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Sweep Picking Series 1: The Basics

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Sweeping picking is a technique used 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 in a sweeping motion 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 the basic mechanics of the technique from a beginner's perspective. Then we can get into basic applications and eventually begin to prepare for the more advanced applications in later tutorials.

Sweeping occupies the middle ground between strumming and arpeggiating. Strumming simulates a near simultaneous sounding of chord tones. Arpeggiating rhythmically separates the notes of a chord. Sweeping is a faster way of playing arpeggios, but slower than strumming. It is usually done as an ornamental technique to play a lot of grace notes before landing on a main melody note.

In this tutorial we'll learn how to sweep major and minor triads on three adjacent strings, the D, G and B strings. Then we'll move those chords around the fretboard to play basic I-IV-V chord progressions along with backing tracks to get a lot of practice at using the sweep picking technique.

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Sweep Picking Series 1: The Basics