For example, an excerpt from Animals as Leaders' CAFO

    Db|                13 12
    Ab|             13       13             13       12       13
    E |          14             14       14       14       14    14
    B |       14                      14       14       14          14
    Gb| 12h15                      12
    B |

Don't mind the tuning—it's just a drop D tuning, 1.5 steps down. And it's not what Tosin Abasi uses. Also, only the beginning is relevant, but I may have more questions about the rest of this part, so I figure it's better to familiarize readers with the complete part and repeat it over separate posts than show fragments in each question. If it matters, the above are all sixteenth-triplets, for 7 eighth notes in total.

I'm new to sweeping and a bit confused by the presence of this hammer-on in many sweep-picking examples and exercises. I feel like instead of being able sweep across all the strings at a constant rate, you have to awkwardly spend double the time on the base string because of the hammer-on.

Is it purely to complete the arpeggio that it's common? (I suspect that's the case.) If so, are there any techniques to "suspending" your picking hand just after the base string, before continuing through the rest of the strings? Trying to do it consciously is maddening!

  • 1
    It has to do with the 3rd in the arpeggio. If you play it on two separate strings you have to reach back a couple frets, so the arpeggio moves towards the headstock rather than in an upward direction towards higher frets. I actually prefer those for sweep picking. See link below for an example that puts the hammer on at the end of the run, on the high E string, similar to Bob's answer. I find its much easier to pause for the hammer on the high E when you are getting ready to come back down anyway, it's a natural place to pause: youtube.com/watch?v=-tob2N4dze8 (good lesson too).
    – charlie
    Sep 12, 2014 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


I think you're right. The reason you need a hammer-on here is to get the full arpeggio. One other way to get these notes is to start with finger 4 on fret 12 string 5 and play the second note with finger 2 on fret 10 string 4:

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The timing of the hammer-on on the top string, at the end of the arpeggio, might be easier, but it is quite a stretch, and then you have to jump up to twelfth position.

In reply to your general point, about having to "consciously" think about waiting longer on a string with two notes during a sweep picked arpeggio, I think the only way around it is to gradually build the speed up from very slow with a metronome, taking great care always to keep the rhythm even. Doing this, you should eventually find that the timing becomes automatic (i.e. something you don't have to think about). Also, this will be of great value if you want to do sweep picked scales, where every string has a number of notes played with hammer-ons (although you can of course find patterns for these with the same number of notes on each string which makes the timing more "even").

  • Hm, I think you're right! I just needed to "have some faith" (as helped by your answer) and dedicate myself to it, which I have been doing for a few hours now. I was afraid it'd be one of those things that might develop sloppily (e.g. blurring the hammer-on to make 5 eighth-quintuplets instead of 6 sixteenth-triplets) regardless of practice, unless helped by some technique. But I notice my picking hand is beginning to "think" of it as an emphatic note (embellished by the hammer-on) followed by 4 sixteenth-triplets, the first of which feels more and more like a pick-up note, which it should. May 1, 2014 at 1:48

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