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Rick Graham - Sweep Picking Part 1

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 16 **

Welcome to this new series of guitar technique lesson columns in which I'll be concentrating on the technique of sweep picking. We'll be taking a look at a variety of different applications of the technique itself with some conventional - and not so conventional - approaches. I'd like to kick things off by taking a look at one of the most important aspects of mastering this essential guitar technique, which is the movement of the right hand.

In order to attain full control of sweep picking technique we must first address how the right hand should move when travelling from string to string. Once a string is played, the pick should immediately 'fall through' the string and come to rest on the adjacent string using the minimum movement possible. A common mistake that players make is to separate each pick stroke of the right hand. That is to be avoided at all costs as it will not be possible to develop a fluid transition from one note to the next. A great way of practicing this is to keep it as simple as possible in order to get the correct 'feel' for the movement. It is very much a movement that, when employed correctly, will feel just right.

A great way to get the feel for the movement down is to start by using just two open strings.

Taking the low E to the A strings, play the E ensuring that the right hand 'falls through' the string and comes to rest on the adjacent A string. Personally, I like to exaggerate the movement and really tense up as I play the string but immediately relax afterwards as the string comes to rest. I get a greater feel for the movement this way. You can then expand on the simple two string exercise by adding more open strings. Also, make sure that you practice the upstroke as much as you do the downstroke  as you'll need to be adept at both movements in equal measure.

OK, now that you have those movements down, we can proceed onwards and apply the technique to triad arpeggios. For the example in this first lesson, we will only be needing simple major and minor triad arpeggio shapes. There are three main shapes for each arpeggio but here we will be using two of the shapes.

Example 1. Major arpeggio (1st shape)

Example 2. Major Arpeggio (2nd shape)

Example 3. Minor Arpeggio (1st shape)

Example 4. Minor Arpeggio (2nd shape)

Once you are comfortable with these arpeggio shapes, you'll need to connect both shapes to form one larger shape. What you can then do is ascend through shape one and then descend through shape two until you come back to where you started. You can do this with both arpeggios. Make sure you are employing the correct right hand movement and if it doesn't feel quite right, return to the earlier open string exercises again. When you feel in control of these arpeggios, you can then move on to the next example.

In this example we will be using the two shapes of both the major and minor triad arpeggios and we'll be applying them to the diatonic triads of I II III IV and V in the key of G. This gives us G major, A minor, B minor, C major and D major. Be sure to aim for complete control of the right hand movement, keeping the arpeggios smooth and clear. Again, if at any point you feel out of control just return to the open string exercise to regain control of that movement.

OK folks, that's it for this lesson. Make sure you practice hard because we'll be doing more demanding stuff in the subsequent columns. Have fun!

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