If you want to shred like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, you’ll need to know how to hold a guitar pick when sweep picking. The technique, used for extremely fast flourishes of notes in short spurts, serves to impress just about any listener. They usually involve arpeggios, or chords that are played one note at a time in quick succession. This basis, and the strumming, or “sweeping” technique with the guitar pick, are what make a good sweep picker. So, to do this yourself and improve your chops and solos, use these tips for the guitar picking technique.
- A “sweep” is basically a drawn out strum. When you see less talented guitar players strumming open chords, it may be hard to believe that this is the base for one of the most advanced techniques in guitar playing. But, with your picking hand, you are basically strumming when you sweep pick.
- It is the fretting hand that makes the difference in sound. So, with the strumming idea in place, you’d expected a sweep to sound like a chord, because it is. When you play a chord, you simply hold down the frets and create a singular sound from the guitar. But when sweep picking, you use your fretting fingers to hit certain notes as your picking hand strums the strings. This will emit the signature flourish of notes.
- Practicing the timing between your two hands is key. Your picking and fretting hand have to be perfectly in sync for a sweep to work, and actually sound good. You have to fret the note on the guitar’s neck right as the pick hits that particular string. It is getting these things to work together just right that will take the most time and effort.
- Do what you’re comfortable with while trying to sweep. Some guitar players prefer to anchor their pinky, for example. Sticking with the same technical outline that works for you makes learning how to sweep pick much easier. Despite all the argument among guitar players and enthusiasts, the fact is whatever technique works for you is generally the best.
- Remember to palm mute. Muting the guitar’s strings with you picking hand is the final aspect of a good sweeping technique. It works to separate the notes, and give your sweeping that lightning fast sound.