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Sweep or Alternate pick

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Trusted Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 33
Topic starter  

Im learning the intro to Stairway to Heaven. The way Im playing it is by sweeping the strings instead of alternate picking. What made me think about this was this video below (Diturbed covering Fade to Black)

On the acoustic intro, the guy looks to me like he's alternate picking. The way I play that intro is by sweep picking. Am I wrong to be using sweep picking on these songs?

Trusted Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 38

No, you aren't "wrong" to use sweep picking techniques. When covering or learning a song, you should add your own flair and style, rather than copying what Jimmy Page did so many years ago that made him so famous. However, I am almost 100% certain that Jimmy Page never used sweep picking techniques when playing the Stairway intro...everywhere I have ever seen or heard it played, it is picked. I actually don't even alternate pick it, I mostly use down picks with up strokes when it is needed. For one thing, I don't really think it is fast enough for sweep is more of a melodic sound, and I just pick the chords down in an arpeggio fashion. But again, whatever works for you...if you like the sound of it sped up, then that's how you should play it. If you think it sounds better swept, then that is what you should do. To me, music isn't about "right" and "wrong," just what sounds good. Hope that answered your question, though.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

I've played this two ways: first, fingerpicked. I think that gives the closest sound to the recording - the notes are a little more mellow. Second, hybrid picked, pick making downstrokes.

Downstrokes aren't the same as sweep - in sweep picking, notes are muted as the next one plays. The intro is in more of an arpeggiated style, so I wouldn't call it sweep.

Oh, and when I fingerpick it, I have a pick on my right knee if I'm sitting, or in my teeth if I'm standing - I switch to a pick for the B section (which is hybrid picked in spots) and the C section (solo & chords)

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