When I started experimenting with sweep picking and arpeggios (with the pentatonic scale), it was a very long and arduous task.
I came across many technical problems that required years of practice. One of the first problems was the stretches. They where so great that I couldn’t work up any speed because I was too busy just trying to get my fingers in the right position. So I started in positions I felt comfortable with and then slowly began challenging myself and moving the patterns to the lower end of the scale.
I know it can be overwhelming sometimes when you see a player just rip out a huge lick, but understand that no one just picks up a guitar and plays like that. It takes years of hard work. Never be discouraged by anything you see or hear; let it inspire you, knowing the players you admire were once beginners.
I often get asked about my stretching capabilities. Like all things, I developed it over time with a lot of practice. In order to give yourself the best opportunity at developing this area of your guitar playing, you need to make sure you are holding the guitar in a more "classical" way, with the thumb in the middle of the neck.
This immediately opens up your fingers and allows for greater stretching. It’s great to push yourself as I did, but if you experience real discomfort or pain when attempting these stretches, back it off and take a break.
This lick moves through the entire octave in the key of G. When I started out with these techniques, my goal was to be able to maneuver all over the neck at a real pace while keeping the blues-rooted sound.
I start this lick on the eighth fret of the high E string. You'll notice I'm combining two patterns of the pentatonic together, and I do it throughout the lick. As we are traditionally taught the pentatonic scale in the box form (or two notes per string), this will be a new way of thinking for some of you. But understand, this is still the straight minor pentatonic scale. It's the same five notes played all over the fretboard.
I suggest, first of all, to trill the first nine notes of this lick, starting on the eighth fret of the high E and finishing on the eighth fret of the A string. This is the basis for the whole lick. I'm combining three-string arpeggios to create one monster arpeggio. If you can get your head around this, the rest will flow a lot easier.
It's important that you can see the shapes I'm creating here. Being able to memorize the shapes, as well as the notes and sound, will help you when it comes time to ripping these licks out when you're soloing!
The keys to this lick are the hammers/pulls and slides. They set up the sweep-picking pattern, so be sure to focus on the transcript.
I know there's a lot to take in here, but there's no need to be able to play the whole lick. Even if you remove one small part and add it to your lick arsenal, it's all worth while!
Australia's Glenn Proudfoot has played and toured with major signed bands and artists in Europe and Australia, including progressive rockers Prazsky Vyber. Glenn released his first instrumental solo album, Lick Em, in 2010. It is available on iTunes and at glennproudfoot.com.