Believe it or not, with the chords that you know, you have access to tons of licks already. Taking chords and breaking them up note by note makes something called an arpeggio. Arpeggios are commonly used within guitar solos and improvisations to fit the progression as well as add a full new flavor to the song.
In this article, we will discuss sweep picking arpeggios.
The first thing you need to understand is how to make an arpeggio. The best place to start is with an A Major barre chord. The A Major barre chord is played with the fifth fret of the low E string, the seventh fret of both the A string and the D string, the sixth fret of the G string, and the fifth fret of the B and high E string.
To create an arpeggio from this basic chord, we would need to make it a note by note skeleton of the actual chord. This means that if we were to strum down the chord, from lowest note to highest note, and hit one note at a time, we are creating an arpeggio.
Sweep Picking Basics
We are also developing the basics of sweep picking. Sweep picking is the act of hitting adjacent notes with a fluid, sweeping motion using the wrist to propel the pick.
The best place to start learning sweep picking is by using a two string arpeggio. The notes and frets that we will be using are the fifth fret of the B string for the note E, the fifth fret of the high E for the note A, and the eighth note of the high E for the note C. This, altogether, will give us the triad A, C, E in third inversion. Subsequently, we are still playing an A chord, this time minor.
When sweeping downwards, there are two things that you want to pay attention to; pick tilt and wrist torque. The first you want, the second you don’t. The top of your pick (the part not touching the strings) should tilt in the direction that you are moving. Your wrist should not be bent. Moving from a lower to higher strings involves a down stroke. Moving from a higher to lower string involves an up stroke.
To go from our B string note to our E string notes, we will use a down stroke. Hammer on the eighth fret from the fifth, then pick the fifth fret once more and return using a down stroke. Use a metronome and repeat the arpeggio. Start off slowly and allow yourself to get a feel for it.
Once you feel comfortable, try adding the fifth fret of the G string for the note C. This is an octave of our hammer on note.
The key is to practice. The only way to improve your sweeping skills is by making sweep picking a part of your daily practice. Use a metronome each time to develop the proper rhythm. Try breaking up more chords –smaller ones at first, larger ones as your progress— to create more arpeggios. Have fun, and good luck.