Introduction to Sweep Picking On Guitar

You have probably come across this term before in your musical career. It is a popular technique because many rock musicians tend to use this technique. This technique can be used in any style of music; however sweep picking is emphasized more in rock guitar than any other style. In this article you will discover what sweep picking is and what it is not, and you will learn how you can start doing it for yourself.

Sweep picking is a technique that was created to play arpeggios with the most speed and least amount of work on the picking hand. This is accomplished by playing 1 note per string arpeggios and picking in the same direction. Say you are playing an ascending arpeggio, you will pick downward on the low E string, downward on the A string, downward on the D string etc.

Be careful not to strum your guitar. You are not strumming, you are picking the guitar. Sometimes when you see someone doing it fast it may look as if they are strumming, but they are not. Practice just the right hand picking for now, but after you pick each string rest the pick on the string next to it. You will continue to rest the pick on the string lower than the one you just plucked, but you will gradually gain speed.

The best way to start sweeping is to start simple with 3 strings. Learn to sweep these ascending and descending in pitch. Work on ascending and descending separately until you are comfortable. Before long you will find that these are easy and you will then want to combine ascending and descending. Start slow and push yourself faster slowly because the slower you play the more likely you will create good habits. If you play fast and sloppy you will continue to play fast and sloppy. Here are some shapes you should practice sweeping.

Sweep Picking Shapes

The numbers are labeled to show which note should be played first. The colors indicate the different shapes. You will need to hammer on to number 4 and pull off from number 4 while you are sweep picking these.

Notice these shapes are all triads with an extra note hammered on. You can practice sweeping with any triad you want on any set of strings, but for now I suggest you start on the highest strings. These shapes are the foundation for progressing in sweep picking. Spend the time to learn these well and you will thank yourself for it later. Sweep picking is designed to get the most speed with the least amount of work. To start learning sweet picking it is best to start slow with 3 notes per string ascending then descending and finally combining the two. Once you are comfortable with these you can move on to adding extra strings and creating more interesting ideas.