Combining Sweep Picking, Legato Techniques and Tapping to Create Exciting Solos

(Image credit: Cindy Moorhead)

As a guitarist, I have always found it important to build and maintain an arsenal of soloing techniques so that I can play as fluidly as possible when inspiration strikes.

To present a range of musical expression within a solo, I like to combine three of my favorite techniques: sweep picking, legato articulations (hammer-ons, pull-offs and finger slides) and fretboard tapping.

Some of my favorite guitarists utilize this approach in their solos, and I’ve been inspired by them to integrate these techniques into my own style. This month, I’d like to demonstrate how I can combine these techniques in the formulation of a guitar solo.

One of my favorite soloing strategies is to begin a phrase with some sweep picking and then transition into a fast legato line. To me, this approach has the potential to create flurries of notes that don’t sound predictable because the run as a whole is not based upon just one technique.

In FIGURE 1, I begin with a sweep-picked Dm arpeggio (D F A) across the top three strings, using a single downstroke, followed by a hammer-on from the 13th fret to the 17th. I add a tap at the 22nd fret to kick off a long legato phrase built from pull-offs, slides and hammer-ons. Play through this phrase slowly at first, with attention to precision and clarity. Once it feels comfortable, increase the tempo. Another neat way to expand on legato techniques is to use them in conjunction with bends and bend vibratos, which has a very rock and roll sound.

In FIGURES 2 and 3, I perform fast legato phrases on the G, D and A strings with the use of slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs, slowly working my way down through the D Aeolian mode (D E F G A Bb C) and culminating with a repeated bend/pull-off lick, wrapping up with a soulful bend vibrato.

Now let’s put a bunch of these ideas together into a longer lick, as demonstrated in FIGURE 4. I begin with some high bends and vibrato, after which I play a sweep-picked arpeggio and some fretboard tapping and fast legato lines. At bar 4, I use another Dm arpeggio shape to kick off another legato phrase.

One way to practice and bolster your legato technique is to play on just one or two strings with a minimal amount of picking, as in FIGURE 5. In FIGURE 6, I incorporate index-finger legato slides into a climbing run played entirely on the A string.

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