How To Clean Up Your Arpeggio Playing And Create Killer Sweep Picking Licks In The Process

by Tom Hess


Play-Sweep-Picking-Arpeggios-That-Are-Fast-And-CleanEver have trouble playing arpeggios on guitar, and having no idea how to make your sweep picking faster and cleaner? Be honest - most guitarists have this problem ...and I had it too (years ago). Playing arpeggios cleanly is one of the most common guitar technique challenges I help my guitar students overcome in their playing.

After teaching thousands of students to become awesome guitar players, I’ve learned that there are 2 general ways guitarists approach cleaning up their arpeggio playing. One way sets them up for frustration and sloppy guitar playing, while the other allows them to progress a whole lot faster and easier and enjoy the process of practicing much more.

Which Approach Do You Take?

Guitar Practice Approach 1: When your arpeggio playing doesn't sound as clean as you want, your instinct tells you that you need to find more/new/different arpeggio sweep picking licks to practice. The assumption is that simply more practice of different sweep picking licks will make your arpeggio playing cleaner. The biggest problem with this approach is that it ignores the fundamental problems in your technique that prevent you from playing ALL arpeggios cleanly. Until you master these elements of technique, looking for more sweep picking licks to practice will only distract you from fixing the REAL problems holding back your guitar playing. In the end, you end up knowing lots of arpeggio licks, but playing all of them with the same sloppy guitar technique problems that never seem to get fixed.

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Guitar Practice Approach 2: When you want to make your arpeggio playing cleaner, instead of distracting yourself with new exercises, you transform whatever arpeggio you are practicing into its OWN exercise. The goal of doing this is to expose and pinpoint the exact notes in the arpeggio that aren’t clean and identify WHY they aren’t clean. This has 2 huge benefits to your guitar playing:

  • After you correctly identify and fix fundamental guitar technique problems in one arpeggio, you will have a much easier time learning (and playing cleanly) any and all arpeggios you practice in the future.
  • As an added bonus of following the approach above, the exercises you create by modifying standard arpeggio shapes will often sound VERY cool and creative. This helps you to come up with new arpeggio guitar licks to use in your solos.

To see one of many possible examples of how to do the above, watch this video about cleaning up your arpeggio playing and turning standard arpeggios into killer sweep picking licks:

Get the tab for this 5 string arpeggio lesson.

How To Apply This Idea Into Your Guitar Practicing To Make Your Guitar Playing Better:

I want you to realize that the biggest lesson for you here is NOT the arpeggio exercise itself and NOT even the idea of playing arpeggio notes with tremolo (that you saw in the video). The biggest value for you is in acquiring the correct mindset for how to approach solving problems in ALL areas of your guitar technique:

1. Your guitar playing problems and mistakes don’t happen at random - they always have some kind of cause. The cause can (and must) be identified, isolated and fixed. Never settle for and simply accept sloppy guitar playing.

2. Looking for more guitar exercises is rarely the answer to your guitar playing problems. Instead, understanding exactly what specific notes are not clean when you play the current exercise will help you to see what must be fixed in your technique to make EVERYTHING you play sound better.

3. You can creatively modify even the most plain/boring sounding exercise into an awesome sounding lick that will improve your guitar technique at the same time.

The arpeggio exercise you saw me demonstrate above is merely ONE (of many) examples of how you can improve your sweep picking and make your general guitar technique cleaner and more accurate. To learn more killer strategies for improving your guitar playing while cutting your practice time in half, check out this page on how to double your guitar speed.


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