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Sweep Picking Like a Champion.

Mar 19, 2008
Short Description: Many people really don't understand what sweep picking is. This article tries to set the records straight.

The arguments never seem to stop on whether sweep picking is indeed a desirable technique or it simply distorts the rhythm and precision that can be achieved through alternate picking. But before we take sides and try to shoot down those on the other side of the fence let's try to understand what sweep picking actually is.

Suppose you're playing a major scale using three notes per string. If you're using alternate picking technique you would pick down/up/down all the way through the scale. If instead you use sweep picking you will play down/up/down on the first string followed by DOWN/up/down on the second string (higher in pitch) and DOWN/up/down on the next higher string. You must have noted that two down strokes are performed successively when strings are changed.

And when you sweep pick while descending the scale, you will pick up/down/up, UP/down/up, UP/down/up. Again you must have noticed that you perform two same pick strokes consecutively while changing strings. This is what sweep picking is all about.

All of us have learnt in our school days the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This elementary scientific knowledge is used in sweep picking technique. It reduces distance between two strings by directly going to the required string. The guitarist is not constrained by the strict down/up/down regimen of alternate picking style.

But there are some guitarists who want to remain in the comfort zone of predetermined pattern which is the hallmark of alternate picking style. They say their fingers automatically, rather, instinctively pick at right string and they simply don't have bother about it at all. This leaves them with more free time to improvise and be creative. I feel it's more a dogma than any real logical reason.

But there are certain genuine hurdles which many players face when they try their hand in sweep picking.

The most commonly heard refrain is sweep picking causes the sound to be sloppy. This happens not due to any inherent flaw in this technique but because most of them try to practice too fast. If instead they start off by picking slowly they'll get crystal clear sound. Speed is not a big issue. It can be easily generated once picking is perfect. The other real problem is inability to mute the notes that are not played. This obviously distorts the sound quality. But you can overcome this easily by pressing either your palm or thumb on the strings that are not picked.

You shouldn't sound as if you're strumming as your pick runs across the strings. Even though the arm moves in a continuous sweep, play the arpeggio slowly so that each note is roundly defined and clearly heard.
About the Author
Before you go spending a ton on 1-on-1 guitar lessons, be sure to check out Crazy Dave's review of the #1 instructional video guitar course on the net - learn and master guitar. Dave's site offers 35 free guitar licks!
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