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