Crossroads Arpeggios - Have I reached my Speed Limit?


For years, I’ve gone through multiple failed attempts to learn this piece. It’s become a cliche for sure, but I think for a reason :slight_smile:
Specifically for the arpeggio intro, I was never getting even close to obtaining decent speed.

It’s been many years since I tried tackling it, but a few weeks ago I stumbled on a youtube video, and got motivated on giving it another go.
This time though, my fast playing had been vastly improved thanks to the amazing instructional content here, and I got pretty close to playing it “fast” pretty quickly.

But now I feel stuck, and I’m getting diminishing returns on my practice time.
Here’s a common take at around 120 bpm, after warming up.

I can get cleaner/better takes but that takes a lot of repeated attempts.
At around 110, It becomes fairly consistently good. At around 130 it becomes messy, and at 140 it falls apart.
As the video shows, I’m getting most of the notes right, but they are not even, and I think I have hand synchronization problems, especially around position shifts, so the whole thing ends up sounding mediocre. The tone here is deliberately unforgiving but still, it’s just not up to a high standard.

I think I’m ready to let this one go, as it’s not even serving my typical playing style, but it’s always been a personal challenge for me, and I always wanted a party trick to impress my friends with :wink:

Appreciate any suggestions on a good strategy to improve. Go slower ? Go faster ? Work more on problem areas ? Is there some obvious bad movement shown on the video ?


Doesn’t sound too bad to me. Although what does seem to stand out as perhaps different from what I remember from playing that in my teen years is your arrangement. Seems I recall more of the notes were purely swept whereas it seems you are playing mostly alternate. Could it be that you’ve got an arrangement/approach that is not well suited to the piece?

This is great! Nice work here. Specifically it looks like you’re doing double escape wrist motion in the Andy Wood style, just with some elbow motion also in the mix. It’s not clear to me that the elbow part is strictly necessary but wrist-elbow blend is common so I wouldn’t necessarily worry about it, specifically.

I’ll warn you that “falls apart” is one of my trigger phrases! It’s super vague. I think we should stop saying this because it doesn’t really tell us what specifically you think is going wrong. Despite the title of your post, it actually doesn’t sound like you’re saying you have a “speed” problem in the sense of not being able to move your joints faster. That’s important - lots of people will read this and assume that. Instead it sounds like you can actually move significantly faster but something happens to the accuracy.

Ok, fine, let’s take the next step and ask why. Is the motion changing in some way so that it’s no longer double escape? Or is the motion still doing what it’s supposed to do, but you’re but hitting different strings than the ones you’re aiming for? Or is the motion all mostly accurate and something is wrong with the fretting hand? Until you get some good closeup video of this, you won’t really know the answer to any of these questions.

More generally, however, I can give you what I think I would do in a case like this, and that is, not so much try to fix “Crossroads”, but improve the technique in general. The hardest part to playing this is the part you’ve already done, which is get a basic handle on double escape motion that is not stringhopping. It looks great. It’s just getting sloppier as you go faster.

So congratulations, and welcome to the best part of technique learning where you can actually do the motion correctly, and you just need to figure out how to do it across a wide variety of different shapes and patterns. You may be using only one motion here, but it’s not going to feel the same when you change up the picking patterns and fretting patterns you apply it to. In some sense, you’re basically re-discovering this feeling of correctness with each new unfamiliar phrase you undertake.

So… you can keep playing Crossroads here and there if you like, but I recommend expanding the net to include as many other common and uncommon picking situations as you can think of, and applying this motion to those phrases. You may discover that some are already clean even at the faster speeds. Great, film them up close and verify, so you know what it looks like when you get it rall ight. You may find other phrases that don’t sound clean. Film those to and see if you can determine what the mistakes are. Keep constructing and trying as many of these phrases as you can, making various attempts to get them clean and verify via video if the result is actually any different. No point in repeating things forever unless you’re actually fixing the problems. If you’re not, then you gotta try a different phrase, or starting on a different pickstroke, or changing something until it becomes clean. You’ll figure it out.

Eventually you can come back to this and you see improvement, but only once you’ve been able to see improvement elsewhere.

If you get any closer video of this, it would be interesting to see A/B of the slower cleaner stuff versus the faster / sloppier stuff, to see what’s actually going on wrong.

Nice work so far!


I don’t know, it could be that some notes are swept originally. But for me, with sweeping, I find that I cannot get close to the sound and the strong sense of rhythm I feel when listening to it. With alternate picking, I feel like I’m getting a more similar sound and feel. Otherwise, the only guide in my choice of fingering here is refraining from rolling bars, which I have never gotten good at.

Fair enough. Yes, now that you mention it, there’s rolling bars in that version as well. There was a tab in a magazine that I’ve got the PDF of that probably sculpted my approach using sweeps and rolling bars. I understand how alternate probably better captures that rhythmic, staccato impression of the original.

Hi Troy!

