How To Master Finger Rolling In Sweep Picking Arpeggios & Make It Easy To Sweep Pick Cleanly & Fast

by Tom Hess
What The Pros Do To Sweep Pick Fast And Clean
Sweek Picking e-Guide

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

Want to sweep pick faster and cleaner?

And do it in the next few minutes?

Listen up:

There is one element of sweep picking guitar technique most people struggle with—é

But it's an element you can master very quickly.

That element is finger rolling.

What's finger rolling?

It is a guitar technique for
-  playing notes on adjacent strings, 
-  on the same frets

- with the same finger. 

Check out this example to learn how to sweep pick with great rolling guitar technique:

Sweep picking rolling exercise

Notice how you have to play 3 notes on the 14th fret on strings 4 3 and 2.

What The Pros Do To Sweep Pick Fast And Clean
Sweek Picking e-Guide

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

Watch this video to learn how to practice the finger rolling motion & make your sweep picking clean and fast:

Alas, most guitar players (even those who play scales at eye-popping speeds) struggle with finger rolling and avoid it as much as they can.

Meanwhile, when you do finger rolling the right way - it’s quite possibly the easiest guitar technique to play really fast.

Finger rolling guitar technique is the secret behind the unofficial, undocumented and completely meaningless 2000 notes per minute guitar speed record I held back in the 1990s.

I set it among guitar teachers at the music store I taught at many years ago.

Some of those guys were faster than me with picking, legato or tapping... but I did finger rolling way faster & cleaner than all of them.

This makes me uniquely qualified to help you master finger rolling in your sweep picking.

Mastering finger rolling in guitar arpeggios is about:

  • Understanding the biomechanics involved in finger rolling guitar technique, so you can practice it correctly. This makes your guitar technique more effective and efficient.
  • Becoming aware of common guitar practice mistakes that make finger rolling hard to master (and learning how to avoid them).
  • Paying attention to the right things when you practice the finger roll, so that sweep picking fast and clean becomes very easy.

Clean and fast finger rolling also requires you to improve your ear's ability to hear sloppy mistakes at very high speeds. Most guitar players struggle to identify specific notes in their playing that are not clean when they play fast. (This is true with all techniques, not just sweep picking.) Mastering finger rolling develops your ears' mental processing ability that carries over to ALL techniques you play and practice on guitar.

Common causes of sloppy finger rolling include:

Sloppy Sweep Picking At High Speeds

Sloppy Sweep Picking Cause #1: Barring The Notes With Your Finger Instead Of Using Correct Finger Rolling Motion

Pro sweep picking tip: 

Run from any guitar teacher who tries to teach you sweep picking, while calling the “finger rolling” motion in guitar arpeggios – “barring”.

Here is why:

Doing finger rolling when practicing guitar arpeggios is the furthest thing from barring. Barred notes all ring together. While the notes that you play with finger rolling are fretted ‘separately’ from each other. 

Fretting several strings with one finger (using a barre) causes notes to bleed together and creates a sloppy mess. Watch the video (starting at 2:20) to hear how this mistake makes your guitar playing sound bad.

Bottom line:

Calling “finger rolling” – “barring” will, at best, simply create a wrong mental picture in your mind that will slow down your progress.

At worst? Your guitar teacher doesn't understand the difference himself and is about to teach you a ton of bad habits. 

So, if your guitar technique eteacher uses this term - find a new guitar teacher.

Trending Articles:
Improve Your Guitar TechniqueImprove Your Guitar Technique
Find out how to play with better,
more clean guitar technique.

Watch Free Video Guitar LessonsWatch Free Video Guitar Lessons
Learn how to develop your guitar technique and build speed.

How To Fix Sloppy Guitar PlayingHow To Fix Sloppy Guitar Playing
Learn how to play guitar cleanly

using this muting technique.

Question: “But Tom Hess, I hear some famous guitar players (who can sweep pick fast and clean) call finger rolling in guitar arpeggios “barring”. Does that mean they are wrong?”

Answer: The name “barring” (when referring to finger rolling in guitar arpeggios) is always wrong – no matter who says it or how good their guitar technique is. 

That said, just because great players use a wrong term for a motion doesn't mean they can’t master guitar technique (such as finger rolling in guitar arpeggios) in their own playing. 

If anything, this is one example of how famous guitar players with great sweep picking guitar technique often struggle to help OTHER guitarists master guitar arpeggios and do finger rolling when they sweep pick.

Here is how you practice finger rolling to make your guitar arpeggios faster and cleaner:

Step 1: Isolate the rolling motion and practice collapsing (and un-collapsing) the knuckle of each finger.   

Step 2: Train the finger roll in the context of actual arpeggios as soon after you learn to do it in isolation. Endless isolation practice creates a gap between your ability to do the technique and your ability to integrate it into your guitar playing. Continue training the roll in isolation, but gradually increase the amount of time you practice the motion in context.

Sloppy Sweep Picking Cause #2: Low String Action

String action (how high your strings are away from the fretboard) determines how easy it is to keep your finger rolling clean. Having your strings too close to the fretboard (low action) makes it harder to separate the notes of the roll. As you collapse the knuckle, the previous note you played often continues to ring.

Solution: Raise your string action slightly. This helps you to release each note during finger rolling so strings ring one note at a time.

Sloppy Sweep Picking Cause #3: Inability To Hear Your Mistakes At High Speeds

Your ears must process the notes you are playing in real time and determine where the mistakes are occurring. This makes your guitar practice more effective and helps you clean up your sweep picking.

Training your ears to hear mistakes at high speeds consists of:

  1. Identifying your own mistakes at fast speeds. Merely detecting sloppy playing is not enough. You must know which specific notes are sloppy without having to slow down. This enables you to fix your mistakes quickly.
  2. Training your ear to hear music at fast speeds. You can train this skill the same way you train your hands to play fast. One approach is to enter any arpeggio into a tab editor program and play it back for yourself at very high speeds. Set the playback to loop over and over.

This video shows one way to clean up sloppy sweep picking guitar technique at fast speeds:

Listen to the notes in headphones and focus on one note at a time. This skill is key to cleaning up your guitar playing at faster speeds (no matter if you are sweep picking, playing scale sequences, 2-hand tapping licks, legato licks, or anything else). 

Periodically rotate which note you listen to. Rotate to another note when you have confirmed that the previous note you were focusing on is perfectly clean and articulate. Begin this exercise at 100% of your current top speed and work up to 125-150% of your top speed. This drill helps your ears and brain to keep up with your hands when you play guitar. 

Sloppy Sweep Picking Cause #4: Not Tracking Your Progress The Right Way

Most guitarists only focus on the maximum speed of their playing while developing their arpeggios. Few guitarists focus on other elements of technique, such as:

  • How fast they can sweep pick something cleanly (without excess string noise or notes bleeding together), consistently, accurately and with both hands in perfect sync.
  • The gap between these elements of your guitar technique and your absolute maximum speed.

Your guitar playing speed means little if your playing is sloppy. To master fretting hand rolling, find your top speed of sweep picking cleanly and get that speed near your maximum.

This free sweep picking guitar technique eGuide helps you implement the tips in this article and master sweep picking easily.

Sweep Picking Mastery Secrets Unlocked
Free eGuide

Tom Hess
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains musicians how to leave their day jobs and build successful full-time careers in the music industry.

Learn how to master guitar technique with the most proven online guitar teacher.

EmailForward this article to your friends