How To Sweep Pick Fast On Guitar Using Sweep Picking Speed Bursts
by Tom Hess
killer arpeggio guitar licks
EMAIL TO GET ACCESS
… this sweep picking article will show you how.
One surprising secret to sweep picking fast is:
To avoid 'starting to' learn sweep picking with typical major/minor sweep picking arpeggios.
Use 7th chord arpeggios to learn to sweep pick, combined with speed bursts.
killer arpeggio guitar licks
EMAIL TO GET ACCESS
... 7th chord arpeggios are often much easier to play than typical major/minor triads.
And speed bursts?
This is a simple (but little-known) way to increase your sweep picking speed I teach to all my guitar students.
And today I’ll show it to you in detail, so you can play sweep picking arpeggios fast too.
To begin, watch the video below:
Now that you know the basics of using speed bursts to increase your sweep picking speed…
The biggest key to your sweep picking speed is the motion of your picking hand.
Get the sweep picking motion right and building your sweep picking speed with speed bursts becomes easy. Get it wrong and playing sweep picking arpeggios (and playing guitar fast in general) will remain a struggle.
How should your guitar pick move when you are trying to sweep pick fast?
When you are ascending sweep picking arpeggios, your pick needs to travel in a straight downward motion – pushing through all the strings without ever stopping.
When sweep picking arpeggios descending, your picking hand needs to pull the pick back in a single upward motion without stopping.
You need to maintain that sweep picking motion when you are doing sweep picking speed bursts.
And as you practice, avoid this ultra-common sweep picking mistake: stopping the pick between strings. This hurts your sweep picking speed because you are forcing your pick to start and stop the sweep picking motion for each note.
That is highly inefficient and is the reason many people can’t sweep pick fast (or play guitar fast in general).
Watch this video to see how to properly play sweep picking arpeggios:
Another common sweep picking mistake to avoid: playing any hammer ons and pull offs within the arpeggio faster than the other notes.
This distorts the rhythm of your sweep picking, making it very hard to play guitar fast.
Question: “But Tom Hess, why is it a problem to do pull offs faster than the other notes in my sweep picking arpeggios? Isn’t more sweep picking speed always good?”
Answer: Distorting the rhythm in your sweep picking arpeggios is a problem for 2 reasons. First, you should only change the rhythm of the notes because you want to hear that sound – not because you can’t play the notes evenly in time. And second: when some of the notes in the same sweep picking arpeggio are played in different note values – it becomes hard to sweep pick fast.
Fortunately, this element of sweep picking speed is very simple to correct. This video shows how:
The more efficient your sweep picking motions are, the easier it becomes to play sweep picking arpeggios with speed bursts and build a lot of sweep picking speed.
Speed bursts aren’t just meant to be self-contained short guitar licks (like the sweep picking arpeggio examples in the video at the top of this page).
You can also use speed bursts to clean up (and build a lot of sweep picking speed with) longer sweep picking licks.
Here is an example:
A big benefit of slicing up longer sweep picking arpeggios is being able to practice at a much faster sweep picking speed than you’d normally play.
This is simple to do because your hands get a bit of a break every few notes (after each of your speed bursts). The break allows you to sweep pick faster than the speed at which you can play the entire (uninterrupted) sweep picking arpeggio etude.
And as you sweep pick fast at higher tempos than you are used to – you train your brain (and your hands) to consider those tempos normal. This makes it much easier to build your sweep picking speed to the level you want.
Watch this video to see this process in action:
Tip: the gaps of silence you put between your shorter speed bursts should be quite long (3-4 seconds or more). These gaps of silence between the speed bursts allow you to:
- Replay (in your mind) the notes your hands just played to assess how clean you are playing your sweep picking arpeggios. This way you can spot mistakes in your speed bursts (and fix them) without slowing down.
- Relax your hands between speed bursts. This is how you (eventually) become able to play the entire sweep picking arpeggio at the speed you want and make it look easy. It all starts with relaxing between speed bursts. (More on this below.)
Question: “Tom Hess, does this idea of relaxing between speed bursts apply only to learning to sweep pick fast? Or can speed bursts be used for other areas of guitar playing too?”
Answer: Speed bursts work amazingly well for all areas of guitar playing (not only sweep picking arpeggios). For example: Here is an example speed bursts applied to something as far removed for sweep picking arpeggios as you can get - rhythm guitar playing:
That said, as you improve, make the gaps between your speed bursts shorter (1 second or less).
