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Sweep Into Speed Shapes


Continued from "What's in A Sweep?"

Many guitarists learn the location of chord tones within the CAGED system, a method of visualising and zoning the fretboard according to the open chord shapes of C Major, A Major, G Major, E Major and D Major and the location of the root notes of each. In the diagrams below, the black dots indicate the A Major triad notes within each of the CAGED A Major scale patterns.



While valuable for improvisation and the integration of scales and chord tones, the tonal overlap and irregular layouts mean that this system of coverage might not provide the mechanical consistency one expects for a technique like sweep picking.  Instead, we can formulate Speed Shapes using hybrids of the CAGED patterns that cover the fretboard with fewer patterns and apply one picking form to each.



By having only three patterns and the same numbering system for each (1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2 notes per string), one picking approach suits all shapes.

In the example below, Speed Shapes 1, 2, 3 and the octave of Shape 1 use the same pick strokes, as well as the same application of hammer-ons and pull-offs for dealing with the strings containing two notes.




Using five strings within each Speed Shape is common to the music of players like Jason Becker, most likely because it allows for streams of 1/16th note triplets that work well in 4/4 time.




To expand your options, add slides to move in and out of shapes at less predictable times. A less regimented approach can create more interest while still allowing for some long licks. This final example uses varying portions of each speed shape. Take care with the timing of this line, ensuring you stick to the rhythmic notation suggested.




For CAGED and Speed Shapes of all the essential triads and chords, be sure to pick up a copy of my book, Sweep Picking Speed Strategies for Guitar.


Happy Shredding,


Chris Brooks





Chris Brooks is an educator and writer based in Sydney Australia.



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