Thanks for the kind words. It means a lot!
Additionally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for absolutely transforming the way I approach technique and play guitar. Your videos and teachings have helped me reach new levels in my playing and technique that I would have never imagined possible. Your approach is both unique and general in the sense that it can apply to many other styles of playing and even completely different skills altogether.
Thank you!

Yes, I believe elbow movement (at least as a component) was the one motion that came naturally for me early on, and got me going with fast playing when I started out. I think a lot of the progress I made later was due to improving my wrist movement based on your hand setup guidance here, but as of now I’m still unable to completely eliminate the elbow, so in the interest of not over-analyzing it, I let it go for now.

Sorry, I meant I have a speed problem in the context of this specific piece. I am indeed able to pick much faster, but starting from a certain speed, accuracy degrades dramatically as well.
In that sense, “falls apart” means that most of the notes are either wrong, or not played individually.

Thanks for the advice. Makes sense, and I’ll definitely do that. My feeling is that, maybe unsurprisingly, the more sporadic the single notes per string are, the better I do and vice versa. This piece is kind of in between in this respect, so the result may be in between. But I realize that without trying and filming it, it’s just useless theories so I’ll get right on it :slight_smile:

Will do. I’ll resist the urge to only post decent takes. I know, it’s very silly, but it’s real :wink:

Hi again,

As you suggested, I took a break from this for the last week. I have only noodled with it a couple of times since. Today I recorded a take at a significantly faster tempo, which is pretty much my target (around 140):

As demonstrated, at this tempo there are many mistakes and general sloppiness. but I can say that for this speed, it’s not as bad as it was a couple of weeks ago. On the other hand, I also tried to revisit the slower tempo, and I can’t say it cleaned up relatively to last week.

Additionally, I did try other types of lines. For instance these classic mini arpeggios:

I can do these at a faster tempo, but they have some sloppiness to them as well. For example, here I think I’m hitting the G string every time I’m trying to hit the B string on the way up.

I guess this brings me to the general question: I feel like I’m at a level where I can execute a lot of lines, but nothing is flawless and 100% reliable. Some are better/faster than others, but nothing is perfect, as your examples are. So where do I go from here? I’m not looking to get any faster, just master my current tempo.

Thanks again!

Hi Nir, thanks for posting. Sounding great so far. In general, to clean this up what you want to figure out is what mistakes, if any, are actually happening. In other words, are these picking errors, fretting errors, synchronization errors, etc.

To do that you could place the camera a little closer so that you can see the actual pick/string interaction so you can see if the pick is actually playing the notes and strings you want, or different strings / additional strings. I see you’ve filmed in 60p which is good, does your phone have a 120p mode? If so, use that one. If not, no problem, just use the 60p bet get in closer. This filming angle / framing is good, just the distance is the main issue.

I think the first clip sounds pretty good so far so I’d expect to see that at least a good portion of this is happening as you intend. I think on some of these repetitions you may be changing your form on the descending side to be less of a double escape pickstroke and more of a single escape / DSX motion, so that only the downstrokes escape. So the upstrokes may be hitting more than one string. Again, a closer camera will tell you if that’s really happening. If it is, and if the ascending repetitions look good, then I’d just make sure to keep the same form descending that you use for ascending.

Similar approach with the second clip, the three-string arpeggios. That one I can’t really tell if you’re picking all the notes. I think you might be using some legato there maybe without realizing it. If so, the closer camera will show you what you need to know.

Once you know what’s going on, you can try finding the parts that are working really well, which look the most clean, and making a small repeating etude out of those. Then you can try that at different speeds and film it to make sure it looks really clean and the form is consistent at all speeds. This helps make the “good” technique useful across as wide an array of fretting and picking patterns as possible.

Then do the same thing for the parts which look a little more problematic. Take just the section of one of this where you see a consistent mistake and try to make a little repeating lick or etude out of that. You may be able to fix it by feel but if you’re still not sure just do the closeup filming again to see what’s going on.

That’s basically the process. Etudes for the good things which are working, etudes for the things which may have some kind of mistake, trying lots of variations at lots of speeds to see if you can make the motion consistent and the results smooth and error-free. Use the camera to confirm when that is really happening.

So in the end you don’t really fix “Crossroads”, per se, you fix the technique in general, and then make sure to learn all the different picking patterns it is made of, on a wide array of other phrases that you create or find, and hopefully as you do this the Crossroads piece will become cleaner over time.

It’s work, for sure. I think of this as the “long tail” of the process because it takes time to find all these little mechanical patterns and create musical phrases / etudes with them, and get them all smoothed out.


Hi Troy,

Yes, I think so. The “falling apart” thing almost feels like lack of concentration. Like I cannot think fast enough. It’s probably not what happens but that’s what if feels like.

Interesting! I would be very surprised to find that out, because it really feels like I’m picking everything. I’ll definitely try to get the camera closer.

Understood. Thanks for reinforcing the feeling that I’m at a stage where I do need to put in the work, albeit in a smarter way. I guess after managing to get in the ballpark pretty quickly, I was expecting a quick continued improvement, but I realize that ultimately these things are not easy to be perfected, and take a lot of dedication.

Thank you for your help!