How To Play Awesome Guitar Arpeggios Without Playing Fast
It is a mistake to think that all guitar arpeggios must be played at your maximum speed in order to make them sound good. This will ultimately limit your creative options and make your sweep picking sound boring if you overdo it. Don't limit yourself to this single approach: play sweep picking arpeggios in creative ways to transform them into great sounding music.
Watch this sweep picking video to learn several new ways to make any guitar arpeggio sound awesome without playing fast:
Click on the video to begin watching it.
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The best way to implement the ideas from this video into your guitar playing is to improve your sweep picking technique. And here are some tips to help you do just that:
Sweep Picking Tip #1: Pay Attention To Sweep Picking Biomechanics.
Believe it or not…
Sweep picking is a pretty simple guitar technique. However… to master it, you need to pay attention a few key details.
These details are:
Picking hand motions: the secret to fast and clean sweep picking is all in your picking hand. You don’t have to move your hand fast to sweep pick fast. What you need to do is:
… move your pick in a single motion in each direction. For any arpeggio you play, your pick should only make TWO motions:
One motion to ascend and one motion to descend.
It doesn't matter if the arpeggio is played on 2 strings, 3 strings, 4 strings, 5 strings, 6, 7 or even 8 strings.
The number of motions don’t change.
How can that be?
Simple: You push your pick through the strings to ascend the arpeggio. And pull the hand (and the pick) back to descend. Think of hitting several balls in baseball with one strike of the baseball bat.
(The balls are your guitar strings and the bat is the guitar pick in this analogy.)
Now, compare sweep picking motions with:
- Tremolo picking (picking 1 note really fast)
- String skipping (where your pick jumps over 1 or more strings)
- Playing a regular scale
- Playing fast rhythm guitar riffs (with all downstrokes)
...and you’ll see that your pick moves a lot more (and a lot faster) to play these techniques compared to sweep picking.
Sweep Picking Tip #2: Mute Excess String Noise
Let’s be honest: sloppy sweep picking never sounds good. No matter how fast it is.
What’s the best way to mute string noise in your arpeggios?
My #1, go-to string noise killer is:
(It works on all guitar exercises, not just sweep picking.)
Here is what it is and how it helps you play arpeggios better:
Rest your picking hand’s thumb on the strings and slide it up and down the strings as you play your guitar exercises.
It looks like this:
And besides making your sweep picking clean, it also helps make your guitar technique more efficient. That’s because with thumb muting, your pick must stay down in the trenches of the strings when you play guitar exercises.
This makes your motions way more efficient and helps your sweep picking improve much faster.
As an aside, the reason I don’t mute string noise using my palm is because it makes your guitar picking less efficient.
Here is how:
With palm muting, your palm is at rest with the pick outside the string trench. This makes your guitar picking motions less efficient and hurts your guitar speed in big ways.
Question: “Tom Hess, when I practice guitar picking drills with thumb muting, I hear a lot of pinch harmonics on all my guitar exercises. What can I do?”
Answer: Change the way you hold the pick when you work on your picking speed. Slide the pick from the side of your finger onto the pad. Hold the pick like this for all guitar exercises.
This not only helps with your sweep picking speed, but also makes your picking speed a lot cleaner (by making thumb muting possible).
That said, as good as thumb muting is for cleaning up your guitar picking technique…
…it only mutes excess string noise from the lower (in pitch) strings in your guitar exercises.
And that means:
You need another way to mute string noise from the higher (in pitch) strings in your picking speed licks.
The best way to do that is with the underside of the index finger of your fretting hand.
Just like it sounds, you rest the finger on the strings to keep them quiet. Do NOT push on the strings, just rest the finger on them.
Here is what it looks like:
Sweep Picking Tip #3: Control The Rhythm Of The Hammer Ons And Pull Offs In Each Arpeggio
Play all notes in every arpeggio at a consistent speed. Don’t make the hammer ons or pull offs faster than the other notes. (This is a common mistake guitar players make that keeps their arpeggio playing very sloppy.)
Now that you know how to make your arpeggio playing sound fast & clean, the next step is to transform the rest of your guitar playing. I'm talking about your other guitar techniques and musical skills that you need to transform your playing into something you can feel proud of.
I can help you with that in my personalized Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.
Here is how it works:
You tell me everything about your guitar playing strengths, weaknesses, musical background, and musical goals. I then create your personalized guitar lesson strategy. As you practice your lessons, I give you a ton of feedback to help you master your guitar lessons and reach your musical goals.
Here are the results my guitar students are getting:
"When I came to Tom for online guitar lessons, I already had a decent overall level of technique and understood the basics of music theory pretty well. I had taken lessons with other teachers before, and went through several guitar method books that promised to teach me how to become a great lead guitar player. I learned all the materials in these books and courses and picked up some useful tips and knowledge along the way. Yet for some reason I still wasn't feeling like a musician. I struggled very much with writing my own songs, creating my own solos and pushing my guitar technique and speed to a higher level (especially sweep picking, alternate picking, and playing clean at high speeds).
