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Sweep picking question

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by MarshallNole, Jun 3, 2014.

  1. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    I am learning the song Sober by Tool. Most of the song consists of sweep picking in a down then up motion across all 4 strings with muted notes in between.

    When I do this I get a scratchy sound on the strings. I am not sure how you would ever avoid this without holding the bass at a perfect 90 degree angle which is totally awkward and unnatural. I have two questions.

    1) Is there a way to avoid this scratchy noise on the strings or should I ignore it? Maybe it wouldn't be noticeable to someone just listening to the song and not standing there at the bass.

    2) Another issue I have with this song is I lose grip on the pick. I try to hold it lightly otherwise it gets hard to sweep across the strings. Any tips?

    EDIT: BTW, the picture here shows how I hold the pick.

  2. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Without hearing and seeing what you're doing first part is difficult to address. The first thing I'd say is hold the pick looser but you're already doing that. You're also already aware of the angel but experiment more with that.

    No matter how accomplished you become the pick will always move in your fingers. There is no magic point where this stops happening and fighting it is a waste of time. Become more aware of constantly micro adjusting it back to where you want it to be. This is the secret that I don't see many people talking about but for me it's fundamental. It gets to the point where it won't feel like it's moving because you develop the intuitive skill to adjust as it slips and even to use that slip in how you articulate. At this point the pick feels alive in your hand....like an extension of your fingers more than something you're whacking the strings with.

    The picture shows you playing with a semi open grip. Try closing your grip by curling your fingers into your palm and hear what happens to your sound. Try opening your grip more than you are in the pic and hear what happens. This is subtle but it's a valuable tool in your arsenal of tone.
  3. jd-ns


    Sep 28, 2010
    I don't have a great solution for you, but just so you don't feel alone I'll let you know that I have always found sweep picking on bass difficult (*even though I have no problem with it on guitar). I have decided that it is not really a productive use of my time with all of the more important bass techniques that I need to master so I have put it at/near the bottom of my priority list... and my lack of sweeping ability has yet to hinder me in any band or performance...
  4. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    Thanks. I am certain the scratchy noise comes from the angle the pick strikes the high D and G strings. Should I alter the way I pick the strings so that it hits them at less of an angle? There has to be a way.
  5. From a rhythm guitar guy....... Picks come in all sizes and shapes and most cost very little. I would recommend you get a handful of assorted thickness, and shapes, and see if that will help. Perhaps another pick will eliminate your problem. Cost less than $5 to see.

    I like the Big Stubby 3.0mm on the bass as the strings are thicker than what you find on a rhythm guitar. It has an indention in the middle and I seem to get a better grip because of that. As I'm getting on in years I can not hold a plectrum for any length of time before it becomes impossible to control so I also use the thumb pick - that wraps around your thumb. If you hold the back side of the thumb pick with your index finger you will be able to up strum with it. I have also tried drilling a hole in the center of the pick and this also helps with holding the pick.

    Picks are a personal thing, keep looking till you find one you like. My point - there is a pick for you, you just have to find it. :cool:
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2014
  6. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    yes the scratch sound comes from the angle ... instead picking the string you slide on it so yes you will have to change your position to attack the string at a perfect angle. and I don't hear sweep picking at all ... I hear a lot of double stop consisting of root-fifth with some chuggin on ghost notes ... then then simple punch and then riding the root during the chorus.
  7. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    I do not think that sweep picking means what you think it means.
  8. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    Maybe not. Have only been playing a few months, but I explained what I am doing in the OP so thanks for nothing.
  9. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Don't be pissy. You did actually have the opportunity here to learn something about terminology.
  10. KingKrabb


    May 9, 2014
    Puerto Rico
    OP, this would actually be strumming, with muted notes in between. (You're talking about the intro/main riff, right?)

    I'd be happy to help out.
    MarshallNole and tbz like this.
  11. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    Wearing your bass a little higher might seem counter-intuitive for picking, but it can help level the bass out without making it awkward to play, allowing you to hit those strings a little more head on. Sitting while playing it has the same effect, and it's likely he was sitting for the recording in the studio anyway. Justin Chancellor is a big fan of double stops and strumming, which is evident in this song, and that's what you're hearing between the mutes.
  12. tbz


    Jun 28, 2013
    Agreed, strumming, not sweep picking. It's a pretty basic technique.
  13. Oneirogenic


    Nov 10, 2009
    Unless the scratching sound is really bad i wouldn't worry so much about it. Listen to Paul's tone on the recording, it's very aggressive and the pick scratching the strings is part of it.
    KingKrabb likes this.

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