Guitar Tutorial: Different Form of Picking Part Two –Sweep Picking and Tremolo Picking

In part one I looked at Alternate Picking as one of the most commonly used picking styles for the guitar when it comes to playing solos and riffs. For this article I will highlight some aspects of Sweep Picking and Tremolo Picking.

                      Sweep Picking:

It is a somewhat confusion term, as it is not always obvious to see that your picking hand actually sweeps through the notes. There are different forms of Sweep Picking, the style of picking has been around for a long time. Some Jazz players used the style before but since the 1980s Sweep Picking has been developed into one of the standard picking styles for modern guitar playing.

There used to be a time when Sweep Picking was looked upon as “cheating” since not all notes were being picked one by one with the plectrum. Off course, this is nonsense, since Sweep Picking gives your notes a more legato feel rather than each notes being played with the plectrum. It simply gives you a different sound, and sound at the end of the day is all what matters.

Most of you reading this article will use some forms of Sweep Picking, you may not even be aware of it as it is such a commonly used picking style today.

Have a look at this argeggio (=broken chord) of Gmaj7, as it is a typical form of Sweep Picking:

   E —-2——-                                 

   B  ——-3——

   G  ———–4—-

   D  —————5–

   A ——————-

   E ——————–

This type of arpeggio is typically played with one downstroke where each note rings out individually. It is easy to confuse this type of picking with a strum: A strum will give you all the notes at, almost, the same time whereas the Sweep will let you hear each note at a time. It is logical to see why this type of picking is called Sweep Picking, as you simply “sweep” through all the notes with a downwards stroke.  You use an Up stroke for when you reverse the Sweep back up to its rootnote on the 5th fret on the D string.

Other forms of Sweep Picking will let you pick often through a larger range of octaves: Simply start on the G on your low E and go up to the G 3 Octaves up on the high E string.
Most players will use a downstroke for the first note, and the next note is often played with a Hammer on, which will give you a legato sound. When you reverse the Sweep back from its highest note to its lowest Rootnote you use a Pull Off instead of Hammer On, you also use a upstroke instead of a downstroke.

Most people will not play full 3 octave sweeps for one arpeggio, but you may play a part of it to get that legato sound in your solo. The trick with Sweep Picking is to work it into your exhisting pickstyle in a natural way so your solos will not sound as just an excercise.  To get the Sweep Picking into your stystem it helps to play excercises, but once your fingers know their way you should find musical ways to employ the Sweep.

Often Sweep Picking is seen as an advanced way of picking. It may be so, but is also a style of picking which will make you play very precise, since you need to mute any unwanted stringnoise, and it will let you break out of the usual Pentatonic boxes.

                 Tremolo Picking:

You use a down and up stroke rapidly to play on any note. This style of picking can be used for single notes but also for chordplaying. Listen to some Stevie Ray Vaughan to hear how the style can be used to your avantage.

                What Picking Style To Use? Let Your Music Decide!!

It makes sense to work on all the various pickstyles I mentioned in both articles, since each style will give you a particular sound. When it comes to playing your solos freely you want your technique to be in place so you can concentrate on what you hear. Most great guitarplayers will combine any of these pick styles to get a variety of sounds in their playing. If you try to stick to one pick style at a time you will notice the difference. 
If you are new to any of those particular picking styles, play just using one stlye for a while and notice the difference in your playing. Once the style has become second nature try to combine it with another picking style. 

Good luck, stick to it and hope to see you soon again,