This one is an exercise that can really help your sweep picking.
All we’re really doing, is taking some of the most common sweep picking shapes, and breaking them down into three string ‘chunks’. The idea is that if you break down bigger shapes this way, you get to concentrate on making each note clear.
Obviously, you will eventually want to play these smaller chunks as one big shape. Until then, practising them like this means you’re not just blurring everything into one long noise.
Be warned, though! Sweeping with so much control and accuracy can be more difficult than it sounds! However, if you want to get the best sound, you’ll want to practise these slowly, and with a metronome. Speed isn’t everything…just yet…
How to Play the Exercise
This exercise is fairly straightforward. I’ve tabbed it here in the three most common sweep picking arpeggio shapes- the C, A and E shapes. There are others, and if you know of any other sweep picking licks you could try this technique with those, too.
Each shape has it’s own set of challenges, which I’ll explain (and also tell you how to overcome). There is also both a major, and a minor version of each.
The C Shape
This shape is the one with a root note on both the A string, and the B string. Start with your little finger on the A string and work through to your first finger on the G string. The only really tricky bit here is the thinnest three strings, which require you to use fingers ‘1-2-1’ in quick succession.
Then the minor version isn’t too much more difficult. You just have to change your fingering for the minor thirds (on the D and thin E strings). The very top note of the shape (on the thin E string) should still be fretted with your first finger, but you’ll have to get used to the stretch!
The A shape
This one is probably my least favourite shape because of the three string ‘roll’ section. This is where you need to play the D, G and B strings on the same fret, which means you have to kinda ‘roll’ one finger across. Failing to do this will mean the notes ring together, which is not what we want!
I like to use my second finger for this, with the shape starting with my first finger hammering on with my 4th.
The minor shape is played completely differently. Still start it off with your first finger, and then hammer on with your fourth. Then roll across the D and G strings with your third finger.
Your third finger makes more sense for the roll in this one, because you’ll want your second and first for the notes on the B and E strings.
The E Shape
Now, there is a reason I’ve left this one until last. Not only are there finger rolls in these shapes, they happen multiple times, and are combined with hammer-ons.
Start with your second finger for the note on the E string, then go to your first for the first note on the A string. Then hammer-on with your third finger.
Why third finger? Because if you try to use your fourth (due to the stretch) the next part is almost impossible!
You have to roll your finger across from the A to the D string, then use your second finger for the G string. The final part of the shape is a roll with your first finger across the B and E strings.
Lastly, the E minor shape. This one has a roll across the A and D strings, for which I suggest using your third finger. You can also start the shape with your first finger…but then we have a problem…
…the roll across the G, B and E strings is on the same fret as the note you start on. This means you have to move your first finger across the fretboard as you sweep through the shape.
It’s tricky, but not impossible! Remember to start off slow.