Hi folks. Jimmy from the Sydney metal band Killrazer here. In this new series of columns I’m going to talk about some of the more advanced and technical aspects of guitar playing – particularly those used in today’s contemporary heavy metal environment. 

Two such techniques are sweep picking and right hand tapping and for this first column I’m going to discuss a concept that combines the two – Sweep-Tapped-Arpeggios! I know this may sound like a lot, but it’s really not as hard as it seems. The basic idea is to sweep-pick across the strings, tap a note with your right hand, and then continue sweeping. The end result is an arpeggio that, although pretty flashy looking, has a very fluid – almost piano-like sound. Prominent shred guitarists such as Michael Angelo Batio commonly use this technique.

To learn these tapped-sweeps let’s start with the sweeping. Sweep picking is a great vehicle for playing arpeggios (the notes of a chord played separately.) Three basic rules for perfecting this technique are:

1. Use one single and continuous downstroke across the strings and one single upstroke across the strings. Be wary of still picking downstrokes and upstrokes, but doing separate movements for each string. The picking should be the one fluid right hand motion down and up.

2. Slightly release your finger from the note with your left hand as soon as you have picked the same note with your right hand. This stops the notes from ringing together.

3. Don’t change your wrist, pick or thumb position as you drag your pick across the strings. Your picking hand should stay basically the same whether picking up or down and it shouldn’t rotate.


This is a basic arpeggio form in A minor (formula: 1-b3-5) moving to the relative C major (formula: 1-3-5) for a Im-III chord progression. Sweep pick down the strings releasing your left hand fingers and moving to the next note. When you reach the first string hammer-on and pull-off with your first and fourth fingers, then descend through the arpeggio using an upward sweep.  Practice this slowly until both hands are coordinated and each note sounds clean.

Hear Exercise 1


Continuing on, take the two notes on the first string of these arpeggios and tap (fret) the octave of each - A and C in this case - with the middle (second) finger of your right hand. Pull-off the tapped note – by slightly flicking it downwards – and then do a regular pull-off with your left hand. This is played as a series of steady triplets outlining the A minor and C major chords.  While some people prefer to tap with their first finger, I would recommend getting used to tapping with your second finger as it allows you to quickly and more freely tap notes without having to change your pick position.

Hear Exercise 2


Now, to put it together! The main trick is that when reaching roughly the third string while sweeping down, move your picking hand slightly toward the fretboard in a diagonal motion while extending your middle finger. This is so you can reach the note you want to tap. After tapping and pulling-off, move your right hand back into position as you continue up the sweep. This definitely takes a bit of work to get the coordination down, so practice this exercise slowly and evenly before trying to speed it up.

Hear Exercise 3