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How Mastering Sweep Picking Can Help You Become A Better Guitar Player And Overcome Your Guitar Play
By Tom Hess - 12/23/2014 - 12:49 AM EST

Sweep picking is hard for most guitar players to masterÖbut it doesnít have to be that way for you. Iím about to show you exactly how easy improving your sweep picking can be and (better yet) how doing so can help ALL of your guitar playing improve. Check it out:

Check out this sweep picking pattern:

NOTE: I didnít use a finger rolling arpeggio in the example above. More on this below.

When you first look at this arpeggio, you may think it is hard to play because of how many notes there are. This is incorrect and hereís why:

1.   Your fretting hand doesnít have to work hard at all. This is because, in the example above, your middle and ring fingers play only 1 note each, your pinky plays 2 notes, and your index finger plays 3 notes. Because of the way the notes occur in the example above, your fingers have a LOT of time to get from one note to the next. This makes it possible for you play much faster.

2.   When sweep picking, your picking hand actually moves slower than it does in other techniques (like tremolo picking). This is because when you use sweep picking your pick only has to make TWO motions (I talk more about this in the video below).

When you compare the physicality of this technique to a trill (rapidly alternating between two adjacent notes) for example, you will notice that the trill requires SO much more work than this arpeggio example. Watch this sweep picking technique video below to learn how you can improve your sweep picking technique.

ďHold on, Tom! If sweep picking really is this easyÖwhy do most guitar players suck at sweep picking fast and clean?!Ē

You bring up a good point! Fact is, there are a lot of different reasons why most guitarists have a hard time with this technique. The main reason is that most guitar players simply do not understand why sweep picking is challenging. They assume that it is a physically demanding technique but I have just proven to you that this is not the case at all. So most guitarists run into trouble when they try to just move their hands faster. Besides not helping them master this technique at all, this distracts them from learning how to actually improve. Why is it that most guitar player have such a difficult time mastering their sweep picking technique? There are 4 main reasons:

The Picking Handís Momentum Is Limited - Most guitar players fail at sweep picking because they end up stopping the pick's motion by trying to pick each string individually. This will slow you down immensely and make it much harder to sweep pick fast. Instead, move you picking hand in a smooth motion that never stops. This is the main reason why I teach directional picking technique to my students.

Poor Finger Rolling Technique - In my arpeggio example above you may have noticed that I left out any shapes that involved finger rolling. This was intentional, because I wanted you to focus first on the fundamental hand motions that will enable you to play fast sweep picking. Having said this, it is important to realize that poor finger rolling technique is another reason why most guitar players struggle to play sweep picking arpeggios fast and clean. The good news for you is that this motion isnít hard at all once you get the basics down. Learn more about how to do this in this arpeggio sweep picking video.

Failure To Coordinate Each Hand Separately - Even though you now understand that your hands donít have a lot of work to do when sweep picking, most people still donít take the time to properly train their hands to do their jobs. To improve your handís coordination, play the sweep picking motions with each hand individually (without using the other hand). After you are comfortable with each handís proficiency in the arpeggio you are learning, play the arpeggio with both hands.

Unsynchronized Hands - Besides training your hands individually, you must take time to practice putting the motions of each hand together so that they are perfectly in sync when sweep picking. Not doing this results in horribly sloppy sweep picking technique that hinders your overall guitar speed. This problem is surprisingly easy to solve - simply isolate the hardest parts of the arpeggio you are practicing and make those parts their own exercise. Learn how you can do this in my article about improving your sweep picking.

How can these ideas also improve the rest of your guitar playing?

Once you understand the ideas presented in this article, you should feel much more empowered. These understandings will enable you to improve ALL of your guitar playing (not only your sweep picking technique)! Hereís how:

1.   Isolate each hand while practicing difficult guitar licks. Do this by going through the motions of playing the arpeggio with each hand separately (as explained above) and then combining them together.

2.   Learn what your REAL guitar guitar practice problems are. Focus in on each exercise and determine what each handís job is so you avoid wasting any time trying to fix things that arenít the real problem.

3.   Donít ever think that simply moving your hands faster is the answer to playing guitar faster. Focus more on how efficient your motions are in both hands. Learn exactly how to do this in your tremolo picking technique.

4.   Study with a proven guitar teacher who can help you dramatically improve your guitar technique faster than you ever could alone. This allows you to reach all of your musical goals faster than you ever could on your own.

If you want to learn how you can play guitar faster than you ever have before, check out my how you can double your guitar speed.




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