Tag Archives: sweep picking

Economy Picking Licks – This is my solution to the Problems

Economy Picking is a great strategy if you play the phrases that are the most difficult on the guitar: 1 note per string structures like arpeggios.

You do however have to be careful with timing and phrasing when you work with this technique. It can really mess up the groove and does not really lend it self to good phrasing.

How To Learn Economy Picking

In this video I am going to go over some of the ways that I use Economy picking in my playing. I will go over 5 Economy Picking Licks, both Modal and II V I. For each lick I also have an exercise and some suggestions on how to achieve good phrasing and timing while working with this technique.

If you are familiar with my playing you will probably have seen how often I use economy picking in my playing and rely on it for cascading arpeggios, fast diatonic triad runs etc. All solid material that you want to have in your vocabulary.

Lick #1 Modal Cascading Arpeggios

The first example is on an Am7 chord using the Dorian sound. So the notes of the G major scale.

Three things to notice about this lick:

  • The Arpeggios are Em7, Cmaj7 and Am7 (so diatonic arpeggios in 3rds distance)
  • The Lick divides the bars in 2 beats, 3 and 3 beats
  • The first and highest note of each arpeggio is a down stroke (and an accented note)

Practicing Descending Arpeggios

In order to get this type of playing into your fingers it is useful to just take one simple arpeggio shape and work on getting that precise, well articulated and easy to play.

Practicing the exercise here below is a great way to work on this:

Here the repeated arpeggio and switching between alternate picking and economy let’s you develop the economy and always reference the clear articulation of alternate picking. 

Lick #2 – Forgotten 2-string Triads

Using sweeping or economy picking on two strings is something that is often overlooked, but it is a great approach to play patterns like this.

The lick below is using this technique to play diatonic D altered scale triads: Ab, Bb and Cdim. Really spelling out the altereations on the D7alt.

Notice how the alternate picking is turned around on the Em7 arpeggio in the first bar. While it is good to keep consistent with down strokes on down beats it is something that you will deviate from along the way whenever it is better for the phrasing and the execution of a phrase.

Practicing 2-string Triads

The exercise below is again taking a single triad and then working on getting that to be easy to play. Then you can move on to diatonic triads up the neck.

Once this is easy then try moving on to this exercise:

Lick #3 – Polyrhythmic ideas with Economy Picking

As you already saw in the previous examples arpeggios can be really useful in creating patterns that move on top of the beat. Both with 3 and 6 notes.

This example is using 4 notes but is changing the rhythm so that the arpeggio is 3 8th notes long. This gives the phrase a dotted quarter note effect that nicely breaks up the song.

The lick is using one arpeggio on the Am7 that is changing the top note. The two arpeggios are a first inverion Am7 and a Cmaj7. The arpeggio is voice-lead into a D7 altered (where it becomes a Cm7b5 arpeggio.

Lick #4 Quartal Harmony 

Another type of arpeggio that is a great addition to especially your modern jazz vocabulary. In this lick I am using descending 3-part quartal arpeggios on a II V I in Bb. Again making use of the 3 note groupings.

The Al Di Meola exercise

The technique I am using here is derived from a technique that a student of mine came with off an Al Di Meola video.

I don’t remember if it was the ascending or the descending version of it, but these two exercises demonstrates the principle for 3 string patterns.

Lick #5 Modal Pentatonic Patterns

Besides arpeggios Economy picking works really well for patterns in the pentatonic scale. Very often Pentatonic patterns consist of 1 note per string ideas which is ideal for sweeping or economy picking approaches.

In this case the pattern is 2 strings and the picking pattern is similar to the triads in Lick #2

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Picking Techniques beyond Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is the core of what I use when I play jazz guitar. But there are other strategies that I combine alternate picking with to make it easier to play faster phrases. This video is on how I use sweeping and economy picking to play certain arpeggios and jazz phrases.

In the end a good technique is going to be a combination of several techniques and should be a tool set that you rely on to help you get the phrasing that you like. In the end we have to let the music rule the technique and not the other way around.


