It’s funny that I sometimes get complimented on my clean sounding sweeps while in reality the licks and riffs they’re referring to aren’t sweep picked at all. I do like to sweep pick, but sometimes I don’t want to get that somewhat abrasive sound of the pick raking across the strings into the mix, so I come up with other solutions. Hey, by doing so I’m in good company, just listen to the likes of Paul Gilbert, Guthrie Govan and Marty Friedman to name but a few.
Take a look at example 1. This is a little three string lick that you absolutely can sweep, but you can also play this legato, meaning that you don’t pick the strings and make the notes sound by just placing your fretting fingers with some force onto the neck instead. The high B note (high E string, 19th position) is tapped with the right hand. I use my middle finger to tap so I don’t have to discard the pick, but you can use any finger of your picking hand you prefer.
In example 2 I take things a bit further by incorporating some string skipping. I’ve indicated which notes are picked and which ones are legato. By string skipping you cover a lot of melodic ground very quickly and you have the opportunity to spell out some intricate chords if you want to. In this example I opted for the chord sequence Bbmaj7, Am7, Gm7 and Fmaj7, that are all in the key of F.
Example 3 is yet another take on “fake sweeping”. Here I employ string skipping with a tapped note on every involved string. This technique, when played with some speed, sounds the most like a sweep picked arpeggio. Make sure that you keep it clean, so mute the strings that are not involved with the side of your picking hand.
You might have noticed that in these examples I use a lot of notes that are tapped with the fretting hand “out of nowhere”. If you want to know more about this particular technique I like to refer you to the lesson on this site aptly named “From Nowhere”.