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Power Shred: Sweep and Tap

How to combine some sweeping arpeggio runs with both one- and two-handed tapping licks.

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This month I want to cover how to combine some sweeping arpeggio runs with both one- and two-handed tapping licks. It is a technique I use often in my solos when I want to combine different sounds and colors.

In Fig. 1 I wanted to start with a basic C major arpeggio starting on the 5th string. The basic idea for all these licks is to ascend with a sweep and descend with a combination of both left- and right-hand tapping. When I am sweep picking I like to hold my pick with the thumb and index finger and tap with the remaining three fingers. In this example, use your middle finger to tap all the notes. Each time we switch to a new string, we use a “hammer-on from nowhere,” where you tap with a finger on your fretting hand without picking the note. You may notice I have added an extra note outside of the arpeggio on the 1st string. Experiment with other notes outside the usual arpeggio as well as different expressions such as sliding and bending to add a little extra character to the lick. For reference, check out the finale solo of the DragonForce track “Valley of the Damned” at 6:45. I used this same technique over C major and G major.

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We change things around a little bit with Fig. 2. This time we are in D minor and use a double tap with the right hand. Again, use the index finger for tapping but pay extra attention on muting the strings lightly with the palm or wrist of your right hand. Use the area in which your hand touches the guitar body or strings as the pivot point and tap using wrist movement. I tend to use the flesh of my left hand index finger to mute the high strings when doing descending runs.

Download Example Audio: Fast - Slow

Once you have this down, you can also use the guitar pick to tap all the notes and gain extra speed when you are ascending or descending. Listen to the DragonForce tracks “Once in a Lifetime” at 4:31 and “Heroes of Our Time” at 0:19 where instead of sweeping down I tapped with a pick in both directions.

Let's get more fingers moving on the right hand by fusing the C major arpeggio with an A minor pentatonic pattern. In Fig. 3 we are using the same sweep-up and tap-down method but we are outlining a basic A minor pentatonic scale with our tapping hand. When starting out, use your index finger on your tapping hand for the first note and then your ring finger for the second.

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A good reason to use more than one finger when you tap multiple notes on each string—apart from looking cool—is to stop your right hand wrist from moving up and down the neck too much. Your wrist should be resting lightly on the lower strings to mute them when not being played. Less movement up and down means more efficient and less noise.

Make sure to alternate between the three fingers to help strengthen them. The pinkie is smaller so it is especially useful on the higher frets. Be sure to experiment and see what works best for you.

I love to hear your suggestions for future lessons and see you try these licks out on YouTube!

Herman Li is a founding member of the Grammy-nominated metal band DragonForce. In the last few years, Herman has established himself as one of the most recognized and influential guitarists of the new generation, winning numerous awards around the globe. Apart from touring with DragonForce, he has also given guitar clinics in four continents in three different languages. Find out more at and