Sweep picking is a great way of playing speedy arpeggios within your regular solos, says Paul Bielatowicz. In this intermediate to advanced lesson he shows how great 7th arpeggios can sound when sweeped.
sweep picking arpeggios is a great way to bring excitement into a solo. it looks impressive too, and although it sounds like it must be really hard to do, in truth it’s simply a case of learning the basic approach, choosing some cool shapes to play, and then honing your skills. so let’s dive straight in!
Our first arpeggio is the major 7 (1-3-5-7), a tool great for playing over major chord progressions. one feature that distinguishes it from other arpeggios is the interval of a semitone (minor 2nd) between the 7th and root of the chord. This interval should be emphasised as much as possible to create a unique feeling of tension and resolution.
Dominant 7 arpeggios (1-3-5-b7) are great for outlining chord tones in a dominant blues progression. Example 5 demonstrates this approach by arpeggiating every chord. aside from using dominant 7 arpeggios to mirror the chords there’s a simple but effective trick that will provide you with insistent jazziness. it’s called tritone substitution which, as the name implies, means playing a dominant 7th arpeggio a tritone (or b5/#4) away from the chord in the accompaniment. This creates the illusion of an altered dominant chord and is usually used when the accompaniment is playing a 7th on the V chord of the key (D7 in G major). In this case our tritone substitution for D7 would be Ab7 (bar 12 of Ex. 5).
it doesn’t take long to notice that a minor 7th arpeggio (1-b3-5-b7) is remarkably similar a minor Pentatonic scale (1-b3-4-5-b7). In fact a minor 7 arpeggio is a minor Pentatonic scale with the 4th removed. As this scale is often described as the guitarist’s best friend, this similarity can be extremely useful when we want to slip a minor 7 arpeggio into a solo. For this reason, you should practise your minor Pentatonic scales and minor 7 arpeggios together, so that the next time you’re playing your favourite pentatonic lick, you’ll be able to move seamlessly into a minor 7 arpeggio run.
if you’re a rock or blues player you’d be forgiven for skipping over our next arpeggio and writing it off as something a little too obscure… after all, how many times do we come across songs with containing m7b5 chords at the local pub jam? However, to overlook this arpeggio would be to overlook an entire palette of interesting and useful sounds you can easily add to your next Pentatonic-based solo. Again, the key to this arpeggio’s usefulness lies in using it as a substitution. When you play a m7b5 arpeggio (1-b3-b5-b7) from the 3rd degree of a dominant chord, it creates the sound of a dominant 9 - G7 (G-B-D-F) plus Bm7b5 (B-D-F-A) equals G9 (G-B-D-F-A). Similarly, when you play a m7b5 arpeggio a minor 3rd below a m7 chord, the result is a m13 chord - Gm7 (G-Bb-D-F) plus Em7b5 (E-G-Bb-D) equals Gm9add11 (G-Bb-D-F-A-E).
if this all sounds a bit complex and theory-heavy, fear not: all you need to know is how your m7b5 arpeggio shapes fit with the relevant dominant 7 and minor 7 shapes, so Examples 9 and 10 demonstrate this clearly.
Unless you’re completely new to sweep picking, the chances are you’ve come across a diminished 7 arpeggio (1-b3-b5-bb7) before. They’re loved by many, due to the fact that their symmetrical nature (there’s always a minor 3rd between one note and the next) means that you only need to learn one shape to be able to play the arpeggio up and down the neck: simply repeat any diminished 7 lick three frets higher or lower, and you’ll be playing another inversion of the same arpeggio. good luck, and happy sweeping!
in truth it’s simply a case of learning the basic approach, choosing some cool shapes to play, and then honing your skills.