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5 Ways To Make Your Sweep Picking Guitar Licks Sound More Creative

By Luca Turilli

To become a true master of sweep picking, you need to practice creatively applying this technique into your music. To do this, realize that sweep picking is NOT just a “technique for playing guitar fast”. Instead, it is a technique for playing music from other instruments that neoclassical style is influenced by. Here are 5 ways that will help you to become more creative with using sweep picking in your guitar playing:

1. Study Transcriptions Of Classical And Baroque Composers

Studying the music of great Classical and Baroque composers was a crucial element that shaped my neoclassical guitar playing into what it is today (and it can be heard all over the music of my bands: Rhapsody Of Fire and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody). Realize that the coolest sweep picking solos you hear played by your favorite guitar players are modern variations of the music of composers such as J.S Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Mozart and many others. So if you want to not sound like a copy of your favorite guitarists and develop a more original style, you need to study the music of the Classical and Baroque composers who inspired the invention of today’s Neoclassical guitar style. Since these composers did not write music for guitar, their usage of arpeggios is a lot different (and often cooler) than what you are used to hearing in standard neoclassical guitar solos.

Watch the video demonstration below where I have prepared for you a sweep picking etude based on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata N.17 Op.31:

2. Use A Variety Of Note Groupings In Your Arpeggios

Standard sweep picking licks for guitar consist of a series of evenly grouped 16th notes or continuous triplets. Playing these same rhythms all the time will make your sweep picking very boring! To make your playing more creative, use a wider variety of note groupings, using 5, 7, 9 or 11 notes per beat. This is something I frequently do in my sweep picking etudes and teach my students to do the same in my Neoclassical Revelation shred guitar course. You can do this without changing any of the notes of the arpeggio itself, simply by repeating notes within the pattern or using hammer ons/pull offs differently. Of course you can also add more notes TO the original arpeggio to reach groupings of 5, 7 or 10 (or any other number of) notes. Watch the video above to see a demonstration of this concept so you can quickly apply it into your playing.

To see lots of examples of this concept (with tab and audio), check out this free neoclassical shred guitar lesson.

3. Extend Each Arpeggio You Play On Guitar Into Multiple Octaves

One of my biggest influences, Ludwig van Beethoven, uses arpeggios in one of his popular works “Moonlight Sonata (Movement III)” to build anticipation and create direction in his music to lead his listeners from one musical idea to the next. In the opening section of this piece of music, he begins his musical phrases by playing arpeggios in a lower octave and gradually moving them up to a higher octave on keys of the piano. When you play your sweep picking arpeggios in this same manner (by repeating the same arpeggio in lots of octaves), your music will become more expressive and will have a greater sense of direction. This will sound much more interesting and creative than repeating the same arpeggio over and over within a single octave. To do this, connect together an arpeggio pattern using its different inversions up and down the fretboard. Below is an example of this concept using an A minor arpeggio. Notice how it smoothly connects together 3 octaves using A minor in root position, 1st inversion and second inversion:

(You can also see and hear me use this idea in the video above).

4. Vary The Rhythms In Your Arpeggios

As you heard in the video on this page, sweep picking arpeggios sound much more unique when they do not use the same rhythms all the time. While writing sweep picking passages in my solos with Rhapsody Of Fire and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, I often write several rhythmic versions of the same arpeggio idea and use the best one that fits the song most effectively. Such approach to writing arpeggio passages has played a big role in developing my Neoclassical guitar playing style. To practice applying this to your guitar solos, do the following: play a sweep picking lick that consists of several arpeggios and challenge yourself to use a different rhythm for each arpeggio. Here is an example of this concept using an arpeggio section with 16th note and 16th note triplet rhythms (alternating):

See a lot more exercises that will help you apply this concept creatively to your sweep picking by taking this free neoclassical guitar licks lesson.

5. Combine Different Arpeggios In The Same Way You Combine Chords Into Riffs

The true mark of a neoclassical guitar maestro with sweep picking is the ability to use his technical skills to make great music. To do this well, treat your arpeggios the same way you treat chords (and don’t forget that arpeggios ARE chords). This means practice creatively connecting two, three or more arpeggio patterns together to make your own creative etudes from them. For example, in the tablature above, the arpeggio etude is based on the chords Am, G# dim7, Am, F, and E. I use this approach all the time in my own songs and solos and this is something I focus heavily on when teaching creative sweep picking ideas to my online shred guitar students.

Learn how to build upon the concepts you learned in this article and improve your neoclassical shred guitar playing by taking this free neoclassical guitar licks lesson.