What is sweep picking, and how can it be used in arpeggios?

What is sweep picking, and how can it be used in arpeggios?

Sweep picking is a captivating and technically demanding guitar technique that has been a hallmark of many legendary guitarists’ playing styles. When incorporated into arpeggios, sweep picking can elevate your guitar solos and compositions to new heights. In this article, we’ll delve into what sweep picking is, how it can be used effectively in arpeggios, and how to master this technique to add fluidity and expressiveness to your guitar playing.

Understanding Sweep Picking:

Sweep picking is a guitar technique that involves using a smooth and continuous picking motion to play consecutive notes on adjacent strings in a single, fluid motion. Unlike alternate picking, where each string is individually picked with an upstroke and a downstroke, sweep picking employs a sweeping motion, usually in the direction of the strings’ travel.

The hallmark of sweep picking is its ability to produce a cascading and arpeggio-like sound, making it an ideal choice for playing complex and fast arpeggio patterns.

How to Execute Sweep Picking in Arpeggios:

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use sweep picking effectively in arpeggios:

  1. Choose an Arpeggio Shape:
    • Start by selecting an arpeggio shape that you want to incorporate into your playing. Common choices include major, minor, dominant, diminished, and augmented arpeggios. These shapes provide a foundation for sweep picking.
  2. Fretting Hand Technique:
    • Position your fretting hand to form the selected arpeggio shape on the fretboard. Ensure that your fingers are correctly placed and ready to execute the arpeggio.
  3. Sweep Picking Motion:
    • Hold your pick and place it on the lowest-pitched string of the arpeggio (usually the bass note). To initiate the sweep picking motion, use a single, continuous downward pick stroke while simultaneously moving across the strings in the direction of the arpeggio shape. Keep your pick in contact with the strings during this motion.
  4. Individual Note Articulation:
    • As your pick moves across the strings, your fretting hand should be lifting individual fingers to articulate each note of the arpeggio. This involves synchronizing your pick’s motion with your finger placement.
  5. Directional Control:
    • Pay close attention to the direction of your pick’s motion. It should be a fluid downward sweep across the strings. Avoid hesitation or staccato-like picking.
  6. Watch for String Noise:
    • Sweep picking can produce string noise between notes. To minimize this, use the edges of your fretting hand’s fingers to lightly mute the strings that are not in use. This ensures that only the desired notes are heard.
  7. Practice Slowly:
    • Begin by practicing sweep picking at a slow tempo. Focus on maintaining a smooth and fluid motion while articulating each note clearly.
  8. Gradually Increase Speed:
    • As you gain confidence, gradually increase the speed of your sweep picking. Use a metronome to maintain precise timing and rhythm.
  9. Master the Sweep Pick Variations:
    • Experiment with different arpeggio shapes, variations, and patterns. You can add slides, hammers, and pulls to your sweep-picked arpeggios to create dynamic and expressive phrases.
  10. Combine with Other Techniques:
    • Incorporate sweep-picked arpeggios into your solos and compositions, combining them with other techniques like legato, alternate picking, and tapping for added versatility.


Sweep picking is a remarkable technique that can add depth, speed, and expressiveness to your guitar playing. When applied to arpeggios, it allows you to create captivating and melodically rich solos and compositions. As with any technique, mastering sweep picking in arpeggios takes practice, patience, and dedication. However, the rewards are well worth the effort, as it can transform your guitar playing into a fluid and dynamic experience that captivates audiences and fellow musicians alike. So, pick up your guitar, start practicing sweep picking with arpeggios, and unlock the potential for expressive and dazzling guitar performances.

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