The construction of the lesson

The way this is build up is that I have three examples with some different techniques that I break down and give you some exercises to work on the picking technique strategy in that example.

Small sweeps for 7th chords 

The first example has two different applications of economy picking or sweeping. The firs is a standard sweep of an Abmaj7 arpeggio. The 2nd is used twice to add some more dramatic movement with the arpeggios in the bar.

Here I will focus on the second approach. The idea is to use a down stroke for the first note in the arpeggio and then add a pull off to give your right hand time to easily make the sweep of the last two notes.

To work on this idea it is probably a good idea to first spend some time with just getting your right hand used to the movement. I demonstrate this in the video as well.

If you want to go on further you can do the exercise shown here below:

The opening of the example is using a slide to make it easier to speed up the phrase. That is another thing that I use a lot in combination with all the chords

Economy picking triads in string combinations

The opening part of the second example is using a pentatonic scale layed out in a 3-1 pattern on the neck. That way of playing a pentatonic scale makes it really easy to play certain types of melodies (for me anyway).

The picking of this phrase is a bit tricky and I start the phrase with an up stroke. If you have a phrase that is difficult to play then it can be a good idea to check what it feels like and how it sounds if you reverse the picking.

In this case it really helps me with playing the phrase fast enough, and I also talk about this idea in the next example.

The main focus in this example is playing triads. The 2nd bar of the example contains two triads, one is 1 note per string and one is a 2-1 fingering (so 2 notes on one string and 1 note on the next).

The Triad Picking strategy

The triads I am concerned with in this lesson are the descending triad arpeggios. The idea in the 2nd bar is to start the triad with a down stroke and play the rest with upstrokes. 

The way I do this it feels like a more balanced way to play them than having to “reverse” the picking if I play several triads.

You can work on the 1 note per string variation using this exercise on the middle string set:

The two string version of this exercise could be something like this.

If you get more used to this approach it is really useful to try to play a scale position of diatonic triads.

Turned Around Sweeps! The surprising solution

The idea in the beginning of this example is to play 3 note patterns with one note per string and then use a specific picking idea that if you try if for the first time seems counter intuitive.

In this example I am using the approach on the first two arpeggios in the example. First an Abmaj7 shell voicing and then a quartal arpeggio from Ab.

I discovered that I use this approach when I was explaining and slowing down an example for a student, but I find that the idea works extremely well.

The strategy is to start with an up stroke and then go down and up on the next two notes. This is in fact all alternate picking, but if you repeat it then we get two up strokes after each other. One at the beginning and one at the end.

The advantage is that the last note is setting us up to move back and get the first note in the next one. This is mostly useful if you are repeating 3 note patterns like I do in the example here below.

To work on this approach you can do the exercise of diatonic shell voicings shown here below:

Putting it all together with techniques

As I mention in the beginning the best strategy for me is to have a lot of different options with picking and then try to find a combination of what is playable and what sounds good. I think this should be the main priority when working with technique. in my opinion.

Of course you can also tell that I also use legato very often as a part of the strategy. If you are interested in a video on this then leave a comment on the video on YouTube. Maybe I should do a video on that.

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Picking Techniques Beyond Alternate picking

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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Sweep Picking Cascading Arpeggios – Upper-structure Chords

Sweep picking cascading arpeggios – upper-structure chords

In this video I am going to go over a concept behind creating cascading arpeggio type lines like the lick play in the beginning of the video. They are a great way to use different arpeggios over a chord and add some interesting rhythms to your lines.

It’s also the way that I mostly use sweep picking because that’s a way that works better for jazz type lines.

Sweep picking and Jazz

Sweep and economy picking is very common in Jazz, but not in the ways that you mostly see it taught. On guitar sweep picking is mostly associated with multi octave triads from Heavy Metal, something that is never used in Jazz. In Jazz economy picking and small sweeps are very often used. Sweeping is often used on arpeggios, but on one octave structures and triads more than anything.

