Welcome to Power Up! episode 4. This time we’re looking at Sweep Picking. We’ll be focusing on a 3 string, major chord triad. The idea here is to focus on one shape to help really develop the sweep picking technique without making things too complex.
Basic Sweep Picking Exercise: Major Chord Triad
Here is a basic sweep picking exercise that will help you better develop the technique. Check out the shape in the diagram below. The root note is actually on the B string, making this an inversion. This is where the lowest note of the chord or arpeggio is not the root. In this case the lowest note is the 5th of the chord.
We’re going to start the sweeping from the highest note, this is also the 5th of the chord because it’s the octave of the lowest note. Then we’ll pull off to the 3rd, then pick the Root note on the B string, then the 5th on the G string and then ascend back up.
To keep the timing fairly simple we’ll play the whole sequence in 8th note triplets. This means we get 3 notes of equal length for each beat. You can count this as:
One and a, Two and a, Three and a, Four and a.
Section One – C Major
We’ll break the sequence down in to 4 sections. The first 3 sections will be the same but moving through different keys. We’ll start by playing the shape above with the root note on the 13th fret B string. This gives us a C major chord. We’re going to play the shape twice in this position and then move down the neck so our root note is now at the 8th fret B string.
We’re now in position to play G Major. Again we’ll repeat this twice starting from the highest note which is D on the 10th fret E string. The chords G Major and C Major occur in the keys of C and G. Since we only have these two chords our key could be either C or G, We’re going to call it C Major, it will make sense why once we get to section 4.
Section Two – Bb Major
Since we called our key in section one C Major we can think of the progression as a I – V (One – Five) progression. Section two will also be a I – V progression, however our key is now going to be Bb Major. Therefore the chord arpeggios are going to be Bb Major and F Major.
The Bb major will be played with the root note at the 11th fret B string. The F major chord will be played with the root note at the 6th fret on the B string. The arpeggio shape is the same we’ve just moved it along the neck. As you can see section two is identical to section one but both chords are a whole tone lower.
Section Ab Major
Section three will be the same progression again but this time another whole tone lower. Our key is now Ab Major, so the I chord will be Ab Major and the V chord will be Eb Major.
The Ab Major has its root on the 9th fret B string and the Eb Major has its root on the 4th fret B string. Again we play each chord twice.
Section Four – The Final Stage
The final section will remain in the key of Ab Major. We’re going to be sweeping a IV – V – I progression this time. Remember how I said that section one could be considered to be in the key of either chord (C or G)? Well that has been the case for each section so far.
Section three could have been a I – V progression in Ab Major, or a IV – I progression in Eb Major. However now that we are adding a third chord we know the key has to be Ab Major. This is because we’re adding a Db Major chord with the root note at the 2nd fret B string. In Ab Major this would be the IV chord.
If we had called the key Eb Major in section three then there would be no Db Major chord.
Basic Sweep Picking Exercise: Five String Shapes
In this section we’ll play Db Major just once, starting from the highest note as before, then move back up to the Eb Major chord and play this once too. Next we will move up to the Ab Major shape again and play the 3 string shape once like we did with the previous two arpeggios, however we will then descend this as a 5 string shape down on to the A string ending on the 11th fret. See the diagram below.
From here we repeat the note on the 11th fret A string then ascend through an alternative shape of the Ab Major arpeggio as per the diagram below. This ends on the 16th fret High E string. Hold this note for 2 beats and then we’re finished!
The whole sweeping sequence is unusual since it only uses Major chords. Practicing these arpeggios will really help you to get familiar with this arpeggio shape and get used to moving it up and down the neck. Once you get the hang of it you can try adding in some minor chords and see what you come up with!
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