Learn How To Sweep Pick Clean And Fast Using This Practice Method
Hearing subtle mistakes while playing sweep picking arpeggios is more difficult while playing at faster speeds. It is much easier to ensure that every note in the pattern is played perfectly by choosing a single note in the pattern, then listening for it as you play. This trains your ear to listen more closely for mistakes and helps you play more cleanly at higher speeds.
Watch the sweep picking video below and learn how this is done, so you can quickly clean up your arpeggios:
Click on the video to begin watching it.
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Here are the most important sweep picking elements to focus on if you want to sweep pick cleanly & fast:
Sweep Picking Element #1: Fretting And Picking Hand Biomechanics
Guitar speed (and sweep picking speed) have nothing to do with “moving fast”.
Speed is a byproduct of efficiency.
And that means:
Your pick and fretting hand fingers shouldn’t move any more than they absolutely have to.
So, how do you train this skill?
Simple - practice each hand’s motions in isolation without using the other hand at all.
Spend 5 minutes repeating the motions of some arpeggio with the fretting hand only.
(Do NOT use the picking hand when doing this step.).
Then spend another 5 minutes only practicing the picking hand motion (while muting the strings with the fretting hand).
Sweep Picking Element #2: Two-Hand Synchronization
Synchronization is the glue that holds your hands together when you play guitar.
When you lack synchronization, one hand often moves a bit slower or faster than the other.
This makes your sweep picking very sloppy.
Here are a few simple ways to get your hands in sync:
- Increase your picking hand articulation. This means to make the notes louder. The more powerful your articulation – the tighter your synchronization becomes. You cannot articulate the notes clearly if your hands are not in sync.
- Use a stiff guitar pick (that doesn't flex when you play). If your pick flexes while playing, it needs to return to its neutral state before each note.
This delay disrupts your synchronization. To avoid this, use guitar picks that are at least 1.0 mm thick.
Sweep Picking Element #3: String Noise Control
Let's be honest:
No one likes the sound of sloppy guitar playing or sloppy sweep picking. So how can you improve your guitar technique and play guitar clean?
The first thing to know is: Sloppy guitar playing is rarely caused by the notes you want to hear.
Sloppy playing is most often caused by: unwanted guitar string noise.
There are 2 types of unwanted guitar string noise:
- Unwanted guitar string noise from lower (in pitch) strings.
- Unwanted guitar string noise from the higher (in pitch) strings.
There is more than 1 way to mute guitar strings. However: some methods offer advantages that others do not.
The most effective method of muting the lower (in pitch) strings is:
What is thumb muting?
It’s where you rest your picking hand’s thumb on the lower (thicker) strings. Then you slide the thumb up and down as you sweep pick, to kill the string noise.
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 sweep picking. Slide the pick from the side of your finger onto the pad of the finger. Hold the pick like this for all your sweep picking exercises.
This not only helps with your guitar speed, but also makes your sweep picking 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.
Enter: fretting hand index finger muting. And like thumb muting, it works on all guitar exercises.
What you do is touch the thinner strings with the fretting hand index finger, like this:
Use index finger mute with thumb muting on all your sweep picking drills and guitar exercises.
These techniques make your fast sweep picking much cleaner and help you avoid sloppy-sounding arpeggios.
Sweep Picking Element #4: Master Fretting Hand Finger Rolling
Finger rolling is a technique you use to play more than one note on the same fret on several strings…
… with the same finger.
Finger rolling guitar arpeggios come in many shapes that you play on guitar (and in some scale sequences too).
The hardest part about playing finger rolling guitar arpeggios is separating the notes and not letting them bleed together.
Many guitarists (even those who play scales at eye-popping speeds) struggle with this technique and avoid it as much as they can.
But fear not:
You are about to learn a simple, almost fail-safe way to master finger rolling guitar arpeggios.
It works even if you’ve struggled with it for a long time.
Watch this finger rolling video to see how it’s done.
Now you know how to make your sweep picking faster and cleaner. The next step is to improve the rest of your guitar playing. I mean everything from your guitar technique to musical knowledge, ear training and creativity, so you finally can…
… put it all together and become a real musician!
If you want some help with that, I can guide you through the process inside my Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.
Here is how it works:
1. You tell me about your guitar playing strengths & weaknesses, as well as your musical background and goals.
2. I create a personalized guitar lesson strategy and your lesson materials.
3. You practice (with my support every step of the way) to help you transform your playing and reach your goals.
Here is what some of my guitar students are saying:
“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
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
“When I first heard about Tom Hess, I saw that he was a teacher that was very dedicated and serious about it, and that drew me in immediately. That this is a guy that has a plan, has a goal and really if you’re serious about learning guitar, this guy is equally as serious in a way. So it resonated with me straight away.”
I started out just learning by myself and as many others I got stuck. I had a few issues I wanted to get by, but when I met Tom and talked with him and started lessons with him, he opened up a whole new world of possibilities of what guitar playing can be.
I feel very grateful that I found lessons from Tom since I then did what worked from the very beginning. Many guitarists I see that played way longer than I did, they have build up many bad habits. That from the very start, there was clear instruction of how to practice correctly. You build the ability for high speed and whatever you want from the very beginning and you don’t waste time doing inefficient things. So I’m very grateful that I did that, and now I really feel I am able to reach whatever level I want.
The reasons why I think I feel so motivated all the time is because I know that the thing I’m working on is relevant for me and it’s exactly the direct thing I need to get.
The forum just kicks ass. The people in the forum - it’s just like unconditional help all the time. They love to help out, and you also get very inspired by seeing someone just really getting speed really quick and then you say if he can do it, I can do it. It works on the mental side of being a guitarist and that of course that’s the most important thing. Just being around other musicians like that, is just you learn so much faster, is so much less frustration when you can see that all the people are having the same issues that you do, not anything special or anything. It’s just part of learning process, so it kicks ass.
Magnus Gautestad, Norway
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