Sweep-Picking: Are You For It or Against It?

January 27, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More


Sometime back I started a thread on thegearpage.net titled “Outlaw sweep-picking?” and I meant it – sort of. I meant it in the sense that 9 out of the 10 times I’ve seen or heard sweep-picking in the rock arena, it’s been pure “wankage.” It may even detract from all-important TONE.

There’s no feeling associated with these uber-distorted notes buzzing by at the speed of sound, same as you can’t appreciate the look of a hummingbird when it’s zipping by. Or maybe it’s along the lines of, “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.”

Whatever the case, the folks at thegearpage (some of whom got pretty passionate about it!) made some good points – like how certain people use sweep-picking tastefully, notably jazz dudes. Okay, fair enough. But I’ll bet that when most folks hear the words “sweep-picking,” they think of out-and-out shredding. They don’t think of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani or Frank Gambale.

They might be more likely to think of John Petrucci, a man of monster technique who in the following Guitar Center video teaches people how to sweep-pick (bear in mind that John is a highly-regarded player, and deservedly so). I’m not a sweep-picking fan, but I like some of Dream Theater’s stuff so I watched the vid.

The two-note thing is kind of cool. Beyond that I confess he lost me. Totally. (No offense to John – not intending to pick on him here at all. Just thought it was important to see someone “of stature” doing it.)

After watching it, I ask you – should sweep-picking be outlawed? Maybe on a warning system – three infractions of tasteless or unnecessary wanking (recorded, not live?) and get a one-year suspension?!

Category: John Petrucci, Picking Technique

Comments (6)

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  1. Rob says:

    "Sweeping" is only one of many "wanking" techniques that seem to be nothing but a substitute/cover-up for a lack of authentic good guitar playing, and which seems to be going on a with way too many (most) wanna-be/so-called "guitarist' today!

  2. bill says:

    I'd say sweep picking is fine as long as it facilitates some idea. I just don't hear an "idea" in the way John Pertrucci plays…

  3. Chris says:

    JP has mad technique and skill but nothing that he played in this video sounds musical to me.

  4. Lewis says:

    If you can use something and be musical then feel free. If it sounds bad, I won't listen and that goes for any style, genre, technique or what ever. Simple as that. There doesn't need to be a whole discussion about it, just move on to something you like.

  5. Mark says:

    John Petrucci and/or Dream Theater never did anything for me, and they continue not to do anything for me. I think sweep picking shouldn't be banned, but you should have to get a license for it. You should have to appear before the Guitar Board and demonstrate facility in areas like tone and good taste before you're allowed to do it, then they'll grant you a license for LIMITED sweep picking. If you violate the terms you have your equipment taken away and you'll be forced to play a Kay strung with .13's through a solid state amp…FOR A YEAR…with a country band.

  6. cob says:

    Sweep Picking is one of the most useful techniques in a guitar player’s aresenal. Somehow guitar playing has evolved into speed vs feel but the truth is the two are intrinsically related. And let’s not forget, arpeggiating a chord progression makes a statement just as much as playing a couple of chord tones. It’s just a different statement.

    And let’s not forget that a ton of guitar players using a technique for speed and wanking reflects on their musicianship, not the beauty or reach of the technique.

    For those bashing the video: It’s technical exercises for a bunch of Petrucci fanboys. That is all.

    As a side note: wanking can be useful as well. So can wanking arpeggios over a segment to get to the next section of the solo. Crests and valleys.

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