Sweep Picking Part 1 - C major scale


Sweep picking is a highly efficient picking technique that enables you to play very fast. In this lesson, we practice playing the C major scale using sweep picking.


Sweep picking is also known as economy picking. Instead of alternate picking, it uses successive downstrokes when moving to a lower string and upstrokes when moving to a higher string.

This means that if you're playing a downstroke on one string, and the next note will be on the string below it, that note will also be picked using a downstroke. The other way around would come down to using two successive upstrokes when first playing a note on a lower string and then a note on the string above it.

Instead of doing two or more seperate strokes, you're hitting two or more strings in one 'sweep.


Sweep picking history
Although flamenco and gypsy jazz guitar styles have involved simpler ways of sweeping over multiple strings (techniques like 'raking' or 'rasguado'), the more advanced sweep picking technique as it is used today was invented in the 1980's, by an Australian guitar player called Frank Gambale.


Sweep picking and alternate picking?
Sweep or economy picking comes down to using the shortest way to the next picking attack and is therefore the most economic/efficient way to pick a succession of single notes when moving from string to string. When playing 2 or more notes on one string, you'll still need to use alternate picking.


When playing a scale using the sweep picking technique, your combining small sweeps and alternate picking. This can be used to full advantage when playing a scale with 3 notes on each string.

Sweep picking inventor Frank Gambale


Sweeping the C major scale

Let's see how we can play the C major scale using sweep picking. As you can see in the TAB picture on the top right of this page, the scale is played in a 3-notes-per-string pattern. The only exceptions are the first string (2 notes) and the last string (4 notes to turn around, from ascending to descending).


When we use three notes per string, so on the A, D, G and B strings, every string will have the same picking pattern: down-up-down (when ascending the scale) and up-down-up (descending). This results in down-down (ascending) or up-up (descending) when you go from one string to the next, and THAT'S WHERE YOU DO A SWEEP, see TAB.


How to Sweep Pick

The trick is to let your hand fall through the two adjiecent strings when doing those little sweeps, in one motion. Practice this VERY slow at first, start playing the exercise at 40 bpm, 4 notes per beat, if you use a metronome. It takes a while to get used to the feeling, when you're used to alternate picking everything, but hang in there. After a while you'll be able to do this comfortably on higher tempos. Don't go to a higher tempo before you feel comfortable picking the whole scale slowly, however.


Let your hand and pick 'fall' through the strings (down), or gently 'push' the pick through (up). As I said above, don't make seperate strokes on each single string.


Make sure that you're hitting EVERY string, make all the notes sound clear and smooth. Avoid sloppy sweep-picking, so practice SLOWLY, as said.


If you practice this for while, it will start to feel more comfortable and easy. You'll be amazed at just how fast you can play a scale like this C major using Sweep Picking, once you get it in your hands.


Good luck, happy sweepin'!


Sweep picking part 1 - C major scale TAB