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Rick Graham - Sweep Picking Part 9: Combining Sweep and Economy Picking

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 24 **

Hi everyone and welcome back to another sweep picking guitar lesson, where we’re going to continue our exploration into the application of right hand technique in our soloing, bridging the gap between sweeping and economy picking guitar techniques. Hopefully at this point in the series you’ll be getting considerably more comfortable with the sweep picking guitar technique, and last months “mini sweeps” arpeggios will be falling nicely under your fingers, and you’re feeling ready to take that to the next step.

Our first sweep picking exercise this month could be seen as a review of last issue’s column. We’re applying our three string mini sweep to an Am7 arpeggio up at the 12th fret. Remember to pay close attention to the pick strokes too, we’re starting with an upstroke then sweeping through three strings with downstrokes before ending on another upstroke.

Exercise 2 takes this pattern up a gear by applying the “mini sweep” multiple times. After ending the initial five note phrase (on an upstroke) we’re perfectly set to perform another mini sweep across three strings which will take us onto the high E string. We’re getting into full on economy picking territory now which can be described as “moving from one note to another with minimal movement”, or even “the removal of outside picking”. It would seem that the problem area here is the three consecutive notes on the G string as you’re coming straight out of a series of sweep picked notes so care must be taken to make sure your picking is consistent in terms of dynamics and rhythm, take it slowly and build up to speed over a period of weeks.

Exercise 3 is the same basic idea but descending. When doing this we start on an upstroke which enables us to sweep though all of our string changes. If we were to start this on a down stroke you’d be forced to play down, which should allow you to prepare for the imminent downward sweep. For those of you keen on taking this to the next level you could try applying this picking mechanic to other shapes outlining the sounds of maj7, dom7 m7b5, mMaj7 etc. This level of exploration is definitely encouraged.

Our final exercise uses these combinations of mini sweeps in licks I’m likely to play when improvising. The first six notes are as we’ve been practising but then I shift up into the next pentatonic pattern which sets me up for another sweep, but in a higher position. In order to do this there is an element of inside picking, moving from the 17th fret G (down) to 14th fret D (up), this is a mechanic that you may find troublesome, or may glide over, but you can be sure we’ll cover it in future columns! Once we’ve reached the top of the lick, we’re shifting back down to the descending pattern covered in example 3.

Make sure you’re practising with efficient right hand movement and stick with it, speed will come.

That’s it for another issue, so practice hard and I’ll see you soon!

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