For the last week I’ve been working on my sweep picking mission. Already I’m finding the technique to be fascinating and have made some useful discoveries about my own style of learning.
Three string sweeps
I decided to start with three string shapes on the top three strings. These are important because they provide a variety of different patterns while not being over complex. The also include the top part of the arpeggio, where you have to turn around and descend back through the notes which you’ve ascended through.
My main focus has been on a classic diminished 7th shape:
This shape is one of the simplest because it uses different fingers from string to string (so you don’t have to roll your fingers). It also has the hammer on/pull off on the top string within easy reach.
As my main testing ground, I wanted to see what I could already do with this shape. Ascending was fairly fluid, but descending it was uneven and quite slow. I knew I was doing something to make it difficult for myself, but it took me a while to realise the obvious. I had a ‘duh!’ moment when I realised that I was pulling off the top note quite violently – my finger was pulling back very far and there was no way it could get down to the bottom note in time. The movement was also throwing the rest of my had out of balance to the fretboard.
I wanted to achieve one thing, but the way I moved my finger was entirely counter-productive to that goal. This is called cross motivation and I’ll be writing a post about it soon. I had to maintain a great deal of awareness to break the habit, but once I got the pull off going gently, it was fairly easy to gain the same fluency descending the arpeggio as ascending. At the moment, I have to practise a few times with this awareness before I can launch into it at any speed, but I expect this necessary practice will reduce to zero very soon.
Next up were three minor triad shapes (all three inversions):
I found the middle shape the easiest, but much like the diminished, it’s slower on the way down. Nothing I don’t know how to improve, though.
The first shape is the hardest of the three, for me. Rolling the first finger cleanly to make sure that each note sounds clearly without any bleeding over to the next is quite a skill.
The only thing that trouble me with the third shape is being precise enough with the hammer on. The 17th fret is quite a small target. Working on this will allow me to play much more accurately at the top end of the neck, though, so it’s an important skill.
Finally, I worked on the major triad shapes:
The first shape didn’t present many problems. Rolling a finger across two strings is much easier than three.
The second shape was another that I found more difficult. It’s unique so far, in that the first finger is responsible for the main note on two strings. I find the open G string ringing through when I move my finger to fret the first string. This will require some effective muting, but it seems a good sweep movement will take care of that automatically.
The third shape is the last tricky one (and will get more so with a four string version), so it’s important that I deal with it now. I find rolling the second or third finger much more difficult than the first, but this is probably just due to the lack of use.
Week 2 Goals
Although I haven’t quite reached fluency in all of the three string shapes, I’ll continue moving forwards in my mission:
- Finish working on the three string shapes that are not fluent and bring all shapes up to a consistent tempo. This shouldn’t take long now that I’ve identified the difficulties. I’m aiming for sextuplets at 100bpm.
- Extend the arpeggios to four strings.
- Practise the bottom parts of five and six string arpeggios. At the moment, I won’t connect them to the top parts, but I want to have a head start on larger arpeggios when I start them in the third week.