The patterns of sweep picking

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7 Arpeggio patterns and you're set

In this article, I'm going to give you the basic sweep picking patterns that I use when I improvise. They are very simple and can be used in any type of music. I'm talking about the Major, Minor and diminished triads. While there are many variations on these basic arpeggios, these are the fundamental three types you really need to master. You can add chord extensions like the 9th the 11th or other add-on notes to make the sound of the arpeggio change completely.

But if you know your basic triads, adding other notes to them will be easy and fun instead of confusing and overwhelming. I use these three types of triads in many different contexts and they are not limited to a Neoclassical type of chord progression. They work just as well for Blues, Flamenco or Jazz. So the benefits of being able to effortlessly sweep these Arpeggios are huge.

The 5-string Major shapes

In my last article I showed you the three 5-string patterns of an A-Minor arpeggio. This 5-string pattern is convenient because it allows you to create a 16 note sweep from start to end. Let's look at it's Major buddy, the C-Major arpeggio in it's  three inversions:

The first pattern is the easiest to finger. Focus on getting the middle three notes to sound separate by using one or both of the techniques I wrote about in my previous article. Use your second finger as a bar and roll it as you do the sweep. Here's the second pattern, starting on the E-note on the A-string:

This pattern can be a little tricky to play because you have to create two bars in it. For the first bar on the A- and D string, use your third finger and not your pinkie. You can use your pinkie to create the bar but it's a lot easier to use your third finger. Then use your index finger for the bar on the B- and E-string. Here's the last Major pattern:

This is my favorite Major triad pattern because you can play all the notes with a different finger and this makes it easy to get a clear sound out of it. It has one challenge though (No free lunches) you have to make that wide stretch of an entire 5th on the A-string. If this seems very hard for you here are some tips to make it easier:

How to make that stretch happen

1. Place your left hand thumb as low on the neck as possible. The more your "hug" the neck with your fretting hand the harder it is to reach far. Position your hand like a classical guitarist would. The thumb should be placed on the middle of the neck (vertically speaking) It gives you more "phrasing control" to place your thumb very high behind the neck (Picture 1) but it gives you more stretching power when you lower it (Picture 2)

2. Pull the neck closer to your face! Again: Think about how a classical guitarist sits when he plays. If your elbow is placed below the neck, it'll be much harder for you to make the stretch. (Picture 1) But If the elbow is under the neck however, you'll be able to reach and stretch your fingers much further. (Picture 2)

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."

Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

Only one diminished pattern

These are the three 5-string Major triad patterns so all we need now is the pattern of the diminished triad. Luckily the diminished triad is pure symmetry. It's one minor third repeating itself over and over again. Here's the first pattern:

To make it a manageable 5-string pattern that resembles the Major and Minor patterns, I've taken out one note in the arpeggio. The D note on the G-string in the 7th fret should be marked as well but that would mess up our system so I left it out. And, that sacrifice creates an extremely cool sounding and useful pattern. The next pattern looks exactly the same only three frets higher:

As you can see there's nothing new here. Only the position of the pattern shifted. Let's do it again and move it up three frets:

The diminished triad doesn't really have a root note - since the triad looks exactly the same no matter what note you start on. All the notes in the triad could be regarded root notes.

Diminished Shape Mega Sweep Picking Fun

Today's lick is practically the same as yesterdays only the pattern has changed from a Minor to a Diminished triad. So there's nothing new here for your picking hand.

How to blend sweep picking with other techniques

If you're into neoclassical metal or Blues Rock of any kind you'll come a long way with these shapes. In fact, you don't need to learn any other patterns than these to be able to create a lot of cool phrases. 98 % of what I do, I do with these patterns or smaller parts of these patterns. Practice and play with them until they become second nature to you. My next article will be about how to integrate these patterns into the Minor / Major and Blues scale so you can use them as an integral part of your soloing.

"I don't follow trends no matter what. I just do what I do and that's it"

Yngwie Malmsteen