Sweep Picking: Four Tips to Get it Right

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By Guitar Pick Reviews

A commonly asked question is “How do I learn sweep picking as a beginner?”.
My quick answer is: If you’re a beginner learning to play guitar, sweep picking is one of the last things on your “to learn” list. Sweeping is not easy and takes a lot of left and right-hand coordination.

Sweep picking is going to be one of the hardest skills you will attempt to develop as an electric guitarist, and many guitar players still have trouble with it years down the road. There is really no fast route to learning this, despite what all the online guitar tutorials say. The key is practicing slowly, and lots and lots of repetition. You will need to play as slow as possible so that you build up super-accuracy especially in your fretting hand.

man playing an electric guitar, displaying coordination between the fretting and picking hand - required for sweeping
Sweep picking requires perfect coordination between the picking and fretting hands

So here are some tips and advice for sweep picking:

Mute With Both Hands

If you can, use both your hands to mute the strings that you’re not picking. If you do not do this, it will no longer be sweep picking but strumming instead as all the notes that you picked will still be ringing.

Control Your Fretting Hand

On your fretting hand, you need to lift up your finger with delayed action. What this means is that after you’ve picked the string, you will want to lift the finger up a bit slower than your normal rate. This will immediately mute the note you’ve just played, and on you go with the next string. Do this with every string you pick. If you notice a lot of ” string noise ” or unwanted notes, then this is the area you’ll need to check and correct yourself.

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Control Your Picking Hand

For my own playing style, I use the tip I just mentioned above, as well as using my right hand to mute the strings I’m not sweeping. So if I’m doing a downward sweep, I’d be using my palm ( picking hand ) to mute the strings above, continually.

Hold The Pick Appropriately

Angle your pick slightly at a 45-degree angle as you sweep, this will help you to get a smoother sweep as your pick slices or glides smoothly from string to string.

I hope this has been helpful to you. If it helped you or if you have anything to add to the list, feel free to post it in the comments!

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