descending part of the lick (I've put the strokes, so don't worry!!)

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One thing to keep in mind when trying this example: Remember to mute the notes just before you play the next note in the arpeggio. Otherwise, you'll end up with a bunch of notes ringing into each other, and we don't want that. What we want to hear is the isolation and individuality of each note. So practice really slowly, as sweep picking is a very difficult technique to master.

The next example is just the continuation of the first lick. Notice that we have to play the G arpeggio we just covered, and we must follow up with the next inversion. Try to play the D in the 1st string with your pinkie; that way the descending part will be a lot easier.

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Another suggestion for this lick is to slide into the D on the 1st string and follow up with a pull-off. The effect achieved is really cool, as there's no pick sound between the notes, thus giving us a legato feel.

Now to complete the exercise we'll play the last inversion using the same principles we've using this far. Notice that in the last part, we have three notes in the 12th fret. I play them barring my second finger on the 12th fret, but you can use your third finger as well, it really is a matter of being comfortable.

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Now that we have covered all the inversions, it's time to go classical. This lick is similar to the one in the end of N. Paganini's 24th Caprice. It's an ascending/descending lick covering all the G major inversions. Remember to practice it really slowly, as it is a really hard lick to master, since every bar it goes a lil' bit faster.

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Sweep picking - Page 2 >>