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Sweep Picking Series 4: More Basic Applications

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The idea behind sweep picking is to get a lot of harmonic or melodic information (notes) into a relatively small amount of time. This technique is called "sweeping" because you pick ("sweep") across the strings in one continuous motion, in one direction. This technique can and usually does also involve slightly muting the strings with your right hand after you pick any given note to get a clean articulation. The left hand must also follow the picking motion closely. In this tutorial series we will look at basic applications and eventually move toward advanced "shred sweeping".

In this lesson we use a C major chord on the top four strings to achieve a one octave sweep on the top four strings. But this time instead of a root position chord, we will use a second inversion position chord because the 5th scale degree is on the bottom. This is a useful pattern because we can sweep across the D, G and B strings on one fret and isolate the high E string at the end of sweep to get a nice clean, sharp "pop"! Again, notice that the hardest part at first will be co-ordinating the "rolling" of your index finger to match precisely when your pick sweeps across any given string. You want to have your index finger holding down a note on a string just long enough for the pick to sweep across it. Then, slightly release the pressure so that the string is muted and not ringing any longer. Your finger should still be touching the string but not pressing it down hard enough to let the note continue to ring.

You should also be careful with how much muting you do with your picking hand. Try different amounts of pressure from light palm muting to medium, then to heavy.

We will use the four string chord shapes in three different places to achieve three different major chords. We will use the root position triad form of the one minor chord to flesh out a basic, common chord progression.

  • C major (I)
  • A minor (vi)
  • F major (IV)
  • G major (V)

    Finally we will add some scale notes at the end of each sweep to make a nifty sounding lick to practice. This gives us a way to integrate the rhythm playing of our basic sweep picking applications to solo, lead and melody playing. Again, you want to make sure that you've got the up sweep technique accomplished as well as possible. If this lesson gives you difficulty, please go back and review the previous lessons in order to make sure you've got them down! Then come back to this one and try to add the lick on the end.

    This is the fourth in a series of tutorials on sweep picking. If you are new to the sweep picking technique, I encourage you to start at the beginning.

    Sweep Picking Series 1: The Basics

    Sweep Picking Series 2: Expanding The Sweep

    Sweep Picking Series 3: Basic Applications

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