2011-12-10

Guitar Exercise of the Week

This week's guitar exercise is by request: faithful Stationary Waves reader ZK asked me to put together a sweep picking exercise, which I have done.

We will call this the first of two sweep-picking exercises. The reason I'm splitting this up is because, in my opinion, the major difficulty with sweep-picking (i.e. playing arpeggios across sequential strings in a single up-stroke or down-stroke) is not the sweep itself, but rather the transition.

So, when I developed this exercise I decided to focus on passages that would emphasize the transitions, rather than the sweeps. Focusing on these transitions should give you better control over the plectrum. You won't simply and wildly be trying to sweep, resulting in a garbled mess. When you get this exercise down right, it should sound pretty good at both slow speeds and high speeds. Sometimes it can actually be more difficult to sweep slowly than quickly, because you have to have a lot of picking control to give each note the proper rhythmic duration. That tight, metronomic accuracy is what makes the difference between a killer sweep-picked arpeggio and a garbled mess.

Exercise #6: "Turning Heads"
The only real oddity in this exercise is that it begins with an upstroke. This may seem illogical to you at first, but when you start cycling through this exercise over and over, you will eventually understand why it's more comfortable to begin with an upstroke.

For those of you unfamiliar with the notation, the "v" in tablature indicates an upstroke. The squared-off "u" indicates a downstroke.

Here it is, without further ado:


Start this one slowly, at something like 70bpm (or maybe even less, depending on your skill level) before you start tackling the high speeds. Remember, the goal here is picking control. You'll have better success if you make each note sound very nice at slow speeds than you will if you try to burn through this one too early. We want a clean, appealing passage, not a garbled mess.

When you're comfortable with this one, I'll post a second sweep-picking exercise that involves more strings and more notes. You'll find that one much easier if you have a good handle on this one.

This exercise also functions as an excellent warm-up.

Good luck!