I first encountered Chris Brooks via his excellent Sweep Picking Systems for Arpeggios video course. At that point in time, I was deeply curious about sweep picking technique and had embarked on a mass exploration of all the available sweep picking educational content online. I invested in many video courses and books but to my frustration, very few addressed the actual picking motion and basics like how to hold the pick, pick angle and hand position. Instead, most of the available material (both paid and free content) tend to just show generic arpeggio fingering with the same picking direction indications.
Coming from a fingerstyle guitar background, I was really outside of my comfort zone learning all this. When I found his Sweep Picking Systems for Arpeggios video course, it literally was one of the best lesson materials I found on the topic. I remember writing an e-mail to Chris back in 2016 and was really happy how helpful he was. Since then, I’ve been a fan of his work.
This book by Australian guitar virtuoso Chris Brooks is a tour de force in exploring sweep picking technique in a systematic way. This 110-page book begins with Chris explaining the actual technical rudiments of the hand and pick motion first. Then, it goes into actual strategies for sweeping pick movement for different kinds of passages and technical demands. Finally, Chris guides us through speed shapes for arpeggios (both triads and sevenths). There are also etudes throughout the book that allow us to develop specific techniques in a focus manner.
Chapter 1 is definitely the most important chapter for the beginner sweep picker. I wish I had even this chapter alone when I first started learning the technique. Pure gold. I found his addition of the pick slant indications to be extremely valuable and helpful. His explanations on turning mechanics, fretting hand timing and string control are very detailed and useful. The added illustrations are also a great help to getting a clear idea of the basics.
In Chapter 2, Chris explains the ascending strategy in great detail. For the dedicated student, you will notice that Chris doesn’t only explain how to do specific exercises but also indicates the common mistakes and technical problems that come into play when you don’t do specific movements addressed in the first chapter. The exercises also follow a very logical path for the student.
In Chapter 3, we get 6 different etudes to help develop ascending strategy picking. I like how Chris builds up the etudes by beginning with two string sweeps first and then finally ending up with the full six-string shape. Chris also includes suggestions on how to practice the etudes to help players at different levels.
In Chapter 4, the descending strategy is explained and again followed by the corresponding etudes in Chapter 5. At this point, as I work on the exercises, I can see how well thought out the book’s format is even more. These are insights from an experienced player and educator!
In Chapter 6, bidirectional strategies are examined and the difficulty level goes up even more! Again, in chapter 7 we have the etudes to help put the technique in a musical context. Closing the chapter, Chris also recommends 8 pieces that are suitable for further study after one masters the exercises and etudes thus far.
In Chapter 8 and 9, Chris share triad and seventh arpeggio using both the CAGED system and with his speed shapes that are optimised for sweep picking technique. I particularly love this part as he shows how choosing a certain fretting hand fingering (hybrids of CAGED shapes) are actually better for sweep picking. Although this is something that I’ve used and am aware of, I love how Chris is very systematic with all this and does not leaves no stone unturned!
In the final chapter – Chapter 10, Chris presents six etudes to bring all the seventh arpeggio speed shapes he’s introduced in a musical context. Closing the book, Chris shares essential attributes to examine for long term practice goals. These questions that he includes are a fitting end for a very valuable book!
Pros: 100 exercises, 17 etudes and a very detailed, well organised system for learning sweep picking. Audio examples included to help you hear how to play the exercises and etudes
Cons: None, except you have the option to say farewell to your social life (if any) since you might be completely absorbed into the detailed processes needed to rule at sweep picking.
TLDR: If you want master sweep picking, this book may very well provide you with a great head start. This is the book I wish I had when I first started exploring sweep picking technique. This is definitely a book I’ll be practicing from to develop my chops & also recommend to my students as well.
You can get the book here:
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