Sweep Arpeggios



WHAT IS AN ARPEGGIO?One official definition of an arpeggio is this:

Arpeggio - Def The notes of a chord played in succession to one another, rather than simultaneously. A broken chord.

I've also been told that the root word "arp" refers to "Harp" and that arpeggio means "harp-like." If you've ever listened to a harpist you know that harp music is full of chord-notes played in succession to one another.

In other words you can play a chord by grabbing a fist full of notes and whacking 'em all at the same time or you can play them one at a time, i.e., almost as if you were creating a melodic line of only the notes of the chord you are "arpeggiating." So what the heck is a "Sweep" arpeggio? Well, that has to do with what happens in your right hand mostly. The term comes from the sweeping motion of your pick across the strings. There's nothing magic about it really, it's just that somebody decided to come up with a term for it.

What happens is this- the pick starts on a string and in one motion sweeps down across the strings sounding each note of the chord individually. Here's the sticky thing though, you don't want to sound like you're playing a "chord" but more like you're playing individual notes. To achieve this you must be able to control the sustain and release of the individual strings. Do this by muting the strings with the palm of your right hand. This is demonstrated in the HANDS movie.

You can easily achieve a great deal of speed if you learn how to execute this type of stroke correctly. Below are some practice tips.A CLEAN SWEEPYou've got to practice clean to play clean. Here are a few practice tips for you:

  • STAY RELAXED: If you are tense when you practice you'll learn to play that way. Muscle tension can kill your speed. The fastest players are also the most relaxed players. Practice slowly, focusing on staying relaxed, and the speed will come. Trust me, that's not just talk, it's absolutely true.
  • ONE PICK-STROKE PER STRING: The idea is to glide the pick across each string with a minimum of alternate pick-strokes. So, any place you encounter 2 notes on the same string use a hammer-on to limit your pick-strokes to one stroke per string for all six strings.
  • MUTE THE STRINGS: Use the palm of your right hand to mute the strings enough to only allow the string the pick is striking to sound. Doing this will give the illusion that you are picking each note as an individually fingered note on the left hand when you are actually in many cases holding a chord and basically strumming across it. Refer to the HANDS video for a demonstration of this.
  • BREAK THESE DOWN IN SMALLER PIECES: Practice each inversion in 3-string groups. Practice each group separately and then put them together.
  • OPEN YOUR HAND POSITION: Most of these arpeggios require you to use an extended hand position. You should refer to the HANDS movie for a demonstration of this.
CHECK OUT THE ARPEGGIATOR!As of the creation of this lesson, the newest addition to the HotFrets site is the Arpeggiator. If you want to immediately find ALL THE NOTES on the entire neck of your guitar that belong to any chord in any key, you need to check out the Arpeggiator! It dynamically generates the notes for you. To give you an idea of how powerful that really is, take a look at the example below. It's a screen-shot of the arpeggiator that shows the notes of the E7#5b9 chord. The recurring pattern referred to in the HANDS movie is outlined for you there. Click anywhere on the graphic below to open the Arpeggiator.

Without seeing the complete neck, you'd likely not pick up on a recurring pattern like this. What I suggest you do is, go get a cup of coffee or tea then come back and park in front of the Arpeggiator for awhile. Get your guitar in hand and experiment with some different chord arpeggios. Have fun with this one!


No audio files available for this lesson.