The sweep (or rake) pick attack is a complex yet flowing pick movement that quickly covers several notes across multiple strings. It is most commonly performed fast. Guitar players need to study how to perform sweep picking so it is developed perfectly. Once perfected, the speed can be increased and the technique will still sound smooth and accurate.
This lesson breaks down how to have long term success with learning and using sweep picking technique…
Q: How Can I Get Good at Sweep Picking?
Are there any tips you could give me about sweep picking? I’m finding that the technique very difficult to do. Any help that you could give would be greatly appreciated.
A: Any technique that is very fast and has a lot to do with speed is the best worked on at a very slow tempos, very perfectly, and using a metronome.
To perform a sweep smoothly and perfectly, the technique of sweep picking is a very difficult one to master both up and down. Often times it must be worked on for hours upon hours, and for many months at a time until seeing very much progress.
Very fast techniques like sweep picking, need to be practiced until there is no conscious effort required on the part of the musician to execute the technique. By approaching techniques like sweep picking with very slow, daily routine exercise the technique will start to become something that requires no conscious effort to produce.
PRACTICING FAST TECHNIQUES:
If you have to consciously think about doing a technique like sweep picking, you probably won’t be getting the speed and perfection that you’ll hear from musicians who’ve mastered the technique. When you hear the masters of this technique execute it properly, they produce the sweep runs in a very natural way, perfectly in time, playing them with nothing more than a simple burst of adrenaline.
When you practice sweep picking, understand that the technique may take months upon months of slow work, before you begin to see the kinds of results that you’re after.
What I would suggest that you start with is to work dedicated to the right-hand. Develop a perfect sweep motion. Practice this beginning only with two guitar strings played open using a metronome and feeling eighth note rhythms.
Once two guitar strings are comfortable, (and can be played perfectly smooth in time), move on to practicing three strings using a triplet rhythm.
Once you can do 16th note triplets perfectly in time with a metronome, add a group of notes.
Follow my video example of using an E minor triad off of third guitar string for the downward sweep. For the upward sweep, use the three note G power cord, (inverted with the D note in the base, as I have shown in the video).
Once, you can play 16th note triplets around 63 to 72 on the metronome using that three note shape, I would suggest moving along to practicing four open strings, (to gain control over the sweep motion of the picking hand).
Then, move on to the four note sweep pattern that uses the diagonal shape of a fourth string root Major seventh arpeggio, for the downward sweep, and the inverted power-chord shape we talked about earlier. But, this time wrap up upon the fourth string with the major seven note in relation to that original major seven chord you used for the down-sweep.
Be sure to practice these sweep picking techniques with both a clean guitar tone, as well as an over-driven tone. When you add distortion, the technique becomes slightly more difficult in relation to the meeting that must occur between left and right hands.
An often overlooked idea with sweep picking (when you first begin practicing it), is how short and detached the fret board hand fingers have to move off of the strings in order to quickly release the tones being swept by the strumming hand.
If the notes of the chord that you are sweeping are not released quickly, you will end up with a chord-strum rather than a sweep. The addition of the distortion sound during your practice of sweep picking will force you to release your playing fingers very quickly off of the fret board. This will produce a much better sweep sound of each of the individual notes themselves.
Once you’ve had a chance to practice several different string sets and different chord and arpeggio types using sweep picking technique, (all over the fret-board), I would suggest moving on to incorporating exercises with sweep picking which involve harmony.
In the video example, I demonstrate a movement using fifth string sweeps covering a series of chords in the key of A minor. Study this exercise, and work at creating a number of exercises of your own.
Overall, be patient and incorporate the sweep picking technique into a daily routine. It may take a very long time, (perhaps several months or even up to a year), before sweep picking will be an easy technique that you can perform at any given moment during a solo.