by Tom Hess
Tired of playing bland, repetitive sweep picking arpeggios? Although there are many guitarists who can sweep pick, there are only a few who can use the technique to creatively express themselves. In this article, I will show you an exercise that will help you not only become a better sweep picker, but understand how to transform any arpeggio into an incredible lead guitar lick that demands attention.
To use sweep picking as a tool that will ‘enhance’ the expression, you MUST avoid the following: only thinking about speed while playing sweep picking arpeggios. Why should you avoid this? When you only (and always) try to play an arpeggio lick as fast as you can, you sacrifice the musical quality of the lick for speed. The result of this is a continual stream of the same notes being played over and over – making your sweep picking licks sound like boring ‘exercises’ instead of awesome phrases. To play inspiring sweep picking arpeggios that demand the attention of others, you must play with speed and precision while ALSO building up an overwhelming feeling of tension.
With this in mind, I am now going to show you an exercise that will help you change any arpeggio into a powerful tool for expressing intensity in your guitar licks. That said, you don’t have to be a master lead guitar player in order to use the idea I will be teaching you. Get started by checking out this sweep picking arpeggios video to get the maximum benefit from the exercise below (it will help you understand precisely what you are supposed to be doing):
… Did you watch the video already? If not, watch it now (you’ll be glad you did). If you did watch it, continue reading the steps in the exercise below.
1. Select any given three string arpeggio pattern that you are able to play accurately. Play this arpeggio 3-5 times.
2. Now think of the specific note names that build the arpeggio you just played. Ex: If you picked out a C minor arpeggio, this arpeggio is made of notes C, Eb and G.
3. After watching the demonstration in the video, you found out that you can build powerful intensity by inserting silence before the next note in an arpeggio. While watching the video to see how this is done, play the arpeggio you picked from step one several times. Then after you have repeated the pattern enough times, immediately mute all the strings after you play the highest pitch of the arpeggio.
4. In this step, you will simply be ‘waiting’ a few moments in order to insert silence into your lick and begin building musical tension. As you are doing this, find one of the notes from the arpeggio you picked that is higher in pitch than the note you ended on in the previous step. Ex: If you picked a C minor arpeggio and you ended your phrase on a ‘G’, find one of the other notes of the arpeggio (C, Eb or G) that are higher in pitch on the fretboard. Do not play this note yet.
5. Next, play the note you selected from the previous step in order to release all the tension you built up. Finally, add incredible power to the entire phrase by using wide vibrato to accent this note. After doing this, you have successfully made a single variation of the sweep picking arpeggio pattern you began this exercise with.
6. Once you have completed steps one through five, you have created a new sweep picking lick (that is different from the original lick you started out with). Experiment with various new approaches by using the other phrasing ornamentations I demonstrated in the video above.
Do steps 1-6 with at least three different arpeggio patterns. After repeating this exercise several times, you will see a huge improvement in not only the overall intensity in your sweep picking arpeggios, but the quality of your lead guitar playing as well. Become a great lead guitar player by using the concepts in this free electric guitar licks video.
To improve your speed on guitar and have more creative freedom when applying your phrasing skills, study this free mini course on guitar speed development .
About The Author: Tom Hess is an online electric guitar teacher, recording artist and virtuoso guitarist. He trains guitar players from around the world how to reach their musical goals in his correspondence guitar lessons online. Visit his website tomhess.net to receive many free guitar playing resources, mini courses, guitar practice eBooks, and to read more articles about guitar playing.