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Too Sweep or not to Sweep

Hello, in this lesson I’ll show you some beginner-level string skipping arpeggio forms and some licks you can play around these forms. Because some of these exercises require you to do some wide stretches, warm up before you try these:)

Well, if you have played guitar for some while, you probably notice that executing arps on guitar is not as easy as on piano. It’s very tough for a beginner to play arps on guitar, ya know. You got to learn sweep picking, and different forms all over the neck, blah, blah, blah. But sweep picking is not the only way to play arps at warp speed. Of course string skipping is your another weapon to tackle the fast arp runs. Paul Gilbert is well known for his amazing string skipping technique (and his humorous eccentricity, IMO) and he is really a smoking shredder. (check him out!!) Here I’ll show you some very basic licks:




Thefirst example is a bBdim7 arp pattern. It contain notes: bB, #C, E, G.

BTW bBdim7, #Cdim7, Edim7, and Gdim7 contain just bB, #C, E, G. You could check it yourself.

Whether in classical music, Jazz or Heavy Metal..etc., dim7 chords have very important functions. Period. Well I am not going to bore you with a lot of harmony theory here, because we are talking about technique.

Some of you might feel uncomfortable due to the wide stretch while trying this lick out. If you have this kind of problem or feel any pain on your fingers while playing this, stop playing or you might get hurt. (don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you guy. No kidding here.) You could try to transpose this to higher position of the neck until your fingers can handle this and try again. Once you feel comfortable, move down one fret and repeat the same pattern. Continue this kind of practicing process. Also keeping your fretting hand thumb low down on the back of neck would be a great help:)

After trying this on your guitar, do you notice the symmetric pattern? Yes because of this special property, it’s very easy for you to visualize dim7 arp string skipping form on the fretboard. Now we’re on to the second example.



This lick is derived from the dim7 form we just talked about.

I put on the marks so you can clearly see that you can play this in a group of six.

Start practicing this from a very slow speed and play it cleanly.

Don’t you think that the picking pattern is eerily familiar? That is because this picking sequence is derived from the infamous Paul Gilbert lick. In case that you don’t know it, I post it here as reference. It’s something like this:

The “play-me-as-fast-as-possible-or-you-are-a-loser lol” Paul Gilbert sequence:




Here is another dim7 lick.

Nothing special here since you should have been familiar with this form.

Well this pattern is also derived from another fast Paul Gilbert sequence.
Something like that:



Ok enough dim7 chords. Let’s try our hands on something different. Howabout minor chords? Here I show you how to play an Em arp on the firststring:


Easy, isn’t? But keep in mind that before you attempt this exercise and the following examples warm up your fretting hand first, since now you have to do more wider stretches on the fretboard.

Let’s check out a tougher variation in the next example.



It’sstill our old friend Em but now I add the lower fifth of Em on the thirdstring. This is another Paul-created monster since you have to do stringskipping as well as stretching here. It’s a little tricky so play itslowly before you speed it up.



This time it’s a Bm and I add the root octave above on the first string.

Here you have to roll your pinky to make the notes sound individually while you are stretching your hand. Another tricky lick. Anyway just try it.

I’ll show you something more “dangerous” in the next example. Be prepared!!



Ouch!! Now not only you have to play the lower fifth, you have to play the root note octave above!! You are right, the one that should be blamed for this beast is our dear Mr. Paul. This lick is one of Paul’s trademark licks, and Paul utilizes this form a lot in his recent albums. Check out the title song “Superheros” from his new album Superheroes. Listen to the ending section and you’ll find that Paul does this crazy stuff chromatically up and down the neck randomly. No mean feat that Paul play at around 110 bpm!!(15 notes per second. Hmm..) I know this is not that
easy, but just go for it guy.

Well these examples would keep you busy for a while so plug in and work on them now!!

Thanks for reading my column. Hope my article helps.

Any questions, comments, advice are welcome. See ya.


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