3 Sweep Picking

Sweep Picking

So this one is for all the speed demons out there! Sweep picking is a technique that can sound amazing when done right and sounds quick, tidy, and awesome! It is a more difficult technique, but with a little bit of time and practice, you can nail this too!

Before we look into more detail, you might want to check over the alternate picking lesson, as this will need to be on top form to take it to the next level with sweeping! This is what the motion looks like:

[insert video of action]

So that's quite a busy video, so let's break it down and start with the picking hand. The first thing we need to do is palm mute all the strings and stop them ringing out. This will give us a clearer sound and make the notes sound much better. If we have any notes that ring out it will make the run sound a little messy! We then need to 'glide' the pick along the strings to pick them without stopping out pick in between the strings. I usually brush it against the strings, just enough to give it a sound. I find that angling the pick at a 45 degree angle to the body of the guitar makes it a lot smoother to run along them. If you use your pick like you normally do, it might get caught in between the strings. The pick should glide along them and pick at the same time. It should look a little bit like this in the end:

[insert gif]

Spend a little bit of time with this technique. It is important you get each note clear and defined. If any of them ring out, it will sound messy, so make sure you get that clear pluck of the string.

The next part is the fretting hand. Whilst this looks fancy and busy, it's actually quite a simple pattern. Most sweep picking patterns are chord shapes we have seen before, except we play each one on it's own instead of all at once. If we take the shape C and use that , it looks a lit fancier than what it is, but we have learned the pattern before and remembered it with our muscle memory. We are just playing the shape, adding one more note on the end and playing it in reverse. 99% of the sweep picking you see will be a pattern that has been practiced and perfected over time. Let's take the C Major chord and see which fingers we should be using for them to make the movement as easy and efficient as possible.

[inset GIF of zoomed in fret board and which frets i'm hitting with which finger.]

Here's a tab so you can take your time and learn the pattern. This is one of the most popular ones because it is just a Major chord shape and can be used in a lot of situations, so this one would be one of the best to start with!

Now the hardest part is putting the two together. We have the movement in our picking hand, we just need to play the notes whilst we are fretting them. This is the most difficult part but we can do it if we take our time. If you use a metronome and set it to around 60 bpm and start with one note per beat to get that motion in to your muscle memory. Once you can do the whole shape at 60 bpm then move it up 5bpm at a time. Remember, it is important to get the shape and motion right from the beginning otherwise you might pick up bad habits. Start slow and you will build up your speed a lot quicker in the long run, I promise!