How To Play Powerful Sweep Picking Arpeggios
by Tom Hess

Think sweep picking is all about memorizing arpeggio patterns and playing them as fast as possible? Fact is, the greatest sweep pickers are not only ‘fast’ but understand how to use sweep picking to express themselves in their guitar solos and licks. In this article, I will help you enhance your ability to express yourself with sweep picking and play better lead guitar phrases.

In order to play expressive sweep picking arpeggios that add fire to your lead guitar phrases, you must avoid the common mistake made by most guitarists – ‘only’ playing arpeggios as fast as possible. When you only focus on playing fast, you get into the habit of thinking about ‘speed’ rather than the musical quality of what you are playing. As a result, your sweep picking is doomed to be nothing more than a flashy ‘side show’ at best rather than an incredible tool for musical expression. To really squeeze the most value out of sweep picking technique, you of course need to understand how to play the actual patterns BUT you must also understand how to build intense musical 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. Watch this sweep picking phrasing video first so understand the concepts I am about to discuss:

... 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.

Step #1 – In this first step, pick out an arpeggio pattern that is easy for you to play at high speeds (while retaining as much accuracy as possible). Warm up by playing through this pattern several times.

Step #2 – Think of the names for each note that make up the arpeggio you picked from step one. For instance, if the arpeggio you picked was an D minor arpeggio, the notes would be D F and A.

Step #3 – When you watched the video mentioned above, you learned how to create a massive amount of tension in your phrases by simply delaying the next note in a given arpeggio. Now, play the arpeggio in the first step many times. Then, suddenly ‘mute’ all the strings after playing the highest pitch in your arpeggio.

Step #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 D minor arpeggio and you ended your phrase on an ‘A’, find one of the other notes of the arpeggio (D, F or A) that are higher in pitch on the fretboard. Do not play this note yet.

Step #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.
Step #6 – Think of many more unique variations by adding a delay to the vibrato you just used and using the other techniques shown in the video on this page.

Then after you have come up with several new variations, choose a new arpeggio pattern and repeat the steps of this exercise. This will quickly help you become much more effective at playing creative, attention-grabbing sweep picking arpeggios. Improve your lead guitar playing with the unique ideas in this guitar licks phrasing video.

Find out how to develop speed as a guitarist and play fast arpeggios by learning how to play fast guitar licks.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional recording artist, composer, and expert guitar instructor. He teaches and trains guitarists how to become great musicians in his online rock guitar lessons. Visit to receive additional free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar articles.