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Andy James - Mastering Sweep Picking Part 2

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 17 **

Welcome back to another edition of Metal Edge guitar lesson series where we're going to dig a lot deeper into the sweep picking technique, with some modern guitar licks in the style of players like Richie Kotzen and Synyster Gates, two very different players who have both added something to the sweep picking table.

As I said last time, sweep picking is a technique which I'm openly not keen on because I've always found it harder to pull off than other techniques which I use regularly. That said, it's certainly something I use from time to time, so there's no excuse to not spend some time developing the technique so that it's there if you need it.

To recap from last month, sweep picking involves moving from one string to another using a consecutive stroke. By that I mean, unlike with alternate picking where you play down up down up, when sweep picking you may move from the A to E string playing down down down down. The important part to get your head around is that we're not playing separate downstrokes like you would if you were down picking a metal riff on the low string. Instead we're “pushing” through the string so when you play a note your pick comes to rest on the next string ready to push through that one and continue.

Our first lick certainly isn't an easy one, so you'll need to have mastered the lesson from the last issue. We're playing a D major triad arpeggio and shifting through three shapes on the neck, very much in the style of Richie Kotzen. Listening to the Shrapnel era artists you'll hear a lot of playing like this, especially from guys like Jason Becker and Michael Lee Firkins, so have a listen. When you've mastered this you could take I to the next level by working out the minor equivalent and even applying it to some chord changes, though that would be some serious homework.

Exercise 2 is something I took from Avenged Sevenfold axeman Synyster Gates. This differs quite a lot from the neoclassical sweep picking we hear a lot because there are some added chromatic passing notes. The basis of the lick moves around a Bm arpeggio on the ascent, but when descending we're treated to a b5 and maj7th which fall outside the tonality a little bit. If you look at the picking you'll see that the extra passing note on the high E string helps to set us up for the descending sweep and the 13th fret on the A string prepares us to change direction again. The notes happen to just sit next to a note we're playing and I still think of this as a Bm arpeggio rather than a Bm(maj)7#11.

The last example is another Gates inspired lick tying together a series of non diatonic arpeggios for a Danny Elfman-like sound. If you look at the first bar we play an F# minor followed by an F major then the F# minor followed by a G major, really the idea here is to outline a Gothic sounding chord progression, so once you've mastered the technique you'll be able to apply this concept to progressions of your own.

That's it for this month, as always you're going to want to devote some serious time to these because next issue we're going to ramp it up another degree my including some combination licks where we use both sweep picking and fast alternate picking runs, so until next issue, rock on!


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