The lick I play in the beginning of the video is found in example 1

As you can see the line is written over a II V I in the key of F major as shown in example 2:

How to create casacading Arpeggio lines

The cascading arpeggios are being played over the II chord (Gm7) in example 1. The idea is quite simple. You are probably aware that over a chord you can mostly use the arpeggio found on the 3rd of that chord, so Bbmaj7 arpeggio over a Gm7 chord. It is in fact this principle that I am using to make the cascading arpeggios.

If you look at bar 1 of example 1 you can see that there are 3 arpeggios being played: Dm7, Bbmaj7 and Gm7. The arpeggios are played one after each other in the distance of a diatonic 3rd. The lay-out of the arpeggios allows us to sweep one arpeggio on a string set and the next on the lower string set. This is why it is fairly easy to play.

It is all a Gm11 arpeggio

If we summed up all the notes on the Gm7 we would end up with a Gm11 arpeggio as shown in example 3, so the cascade is in fact just playing a Gm11 descending in groups of 4 notes.

Bring in the mighty triad!

In this 2nd line in example 4 I reduced the notes per arpeggio to 3. This actually just gives us 3 triads: Dm, Bb and Gm. The arpeggios are again played with a sweep or economy technique. This both facilitates playing the line and  helps accenting the top note in each triad and conveying the 3 note groupings in the melody.

Even higher in the upper-structures

Since we can take the lowest 3 notes of each of the chords we can of course also use the three notes at the top. If we do this we have the three triads F, Dm and Bb. In example 5 I play these using another economy picking lay-out. I play the triads with a 2-1 fingering meaning 2 notes on one string and 1 on the next string. Again this lends itself really well to sweeping.

Finding arpeggio sets to use for other chords

In the first example I am using the arpeggios from the 5th, 3rd and root to make the cascade. This approach will often work though we have the 11th on top, and that may not work well for all types of chords. Another option could also be to have the root as the middle chord. Then we would have the arpeggios from the 3rd, the root and the 6th. This configuration works very well with major chords.

In example 6 I have written out a few examples of arpeggio sets for the Fmaj7 and C7 chords.

Cascading altered arpeggios

Of course we can also apply the idea to the altered dominant. To find arpeggios I use the fact that we can look at a C7 altered as a Gb7/C. If you want to learn a bit more about that you can check out this lesson: Three approaches to the altered scale

If we look from a Gb7 perspective we can use the triads Bb dim, Dbm and Eaug. In this line I am playing the cascade ascending though the arpeggios are still played descending.

Getting your Sweeps in shape(s)

In the examples above I used three different approaches to sweeping the arpeggios. To get familiar with them I have made three exercises. The exercises should help you developing not only your sweeping but also you knowledge of the diatonic chords of a scale.

The first exercise is a straight diatonic 7th chords on the middle strings. A very basic sweeping pattern where I am using two notes on the first string and then 1 on each of the following.

You should of course try to check these exercises out on the other string sets as well.

In the 2nd exercise I am playing diatonic triads and they are one note per string. Since I am playing the triads descending I can play the first note as a down stroke and then follow that with two up-strokes. This helps me accent the first note in each triad and you can play very fast with this technique with fairly little effort.

The sweeping approach that I use in the last two examples are using a 2-1 spread of the notes. Again a fairly small sweep of two strings, but quite effective. So it is a good and easy solution to lay out the triads across the string sets. It also works well both ascending and descending since we are only travelling two strings.

The Legato Alternative

The sweeps used in example 10 can also easily be executed with legato as shown in example 11. I thought I’d include this since it is a good alternative if you are not happy with sweep picking.

I hope you can use the examples and exercises I went over in this lesson to come up with your own cascading licks. For me it a great way to break things up in an 8th note based solo. It is also a technique that sits very well on the guitar as an instrument.

If you want to check out more of my soloing and how I mix legato, economy and sweeping then you can check out this lesson:

There will never be another you – Reharmonization Solo


If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf here:

Cascading Sweep Arpeggios

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.