100 - 102 sweep picking licks

Sweep Picking Licks

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Sweep Picking Licks For Dynamic Guitar Solos

Sweep picking, a.k.a. economy picking, allows you to play speedy phrases when crossing guitar strings. Trying to alternate pick specific phrases when the notes are located on different strings can be extremely difficult. Sweep picking allows your pick to glide across the strings with ease.

I first started to use the sweep picking technique through necessity. When I was young, I spent much time transcribing saxophone solos by artists such as Charlie Parker. Many of the arpeggio-type phrases could not be played easily using an alternate picking technique. Also, alternate picking did not give the right sound when trying to emulate saxophone phrasing.

Enter sweep picking...

What Is Sweep Picking?

When teaching students how to sweep pick, I have found the easiest way to explain the technique is to use a 'controlled strum'. It is not the picking hand that is difficult to master, it is the left hand.

Can you strum the strings with a plectrum? Easy, yes? This is essentially what your right hand is doing when you sweep pick. The note separation comes from the left hand. That is the tricky part!

The mistake I see most students making when trying to sweep pick is that the plectrum moves away from the strings when playing slowly. This is not a sweep-picking technique. If you cannot strum the strings in one downward or upward motion when playing slowly, you will not be able to perform the technique at speed.

Strum the strings and control note separation with your left hand (or right hand if you are a left-handed guitarist). It is as simple as that!

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Sweep Picking Arpeggio Lick

Sweep picking works extremely well when playing arpeggios. This lick blends sweep picking with pull-offs to create a cool-sounding sequence that can be extended further if you know the scale fingerings.

The lick works over a dominant 7th chord, so it can be used in many musical situations. Whether playing blues. funk, or any time you have an extended length of time to improvise on a dominant 7th chord, give the lick a try.

A Blues Scale Sweep Picking Lick

I remember seeing Frank Gambale perform a workshop at a local bar many years ago. He explained how he uses sweep picking with pentatonic scales and the blues scale. Needless to say, I was up all night working on these ideas as they fitted perfectly into what I had already been doing.

This lick demonstrates one of the many ways sweep picking can be incorporated into blues scale runs.

Ascending Diatonic Arpeggios Guitar Lick

Diatonic arpeggios (arpeggios using the notes within a scale) are a great device for creating sweep-picking guitar licks.

Once you have mastered the technique for this lick, you will be able to apply the ideas to any other scale, so long as you know the diatonic arpeggios for that scale.

This lick will certainly give you a great sweep-picking technique workout!

Free Ear Training Course

Sweep picking and all other guitar techniques are useless if you do not have good ears and can hear how to use the ideas in a musical situation. My free ear training mini-course will help you to easily train your ears and will make you a better guitarist.
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