This way you can train your ability to focus only on ONE note in the arpeggio (as you sweep pick through it fast) and make sure that note is clean.
If you want to sweep pick fast and clean, use distortion when you practice (same goes for practicing sweep picking arpeggios using speed bursts).
Why? Distortion makes sloppy string noise much easier to hear (and easier to fix).
Question: “But Tom Hess, I heard that distortion masks mistakes! Isn’t it better to practice sweep picking arpeggios with a clean tone instead?”
Answer: No. The opposite is true. Clean tone masks open string noise in your sweep picking arpeggios. (It doesn't sound bad to your ears when you hear it.) But when you practice sweep picking using distortion? That’s when the sound gets compressed – making every sloppy mistake just as loud as the actual notes in your sweep picking arpeggios. This forces you to focus on playing cleanly as you sweep pick fast using speed bursts.
So, how do you control string noise when working on your sweep picking speed?
Start by muting the lower (in pitch) strings – using the thumb of your picking hand. I call this technique: thumb muting.
What you do is rest the side of your picking hand’s thumb on the thicker strings. Then slide the thumb up and down as you ascend and descend your sweep picking arpeggio speed bursts.Here is what it looks like:
Question: “Tom Hess, what about muting the lower (in pitch) strings of your guitar with your palm instead? Could this work just as well for learning to sweep pick fast using speed bursts?”
Answer: No. For 2 reasons: When you mute string noise with your palm, the resting position of your guitar pick ends up ‘away’ from the strings. That means you’ll have a harder time getting the pick to push through the strings and pull back through the strings during your sweep picking speed bursts.
And besides… the skin on your palm is a lot softer than that on the side of your thumb. And that means: your string noise isn’t as likely to be consistent and reliable as thumb muting. For those reasons, thumb muting is the superior technique for building sweep picking speed (and keeping your sweep picking speed bursts clean).
Next, to mute the higher (in pitch) strings, use the underside of your fretting hand’s index finger as you practice building your sweep picking speed.
It looks like this:
A common problem guitarists run into when they learn sweep picking is: their notes bleed together when they are weep picking.
2 things cause this:
- Not releasing the finger that just finished playing a note when you play the next note of your sweep picking arpeggio
- Treating the finger roll like a “barre" (which it isn’t).
Here is how to fix each cause of sloppy sweep picking:
First, if you hear a lot of bleeding when you try to sweep pick fast, stop practicing in speed bursts for awhile. Instead, slow down enough to listen for the transition between notes of your sweep picking arpeggios.
Get yourself to play perfectly at slow speeds first. THEN – after getting your sweep picking arpeggios to sound flawless slowly – you can resume practicing with speed bursts.
Question: “Tom Hess, how slowly should I practice this element of my sweep picking?”
Answer: Slow down to the fastest tempo where you can be certain you are separating the notes the right way. Don’t go much slower or much faster than that tempo.
And what about finger rolling?
Finger rolling is the motion for playing several notes with the same finger, across several strings on the same fret. When doing this sweep picking motion, the goal is to separate the notes as you would if you were using different fingers for each note.
This may sound tricky, but it’s not. And when you do finger rolling right, you can build truly scary fast sweep picking speed.
This video shows you how to master this element of sweep picking arpeggios:
Few things hinder your ability to build sweep picking speed like excess muscle tension. But fortunately, practicing sweep picking arpeggios with speed bursts makes it easy to deal with this problem.
Here is what you do:
After each of your speed bursts, pause and do a tension audit throughout your body.
What’s a “tension audit”? It’s where you check various parts of your body for tension (and relax anything that became tense in response to you trying to sweep pick fast.
The body parts to check for tension are: your jaw, your tongue (yes, the tongue gets tense too), your shoulders, your triceps, your stomach, your thighs, calves and feet.
The goal is to keep those body parts almost completely relaxed when you practice sweep picking arpeggios or try to play guitar fast. And the better you are at doing the tension audit, the more progress you’ll make as you build your sweep picking speed with speed bursts.
Here is a video demonstration of a tension audit in action:
You now know how to use speed bursts to increase your sweep picking speed. But there is a lot more that goes into your ability to sweep pick fast. I lay it all out in my free eGuide Sweep Picking Mastery Secrets Unlocked. Download it today and see the exact steps that make it possible to sweep pick lightning fast and clean at a level most guitarists only dream about.
About 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.Tired of practicing guitar and getting nowhere? Change it now by taking online heavy metal guitar lessons.
|Forward this article to your friends|