5 Things I Learned Doing a 30 Day Sweep Picking Challenge
I love the idea of 30 Day Challenges! They’re a great way to focus on a goal that is both a) short enough to be realistic, and b) long enough to see a big change. These types of challenges are popular in fitness, food, and other creative areas (for example, writing a novel). So I was excited seeing Brandon D’Eon apply this to acoustic guitar.
Specifically, Brandon used a 30 Day challenge to perfect the sweep picking technique on acoustic guitar. To explain what he did (and hopefully inspire you), I asked Brandon to write up his 30 day challenge as a post (which he had already compiled as a YouTube). So, enjoy and be inspired!
Ah yes, sweep picking. A technique employed by greats such as John Petrucci, Jeff Loomis, Jason Becker, etc. All phenomenal players, but there seem to be far less guitarists who tackle sweep picking on acoustic guitar. This is something I wanted to explore, so I created a 30 day challenge for myself.
Practice 6 different sweep shapes:
- Root position, 1st inversion, and second inversion 5 string sweeps using major and minor tonalities. [See tab charts at end of post for details]
- Practice each shape for 5 minutes a day for 30 days
- 6 shapes for 5 minutes a day = 30 minute total practice session
- All to be done on acoustic guitar
- Record daily progress
The first few days of the challenge were very exciting. I seemed to be making quick progress. Some days I really looked forward to it, other I was tired and didn’t want to bother. The weekends were the worst for this.
After completing the challenge I learned several things that I want to share with you. They can be categorized into 5 main things:
1. Not All Sweeps Are Created Equal
Some shapes are harder than others. As I progressed through the challenge though, I noticed that the shapes I found hardest at the beginning (1st inversion sweeps) were no longer the hardest. The 2nd inversion sweeps, which I found to be easy at the beginning, actually took longer to improve on and therefore became harder than the 1st inversion sweeps. I was able to improve on the 1st inversion sweeps faster than the 2nd inversion sweeps.
2. Sing The Sweep
If you can sing it, you can play it. I found myself increasing the tempo every day with little to no difficulties. I then realized I could only sing the sweep at slower tempos. I couldn’t sing it and play it at faster tempos so I reduced it so I was able to sing and play it simultaneously. This was key to helping me keep the notes even. I’ll go into more detail about keeping the notes even later.
3. Breathe and Relax
It’s so easy to become tense while playing something challenging. I experienced this several times during the challenge. In order to execute a sweep faster, I would sacrifice being relaxed. This is a bad habit to get into and something we’re all guilty of. I decreased the tempo a few times for this reason also. Practicing while tense means you will perform tense. If you have to perform something tense, you will crash. Breathing is necessary because it will help you relax.
4. It’s Hard to Keep the Notes Even
Starting on the downbeat and ending on the downbeat is one thing, but you want to make sure all the notes are played evenly. This is when singing the sweep as you play really makes a difference. It’s easy to sing evenly along with the metronome, but it can be difficult to play evenly with the metronome. If you are able to sing and play the sweep at the same time, this guarantees the notes will be even.
5. Electric is Harder to Keep the Notes Detached
On day 30 I decided to switch to electric. Electric is easier than acoustic so I figured I’d be able to play the sweeps faster. Conclusion? Yes, although a new challenge came with the switch. When using a distorted tone, the individual notes of the sweep tend to ring out more and form a chord. You want to avoid this when sweep picking, so the biggest struggle with electric was to keep the notes separate. In the end though, electric is easier.
And that’s it! A half hour a day is all it takes to dramatically improve you sweep picking.
Connect with Brandon D’Eon:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcZ2NCZyxrBJYC5yufPaVAg
Sweep Picking Patterns Used by Brandon: