8 Ways To Make Guitar Arpeggios Sound Awesome (Even If You Can’t Play Fast Yet)

by Tom Hess

the guide to playing endless
killer arpeggio guitar licks

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There are 2 things you can do to make your sweep picking sound totally awesome (even if you can’t play guitar fast yet):

  1. Learn how to play arpeggios perfectly clean, without sloppy noises and without notes ringing together. How cleanly you play arpeggios is more important than how fast you play.
  2. Learn simple creativity concepts that transform sweep picking exercises into killer licks that sound like music.

the guide to playing endless
killer arpeggio guitar licks

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 sweep pick clean and fast:

After watching the video, practice the creative ideas below and start playing awesome arpeggio licks today:

Creative Arpeggio Lick Idea #1. Create A Break In The Pattern

Playing arpeggios ascending and descending all the time gets boring quickly. You can separate the ascending and descending parts of the arpeggio to create new sweep picking licks.

For example, instead of always playing this:

Sweep picking arpeggio lick

…play just the descending part of the arpeggio, like this:

Sweep picking arpeggio exercise

…or just the ascending part, like this:

Sweep picking arpeggio practice exercise

Watch this video (starting at 0:33) to hear how cool this sounds:

Note: there is nothing wrong with playing arpeggios in the usual way (both ascending and descending). Use all 3 possibilities (ascending and descending, only ascending, or only descending). Integrate all 3 variations into your arpeggio licks. Overusing any one idea makes your arpeggios sound boring.

Creative Arpeggio Lick Idea #2. Extend & Harmonize Arpeggios Using Inversions

You can repeat the same arpeggio many times without boring your listeners, by:

  • Extending the arpeggio using inversions
  • Using inversions to harmonize the arpeggio

How To Play Awesome Sweep Picking Arpeggios

To extend an arpeggio using inversions, you need strong fretboard visualization skills. Take an A minor arpeggio (notes A C E) and find its notes all over the fretboard.


Sweep picking exercise

Sweep picking technique practice

Sweep picking practice

Hear It

This tab shows an A minor arpeggio played in every inversion on the guitar.

To harmonize arpeggio inversions, record each inversion separately and superimpose them on top of each other. (You can play the inversions in any order.)

Creative Arpeggio Lick Idea #3. Build Excitement By Using Unexpected Silence In Your Arpeggios

Sometimes, the easiest way to build musical tension is to not play any notes. Unexpected silence in the middle of a fast arpeggio builds massive tension and that tension creates a lot of excitement.

Example: instead of playing an arpeggio up and down, like this:

Sweep picking arpeggio practice

…insert rests at various moments, like this:

Sweep picking arpeggio exercise

This makes the arpeggio easier to play and your faster playing sounds even more intense.

Watch this video to see how awesome this idea sounds:

Tip: Change where the silence is used and how long it lasts. Don’t stop on the same note of the arpeggio every time. This keeps your sweep picking licks from becoming repetitive and boring.

Creative Arpeggio Lick Idea #4. Vary The Number Of Strings In Each Arpeggio Shapes

Combine 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 string arpeggio shapes to play your sweep picking guitar licks. This adds variety to your playing by changing the musical texture and builds tension.

Practice this exercise:

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Step 1: Think of 4 different arpeggios to play one after the other. For example:

A minor
D major
B major
E major

Step 2: Play each arpeggio using a different number of strings and a different inversion for each pattern. For example:

A minor 2nd inversion (2 string pattern)
D major root position (3 string pattern)
B major 2nd inversion (5 string pattern)
E major root position (3 string pattern)

Step 3: Create 3-5 different variations for these arpeggios, varying the number of strings (and inversion types) you use.

Want to learn more cool ways to play arpeggio licks all over the guitar? Download this free sweep picking guide to learn 25 more ways to use arpeggios creatively in your guitar playing.

Creative Arpeggio Lick Idea #5. Tremolo Pick Some Notes Of The Arpeggio

This technique is incredibly intense and it transforms traditional arpeggios into licks that sound aggressive, yet are very simple to play.  

Watch this video to learn how to easily combine tremolo with sweep picking:

Go through all the arpeggios you know and find ways to insert bits of tremolo picking into them. It doesn't matter which notes of the arpeggio you apply tremolo to - it is going to sound GREAT every time.

Creative Arpeggio Lick Idea #6. Combine Arpeggios And Scales Together

Most guitar players practice arpeggios separately from scales. Master guitar players can seamlessly combine arpeggios and scales into creative guitar licks that sound very melodic and emotional.

Watch this video to learn how to do this:

This skill helps you go beyond simply playing arpeggios into integrating sweep picking with all your other techniques in a musical way.

Creative Arpeggio Lick Idea #7. Use Different Rhythmic Values To Play The Same Arpeggio

Your arpeggio licks sound a lot cooler when you vary the rhythm of the notes. Combine 16th notes (4 notes per beat), 16th note triplets (6 notes per beat) and/or 32nd notes (8 notes per beat) to add variety to the sound of your sweep picking.


Sweep picking arpeggios

Hear It

Notice how this lick seems to speed up and then slow down unexpectedly. This idea builds a lot of musical tension, even if you aren’t playing very fast.

Creative Arpeggio Lick Idea #8. Integration & Variety

Variety is key to playing creative arpeggio guitar licks. Using any one idea too often sounds boring after awhile (no matter how cool it is). Practice integrating the ideas from this article in unpredictable ways. This is how you transform into an arpeggio master and impress all your friends with your incredible guitar playing.

Want to get 25 more arpeggio ideas just like this & make your sweep picking sound awesome? Download this free sweep picking eGuide to learn dozens of killer arpeggio licks and become a more creative guitar player than you ever thought you could be.

Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

Become a better guitarist fast by taking online lessons for rock guitar players.

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