Friday, 14 March 2014

5 Secrets Of Sweep Picking

Sweep picking is notoriously difficult to master, but well worth the effort. In case you don't already know, sweep picking is a technique used to play arpeggios (meaning to play notes sequentially, as separate and defined sounds). In this post we will look at the most common mistakes people make when trying to learn this technique. It should be noted that while you may find this article helpful, there is really no replacement for a competent teacher when it comes to learning guitar.

Slow it down

You've almost certainly heard this before but I really can't stress it enough. Slow down your playing and practice at a speed where you can really concentrate on the technique and synchronisation of your hands. Once you are comfortable with the discipline you can try to speed things up, confident in the knowledge that you can execute all the right movements already. 

It's far better to do things in this order rather than jump straight in and try to play at light speed. It will inevitably sound muddy and you'll never work out where you're going wrong anyway unless you take things a little slower.


When playing arpeggios the goal is to make each note defined, in order to achieve this you will need to pick out strings individually. Simply strumming will ruin your timing and sound sloppy.

Practice finger rolling

Rolling is vital to some arpeggio shapes and unless you have a flawless finger rolling technique it could be holding you back. Practice the motion of the roll (not even necessarily while actually playing) until it feels as natural as taking a breath of fresh air. This will go a long way to clearing up those muddy notes!

Pull off perfection

Perfecting your pull off is also really important when it comes to playing arpeggios. Try to make them sound crisp and just as loud as your picked notes. Practice your pull offs in isolation until you get them sounding just right, it can make a huge difference to your sweep picking prowess.

Master muting

Pay close attention to your muting technique and listen carefully to see how effective it actually is. You may want to record yourself to help with this or ask a friend for their honest feedback. If your muting isn't spot on your sweep picking will never sound right. Try playing slower and you may find it helps you to identify where there is room for improvement.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Rock vs Reggae - The Five Best Rock Covers of Reggae

Jamaican stars are well known for making Reggae covers of popular American and British songs. Although they're not all great, many of these versions take the songs in new directions and offer funkier takes on classics, such as:

However, the influence travels in both directions as Jamaican music has had an undeniable effect on Rock music. British Rock in particular has been heavily influenced, owing in part to the Caribbean immigration into the UK since World War II.

2 Tone and Punk are just two examples of Rock sub-genres which take inspiration from Jamaican genres such as Reggae, Dub and Dancehall. The 1970's saw British and American Punk bands wearing their Jamaican influences with pride, and it's an often neglected fact that American Hip Hop was created by a Jamaican immigrant and modelled on Jamaican soundsystem culture.

So here are five of the best Rock covers of Reggae Songs:

5. The Specials – "A Message To You Rudy" (1979)

As one of the defining bands of the 2 Tone movement, The Specials referenced older Reggae and Ska consistently throughout their music. It is often forgotten that this song is a cover, both versions call for the 'Rudeboys' to refrain from their destructive antics, and both are stone cold classics.

Dandy Livingstone's 1967 Original:  "A Message to You Rudy"

4. The Clash “Police and Thieves” (1977):
The Clash are probably the most iconic Punk band of all time. They courted controversy, provoked debate and had a string of hit albums. Taking huge influence from the Reggae music they heard around them in London, here they covered Junior Murvin's high-pitched tune about cops and robbers, creating a Punk classic. Thankfully Joe Strummer's didn't try to ape Junior's high notes and the song will be forever memorialised in Rock History.

Junior Murvin's 1976 Original version: "Police and Thieves"

3. Madness - "One Step Beyond" (1979)

Madness were also one of the biggest bands to come from the 2 Tone era and owed a huge debt to Ska and Reggae music. In fact, this song was so popular a lot of people won't even be aware that it is a cover. The band actually took their name from a Prince Buster B-Side and released a song 'The Prince' dedicated to the man himself. Both versions are classics! 

Prince Busters 1964 Original: "One Step Beyond" 

2. Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer “Redemption Song” (2003)

Bob Marley's music is some of the most covered and remixed music in history. There are many rock remakes kicking about, especially of classics like "One Love" and "Redemption Song." There is one "Redemption Song" cover that stands out above all other though, 2003's cover by Country music legend Johnny Cash. The Clash's Joe Strummer enlisted the badboy of country to record the track shortly before his death in the same year. Both Marley and Cash are icons of music, as well as being heroes of their genres. A classic take on a classic track.

Link to Bob Marley's Original 1980 "Redemption Song" 

1. Eric Clapton “I Shot the Sheriff” (1974)

It is often the case that legendary artists are rarely fully appreciated in their lifetime. It seems unbelievable today, but Eric Clapton's cover of "I Shot the Sheriff" was actually the only Marley song to reach the number one on the US Billboard Top 100 in his lifetime. Clapton's version, which added some Rock and Funk leanings to an all time classic, is also partly responsible for Marley's profile rising in the USA. A country that has traditionally had a harder time in understanding Reggae than the UK. 

Listen to Marley's Original 1973 "I Shot the Sheriff"

Do you have any other favourites? Let us Know in the comments or on Facebook.