How To Play Intense Sweep Picking Arpeggio Licks That Grab People By The Throat
by Tom Hess
Do your sweep picking arpeggios sound more like ‘exercises’ than actual ‘music’? Do you want to transform your sweep picking technique into a powerful tool for adding fire and bone-crushing intensity to your lead guitar licks? Truth is, you CAN do these things (without being an ‘expert’ at sweep picking), and I will show you how to do them in this article.
The first step for using sweep picking to add incredible intensity to your guitar phrases is avoiding the common mistake of only trying to play them as fast as possible. Why is this? By focusing ‘only’ on playing as fast as possible, your arpeggios often sound boring and repetitive when you play solos or lead guitar licks because you never actually learned how to use sweep picking technique in a ‘musical’ manner. To truly add fire to your lead guitar playing with sweep picking, you must not only be able to correctly play the actual arpeggio patterns, but master the ability to use your technique to create an intense feeling of tension – leaving anyone listening on the edge of their seat waiting to hear what comes next.
I will now show you how to easily transform any boring, lifeless arpeggio pattern into an awe-inspiring, intense sweep picking phrase that is guaranteed to grab the attention of anyone listening to you play.
You do NOT need to be ‘highly advanced’ with sweep picking in order to use the concept I will be showing you. However, before you continue reading, watch this video about sweep picking arpeggios so you can see and hear ‘exactly’ how to use the main ideas I will be discussing in the exercise below. The video will help you to integrate the ideas of the exercise into your lead guitar playing faster and easier. Click on the link above and watch the video now before continuing.
Now that you have seen and heard the demonstration in the video above, follow the steps in this exercise to learn how to create powerful and intense sweep picking arpeggios.
Step 1: Choose any 3 string sweep picking arpeggio pattern that you can play cleanly. Then, play through the pattern several times.
Step 2: Identify the note names that make up the arpeggio you are playing. For example, if you chose an “A diminished 7th” arpeggio in step 1, this arpeggio contains the notes A, C, Eb and Gb.
Step 3: As you learned by watching to the video above, you can create incredible tension by delaying the arrival of the next note in an arpeggio. Using the video as a demonstration for this concept, play through your 3 string arpeggio several times as fast as you can while playing cleanly. Then, once you have played through several repetitions, ‘abruptly’ stop after playing the highest (in pitch) note of the arpeggio.
Step 4: Next, locate any other note in the same arpeggio that is higher in pitch than the note you ended on in step 3. DON’T ‘play’ the note yet - only ‘find’ it on guitar. For example, if you chose to use an A diminished 7th arpeggio in step 1 and the highest note in your sweep picking pattern is a ‘C’ note on the 8th fret of the high E string, locate (but DON’T play yet!) any of the other notes of the A diminished 7th arpeggio that occur higher than that ‘C’ note. In this step you are simply ‘waiting’ - making the listeners ‘suffer’ and building massive tension by suddenly inserting silence into your playing.
Step 5: After waiting several moments, play the additional note you just identified (releasing the tension caused by the delay) in step 4. Then instantly make the entire arpeggio sound more intense and powerful by applying vibrato to this note. You have now created a single variation of the original sweep picking arpeggio from step 1.
Step 6: Come up with several more creative variations by delaying the vibrato of the final note and using slide ornaments as I demonstrated in the video above. Once you have come up with several new variations, choose a new arpeggio pattern and repeat the previous steps. To see lots of additional examples of how to create variations on only ‘one’ note in your guitar phrases, watch this guitar licks video.
After going through this sweep picking exercise many times, you will master the ability to play powerful arpeggios that grab the attention of others.
To get more help with building your guitar playing speed so that you can better apply the arpeggio phrasing ideas from this article, study this free mini course on how to play guitar fast.
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