How to build sweep picking precision

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One note at a time

The skill of sweep picking offers you very few challenges. I'm not saying that it's easy. I'm saying there aren't that many things to think about when you sweep pick. If you've got the angle of the pick right - and you're using your arm and not your hand to do the sweeping, you're doing great. But there is one little challenge that I would like to address in this article though.

The whole purpose of sweep picking is to produce notes that are separate and not "together" like the notes of a chord. You don't want two notes from the A-minor triad to sound at the same time in the middle of a sweep. This is not a challenge when all the notes are in a seperate fret like in this A-Minor arpeggio pattern:

When you play through this pattern, you use a different finger each time you shift from one string to another. This makes it very easy to not have the notes sound at the same time. However, the following pattern has two notes in the same fret:

The easiest way to play this pattern is to create a bar with your third finger on the D- and G-strings. But this will also make it harder to separate the notes from each other. - In the third version of the A-Minor arpeggio it gets even worse:

Here you have three consecutive notes in the same fret on the G- B- and E-string. There are two ways to deal with this challenge and here they are:

1. Mute the strings

Muting all the strings with your picking hand will create a "staccato" effect that prevents the strings from vibrating for no more than a fraction of a second. I've included some photos that show you how to "palm mute" the strings below. In the first photo my hand is placed behind the strings, but in the second photo it touches the strings. When I start to pick my palm is going to mute the strings, giving me no sustain on the notes what so ever:

The only downside of this technique is that it will mute all of the notes, also the ones that don't need muting. When you do this, the sound of what you play, changes radically. I use this technique quite a bit but sometimes it's nice to have a more open sound when playing arpeggios. That's why you should spend some time learning the next technique as well:

“I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet.”

 Niccolo Paganini

2. Rolling the bar

Is it possible to create a bar over several strings but only really fret one of the notes? Yes it is. Try this: Put your index finger across the G-, B- and E strings like in the last Arpeggio pattern example. Then, while you keep holding that bar, push down on the G-string with the tip of your finger, while easing the pressure on the other strings. If you strum the three strings the G-string should sound loud and clear while the other two strings should be muted.

Then try to put the pressure on the high E-string instead, while easing up on the G- and B-string. Don't move your finger, keep that bar in place. Now it's quite hard to put pressure on the middle B-string without also putting pressure on the other strings but try this now: Sweep pick the three strings and "roll" your left hand index finger over the strings as you pick them. You can see me do this in the movie at exactly 00:09. Look closely and see if you can pin point the place where I "roll" my index finger across the three top strings.

A-Minor 3 Shapes Mega Sweep Picking Fun

Today's lick uses all of the three Minor arpeggio shapes. You can use these shapes in a variety of different contexts so they are really, really useful to master. Practice each shape separately and then integrate them with each other to build the whole lick.