** As featured in issue 9 **
I am writing this column from my hotel room in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Starting tomorrow, I will be performing five shows in five days, in four different cities, then back to the USA for one day, then flying almost half way around the world to Tahiti for more shows. Why did I start the column this way? Too impress you with my tour schedule? No. I am grateful for the opportunity. Did “sweep picking” get me here to Brazil? Well, yes. “Sweeping,” along with all of the other shred guitar techniques I use in my music, are the reasons why I am here in Brazil. I am using the “sweep” technique that I am demonstrating in this issue at every show here in Brazil, just as I have been doing for decades - at other shows, in other countries.
I really love to “sweep” and use this technique. It developed and grew from my desire, early in my career, to be able to play a flurry of notes in an arpeggio, like I can do on the piano. I had no one to teach me this technique. I taught myself how to “sweep.” I developed “sweeping” and figured out the arpeggio shapes on my own, originally calling this technique “raking” or the “rake” technique. Simply put, “sweeping” was the way I could translate piano style arpeggios to the guitar.
The reason I started the article this way is that my theory of practicing has enabled me to tour all over the world and maintain a high performance level without ever getting injured. I have said this many times, but it still holds true. I have NEVER been injured or had a hand injury (wrist or elbow as well) from playing the guitar! Why? Because I always warm up SLOWLY and METHODICALLY! Especially when you have an extremely busy travel schedule like I do that incorporates a lot of flying, it is easy to become jet lagged and tired - mentally and physically tired. That is when one is most susceptible and vulnerable to injuries. That is why when I suggest techniques and how to practice them, it comes from years of experience using these techniques in a live situation through constant touring.
Also, what I am imparting to you is my “mindset” on how I practice and learn different techniques such as “sweeping.” The best way I have found, to learn any technique, whether on the guitar or any other instrument, is starting slowly and repeat the desired motion, be it – riff, musical part or pattern - over and over and over and over and over and over, concentrating on what each hand is doing and how each hand is doing it. If you keep working, you will “get it.” Don’t quit and you will succeed. Watching the details in your “sweep” technique as in all other instrument related techniques will give you the best possible chance to really “own” a technique, use a technique and make a technique part of your sound and style.