Cre­ative Rock

Shaun Bax­ter shows you how to com­bine two of the gui­tar’s most labour-sav­ing de­vices to ex­e­cute ex­cep­tion­ally smooth ar­peg­gio pas­sages.

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Shaun Bax­ter com­bines sweep­ing and tap­ping to pro­duce ex­cep­tion­ally smooth arpeg­gios.

last month we looked at ways of us­ing two-handed tap­ping to play arpeg­gios. This is­sue, we’re go­ing to add sweep pick­ing to the mix. Di­a­gram 1 shows a se­ries of use­ful arpeg­gios that ex­ist within A mi­nor that we will be in­cor­po­rat­ing into the les­son.

Fret­ting-hand tap­ping re­quires a much stronger and more pur­pose­ful ac­tion when pro­duc­ing notes with fin­gers of that par­tic­u­lar hand, so that they sound crisp and even with­out in­cur­ring any un­wanted noise. The re­quired ac­tion is par­tic­u­larly de­mand­ing on the first fin­ger if you are new to this tech­nique, as this par­tic­u­lar digit tends to be clamped to the gui­tar as a pivot for most ‘nor­mal’ play­ing.

Apart from fin­ger strength and ac­cu­racy, ex­tra­ne­ous noise is your big­gest en­emy and should be abated us­ing the fol­low­ing tech­niques: as usual, use the side of the pick­ing hand to damp all idle bass strings by rest­ing on them firmly, and the un­der­side of the fin­gers of the fret­ting hand to damp any idle tre­ble strings.

You must leave each string in such a way that you min­imise noise. So move the fin­ger out­wards from the neck in a way that is both swift but gen­tle, rather than down to­wards the floor.

You should fret notes by stub­bing the end of each fin­ger (es­pe­cially the first) up against the ad­ja­cent bass string (thus damp­ing it): this en­tails hold­ing down each string us­ing the print part of each fret­ting fin­ger, and not the tip. Also, some play­ers use a string damper (of­ten just a hair band, al­though sev­eral pro­pri­etary dampers are avail­able) on the first few frets in or­der to erad­i­cate ex­tra­ne­ous open-string noise; how­ever, you then can­not use your open strings for things like har­mon­ics, so it is worth per­fect­ing your tech­nique with­out hav­ing to re­sort to this if you can.

Sweep pick­ing is the prac­tice of play­ing more than one note with a sin­gle pick stroke - a tech­nique that can only be ap­plied when trav­el­ling from one string to an­other. Sweep pick­ing is par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive as a means of play­ing arpeg­gios that are ar­ranged one-note­per-string, as one can as­cend the ar­peg­gio us­ing one con­tin­u­ous down-sweep, or de­scend it us­ing one con­tin­u­ous up-sweep.

The ‘sweep’ is ef­fec­tively a con­trolled strum in which only one note is held down at a time by the fret­ting hand: this en­sures that all the notes are heard separately, rather than run­ning into each other and mush­ing up the over­all ef­fect.

When sweep­ing for the first time, it is not un­com­mon to rush; but if you don’t learn to sweep in time your ap­proach will be limited, and ev­ery­thing will sim­ply sound ‘sweepy’. In an ef­fort to play in time, some play­ers break the sweep ac­tion into sep­a­rate strokes at slow tempo; but it’s bet­ter to com­mit to the sweep, then work on im­prov­ing your tim­ing.

At slow tem­pos, some find it help­ful to think of a sweep as a suc­ces­sion of clas­si­cal-style ‘rest’ strokes, whereby the pick fol­lows through and comes to rest on the neigh­bour­ing string; the pres­sure is then in­creased, in or­der to force the pick through this sec­ond string, fol­low­ing through to the third, and so forth.

This ap­proach should help you learn to sweep in time when play­ing at slow tem­pos. The pick should be an­gled on each down­sweep, but should be held straight for each up-sweep. Ideally, you should show a very small amount of plec­trum to the string when pick­ing. Then, when sweep­ing, the fin­gers and thumb of the pick­ing hand can act like sta­bilis­ers on a child’s bike – al­low­ing you to lean on the back of fin­ger­nails dur­ing down­sweeps and on the side of thumb dur­ing up-sweeps, to an­gle the pick cor­rectly.

Fi­nally, when sweep­ing across sev­eral strings, it’s im­por­tant to try to use a wrist ac­tion wher­ever pos­si­ble, be­cause the aim is to in­te­grate the sweep­ing tech­nique nat­u­rally in to the rest of your pick­ing.

If you don’t learn to sweep pick prop­erly in time, your ap­proach will be se­verely limited, and ev­ery­thing will sim­ply sound ‘sweepy’.

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