There is a lot of debate in the bass guitar world about the use of a pick. Some bass guitarists say that using a pick defeats the purpose of playing the bass, or makes it too easy, or even takes away from the sound of the bass.
Others say that playing with a pick is just as hard do to the range of techniques that you have to learn, or the amount of time you have to spend developing your patterns and your down picking endurance.
Whatever your position on this topic, there is one technique that is virtually impossible without the use of the pick. In fact, it is regarded as one of the most difficult techniques to master. We can neither back that claim nor debunk it, but we can help you to learn it.
In this article, we are going to discuss sweep picking on bass guitar.
Sweep picking was, for the longest time, known as a technique used almost exclusively by guitarists. Over time, however, bass guitarists started picking this technique up and using it to their own ends, adding it to bass runs and bass solos, even riffs or simple licks in some cases.
And why not? Bass guitarists put in just as much work as guitarists, and they should have the ability to express and further themselves and their playing from a technical standpoint.
Sweep picking is, in all aspects, just what it sounds like; a picking motion that is also a sweeping motion. What makes this specific technique so hard is that it involves hand eye coordination as well as fretting hand and picking hand coordination. This means that you are coordinating twice as much as usual, adding to the difficulty.
When you play notes in an ascending order (from the higher string up to the lower strings), you use an upstroke, sweeping the pick across the strings one at a time. When you play notes in a descending order (from the lower strings down to the higher strings), you use a down stroke, sweeping the pick across the strings one at a time.
The important thing is to keep the pick steady. Regarding pressure, there is no right or wrong amount; some like more pressure when sweeping, really digging into the strings, and some like less, gently gracing the string with the pick. Try both ways and see which works best for you personally.
In the end, the only way to perfect your sweep picking on bass guitar is by practicing. Dedicate a portion of your daily practice to sweep picking. This technique could take upwards of a year to learn, so it is best to start off with simple two and three string shapes and then work your way up from there. Relax, and be sure to use a metronome so that your note lengths are consistent and perfectly even.
If you are having trouble, or getting jumbled up, simply slow down your playing speed. Have fun, and remember; the harder you work, the further you will come. Good luck!
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