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Using Sweep Picking Technique


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Sweep Picking Series 3: 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. Notice that the hardest part at first will be co-ordinating the "rolling" of your fretting hand to match precisely when your picking hand sweeps across any given string. You want to have a 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. Make sure that you do all these chords very slowly at first. Make sure you get both hands cleanly synchronized. Musical events that are accomplished by sweeping frequently require a very precise, percussive, "snappy" sound. The last thing we want is sloppy sweeping.

Take your time and really get the motion down properly at a slow speed. That way you won't have to unlearn any bad habits when you start trying to play these things faster and actually use them in a song.

This is the third in a series of tutorials on sweep picking. If you are new to the sweep picking technique, I encourage you to start at series 1 & 2:

Sweep Picking Series 1: The Basics

Sweep Picking Series 2: Expanding The Sweep

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