When I started learning from Tom, the main thing that made him different from other teachers was that he was showing me how to excel in all aspects of my guitar playing by applying the skills that I already knew together with the new material that I was learning from him.
He made me aware of both strengths and weaknesses in my playing that I did not even know I had. From there he gave me the knowledge, tools and guidance to literally transform my guitar playing by enabling me to overcome things that were preventing me from becoming a truly creative and self-expressive guitar player. These were the kinds of things that none of my previous guitar teachers and books I studied were able to do for me.
After Tom made me aware of all the things I was missing in my guitar playing and provided me with the strategy and tools for solving them, I began to make very fast progress in all areas of my guitar playing.
I can now write my own music and can create lead guitar solos that I am happy and fulfilled with. I also have the technical skills to confidently and easily play anything that I want to express. I have overcome all of the lead guitar challenges that I struggled with before, and increased my guitar speed to virtuoso levels. More importantly, I have the knowledge and understanding of how to continually improve my guitar playing and musical skills to higher and higher levels to continue expressing myself with my music. Overall, I have definitely transformed in a huge way as a musician and as a person through my lessons with Tom Hess. I am grateful to him for guiding me towards becoming the guitarist I always wanted to be!"
Mike Philippov, Indiana, USA
“I found Tom Hess on the net through articles, and I read quite a few of those before I went to Tom’s website. Even though I’m not a metal player at all, and Tom is obviously a metal player, I could still see that his ideas and way of teaching could really benefit me. So I pretty much signed up for online guitar lessons with Tom straight away once I’d gone through the website, and it’s just been a real eye opener with the way he teaches…”
... the integration of concepts that he’ll give you and having a really structured strategy… not just week to week lessons, but things that - you can see from one lesson to the next - really develop and continue to work on your technique and your theory and aural skills and those types of things. So I’d played a long time… 20 years before I really caught onto Tom, and I’d had a lot of lessons, and I’d taught and played but I can really see improvements in my technique, sweeping, and picking which weren’t strong parts of my playing.
I feel like Tom has a good gauge of where you’re at as a guitar player and what you need, and there just seemed to be so much more stuff in the lessons week to week than what you’d ever get in an hour or so in a one on one lesson… way more. So yeah I think that and the forum. I think, I’d pay the money just for the forum. That alone would be fine… I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all. So that alone is massive!
The price for the lessons, that’s nothing... nothing. You know, I think it’s, pretty cheap to be honest. I don’t mean that in a bad way, cheap. Cheap is not a good word, but I just think it’s great value… awesome value. I mean, you know, you could pay that for one-to-one lessons and you just don’t get the same results and support of the forum and the content and the strategies.
Other teachers I’ve had have been good players, and some have become good friends too. But when I’ve started lessons with Tom I’ve got something to compare that to and a lot of it is just sort of teaching songs from week to week… a lot of the lesson will be left up to you… you’ll go to your lesson and they’ll be like what do you want to do today? At the time I said, oh do this song or that song, but with Tom you start to realize that you know, there’s more to it… the goals and you know he’s sort of more in contact with what you want to be able to do as a player, because he’s asking you the questions and then setting up the strategies, so I find that really good.
Yeah I can see more results in 18 months in a lot of areas in my playing than you know 20 years. So it’s sort of, you know, would’ve been great 20 years ago to have met Tom.
Simon Candy, Melbourne, Australia
“Before the online guitar lessons, I had a lot of trouble with phrasing. I couldn’t make good note choices, I was always fishing for the next note. I was trying to think of ways that I could play, but it didn’t sound good. I didn’t know how to write songs, it was absolutely terrible, everything sounded the same. I couldn’t really… I didn’t feel confident with my playing. I definitely couldn’t build speed for anything, I was really sloppy and I was dissonant… and it was really painful to play.”
I chose Tom Hess because when I read his articles they blew my mind away. I got so much out of that, that I didn’t get anywhere else.
The main reason I like taking lessons with Tom online is because, number one: yes it was the personalized lessons strategy… I read everything about it, and it was so compelling, just like that he really takes everything that I can or can’t do into account, and then he’ll take what I want to be able to do and then basically map out every step of the way until I get there. And that was just really powerful, and that I’d be able to get feedback every 6 weeks, and the fact that we’ve got the forum. We’ve got instant help and they all really know what they’re talking about… they’re not just like anybody… they… I mean some of them are virtuoso guitar players... I mean, they know their stuff and then of course the mindset of this whole environment. The friends I’ve made here just… I can’t really put into words.
I didn’t have a budget when I started. I had a good enough job that I could take lessons for however long I wanted, so that wasn’t a problem, but I feel like I’ve gotten 100 times what I paid you know.
Matteo Miller, San Diego, California, USA
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