How to Play Sweep Arpeggios: 3 Lessons for Beginners

By Jason Stallworth

November 6, 2018


Are you a beginner guitar player and want to learn how to play sweep arpeggios? Or maybe you’ve been playing guitar for a while but have yet to master this technique.

Sweep arpeggios are noted (no pun intended!) to be one of the most challenging guitar techniques to learn. It’s completely opposite from how you normally play guitar. With the guitar lessons below, I will cover some tips that will help you master sweep arpeggios for beginners. 

I’m going to give you three different sweep arpeggio exercises that cater to beginners. And I will break this down into small sections so that it’s easy to learn them.

So go grab your guitar and get ready to learn how to play sweep arpeggios!

Here’s a quick overview of each section. And you’ll notice that each lesson has guitar tabs and a video…

How to Play Sweep Arpeggios: Learning the Technique

how to play sweep arpeggios

Before we dive into the guitar lessons, it’s important to learn the actual technique first.

Playing sweep arpeggios is based on a technique called ‘sweep picking.’ You normally play your guitar by picking the notes. But what you’re about to learn is almost completely the opposite of what you’re used to.

Sweep picking is more of a fluid movement. Think of it as strumming a chord but without letting the notes ring out. And you’re not picking each note. Rather, you’re letting your pick-hand fall, or glide down, singling out each individual note. 

The goal here is to only hear one note at a time. And the transition from one note to the next should sound seamless. There’s neoclassical feel to this method.

You’re arpeggiating each note smoothly, and without any carryover from the prior note. I cover this in more detail in the first lesson below.

Now you’re almost ready to start learning these sweep arpeggio patterns. But first, do this…

  1. Set aside a full hour to practice the three lessons below
  2. Start  slow and learn each pattern until you’re fluent
  3. Do not let anything distract you from your practice session (no phones, TV, or media!)
  4. Master each lesson before proceeding to the next

Are you ready to learn sweep arpeggios? Let’s play…

Sweep Arpeggio Lesson I: Beginner Variations

In this first lesson you’re going to start out with two very simple sweep arpeggio patterns. These are exercises that I want you to practice over and over (and over!). Especially if you’re a beginner. 

The nature of these two pattern are slightly different from one another. This is to get you used to playing in different places on the fretboard and also using all of your fret-hand fingers.

If you’re brand new and just now learning how to play sweep arpeggios, this technique may seem a bit foreign at first, and your fingers may not want to cooperate.

But don’t give it! Keep practicing these simple patterns. Trust me, you will get it! 

The guitar tabs and video are below…

Lesson I Video

Lesson I Guitar Tabs

Simple Sweep Arpeggio 1:

 

E ——12–15–12——

B —-13———-13—-

G –12————-12—

Simple Sweep Arpeggio 2:

 

E ——13–17–13——

B —-15———-15—-

G –14————-14—

**The notes on the E string are a hammer-on (ex: hammer from fret 13 to 17 and pull off back to 13). Hammer-ons are a common part of playing sweep arpeggios. 

Sweep Arpeggio Lesson II: Extended Patterns

After you’ve practiced the two patterns you learned in Lesson I, it’s time to add more notes to your sweep arpeggios. 

You’re going to take the structure of the first sweep arpeggio you learned. But this time you will follow through by expanding the pattern to end on lower notes. 

Don’t get overwhelmed by this. There are only three extra notes that you’re playing in this extended sweep arpeggio exercise. This is still very much a beginners lesson. 

There are two phases of the pattern that I want you to play: 

  1. First, learn the pattern with those three extra notes just as it is written in the guitar tabs below
  2. Secondly, once you’re comfortable with the pattern, play it in reverse and continue to play the entire pattern, back and forth, in a fluid motion.

In the video below, I also encourage you to practice this sweep arpeggio pattern to a metronome or click track. Or if you want to get fancy, practice to a drum beat (practicing to drums is much more pleasant than the ‘click, click, click…’).  

Check out the guitar tabs and video below…

Lesson II Video

Lesson II Guitar Tabs

Extended Pattern:

 

E ——14–17–14————-

B —-15———-15————

G –14————-14———-

D ——————-16——–

A ———————17–12–

*Once you end on the 12th fret of the A string, reverse the pattern and continue playing the sweep arpeggio from start to finish several times.

Sweep Arpeggio Lesson III: Melodic Sequence

After going through the first two lessons you should be more comfortable in your ability to play basic sweep arpeggios and sweep picking in general.

Don’t feel like you have to have mastered the technique, as that takes time. But you should at least be able to play the patterns you learned fluently and smoothly, at a slow pace.

If you’re not quite there, please go back and continue practicing those beginners sweep arpeggio pattern before moving forward to this next exercise.

If you’re ready to progress, we’re going to make things slightly more complex with this next round of sweep arpeggios. This is still at the beginners level, but you’re going to be preparing yourself to officially launch from beginner to intermediate in playing sweep arpeggios.

I call this a sweep arpeggio melodic sequence. There are four sweep picking patterns that you’re going to learn.

The challenge with this final guitar lesson isn’t so much playing each pattern. What I want you to focus on is playing all of these sweep arpeggios in sequence. This will take consistent practice!

Here are some helpful tips in learning this melodic sequence of sweep arpeggios:

  1. Learn each sweep arpeggio pattern individually first, and become familiar with them
  2. Notice that patterns 1 and 3 have the same structure, as do 2 and 4
  3. Play the first two sequences together a few times
  4. Add the third and practice that several times
  5. Finally, add the fourth sequence.

Get ready to learn these tabs (and video) below…

Lesson III Video

Lesson III Guitar Tabs

Melodic Pattern 1:

 

E –14——————

B —-12———12—–

G —–11——11——-

D ——-12–12———

A ———14———–

Melodic Pattern 2:

 

E –15——————

B —-13———13—–

G —–12——12——-

D ——-14–14———

A ———15———–

Melodic Pattern 3:

 

E –19——————

B —-17———17—–

G —–16——16——-

D ——-17–17———

A ———19———–

Melodic Pattern 4:

 

E –17————-17—

B —-15———15—–

G —–14——14——-

D ——-16–16———

A ———17———–

Final Tips to Learn How To Play Sweep Arpeggios

What do you think the most important aspect of learning how to play sweep arpeggios is?

Well, there’s actually two…

  • Time
  • Consistency

These two elements go hand-in-hand.

Time. The concept of time is two-fold. You need to make the time to practice. But you also need to give yourself time to learn this technique and become fluent.

It comes easier to some than others. It did not come easy for me! I had to spend a ton of time practicing the sweep picking method and learning how to play sweep arpeggios. Even today, I practice my sweeps every time I pick up my guitar. 

Consistency is crucial in general if you aspire to get to an elite level of playing guitar. This is true with most everything in life. If you practice for several hours but then you don’t touch your guitar for a week, you’re not going to make great progress.

So set aside undisturbed time each day, or at least every other day, to practice these sweep arpeggios. Once you learn these lessons, start expanding even more by adding more notes, and playing these patterns on different places throughout the fretboard. This is your path to becoming a better guitar player and musician!

Keep it Metal,

Jason

P.S. Have you check out my shop? I’ve got my albums and some extremely cool merch!

Jason Stallworth

About the author

Melodic death metal with a side of thrash is what my music is all about. My goal is to deliver quality metal music you!

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