I'm considering writing a book

It has occurred to me that I have written very extensively and in very significant detail on electric guitar technique, and that gathering my posts from this forum (and others) into an archive could help me to prepare any future posts I might make.

It then occurred to me that if I were to gather my writings together, it might be more valuable to others if I were to structure the collection of essays/articles I have written, and make it available to those who would be interested.

Finally, I had the idea that it could be worthwhile to write a book, based upon my previous writings, but expanded and with more logical organisation.

Then, I had some other thoughts. Second thoughts. Doubts stemming from the acknowledgement of complicating factors.

First, who would actually be interested in reading it?

In my mind, I’d be writing it for my younger self, but I’d like it to be of value to others. The ideal situation is that developing players might read it and be able to benefit from the work, but I’m neither a recognized player nor a recognized teacher. Why would anybody read over a hundred pages of my thoughts on the subject?

Would you be interested in reading? If you felt the content was valuable, would you be willing to recommend the work to others and share it with them?

The next thought I had, and which concerns CTC directly, is the following. If I were to discuss picking technique in any depth, some discussion of concepts first published by @Troy and CTC would be necessary.

I had independently discovered many of those concepts for myself, though I certainly didn’t discover all of the concepts I would feel should be discussed. I would also prefer to be mostly consistent with CTC terminology to avoid confusion where possible. I would of course reference and acknowledge CTC in the book as appropriate, but I don’t really want to do it at all if @Troy feels I’d be stepping on his toes in some way. Would I have the blessing of the CTC team to undertake such a project?


Thanks for being so considerate! But of course, go forth and conquer!


Thanks Troy.

With the ongoing lockdown due to COVID-19, the completion of my teaching duties for the semester and the interruptions to my usual recreational activities, I thought this project might help to keep me busy over the summer.

Gotta be productive to stay sane. Are you guys moving to all online stuff next semester?

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It’s not fully decided upon yet, or if the university has decided a upon a policy they haven’t made it known to us yet.

Lecturers have been so busy in the last few weeks delivering online content, revising assessment strategies, and correcting exams that we haven’t really been able to focus on what we’ll be able to do next semester.

A recurring suggestion is that all lectures would be recorded and broadcast, with 1/3 of the students allowed to attend lectures live in classrooms and lecture theaters, with the remaining 2/3 watching online (streaming or watching the recordings). The 1/3 would rotate so that every student would be allowed to attend an equal number of lectures in person.

I’m just glad I’m not in administration. State exams we’re officially cancelled so the admissions process is huge concern for them over the summer.

Hey @Tom_Gilroy, I would definitely read your book. Your posts here on the CTC forum, as well as the youtube videos you put up, have been very helpful to me.

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I’m very glad to have helped you.

In other news, after just some document formatting, chapter/section titles and a reference page (which will of course includes CtC), I’m already nearing 40 pages. Plenty to keep me busy this summer.


Tom - a lot of out discussion on your analysis of efficient fretting hand movements has been quite helpful to me, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. If you wrote a book, I’d absolutely buy a copy. Happy to help any way I can, technical proof reading (I have a degree in literature) or just a fresh set of ears to bounce things off. :+1:


I feel the topic of fretting mechanics is the where the book will have its greatest value. The discoveries I’ve made in this area are my primary motivation for writing the book.

Without meaning to be boastful, I simply do not know of anybody else who has made those same discoveries explicitly. I try to be rigorous in analysis, and where possible I test the conclusions of that work practically.

I’ll be in touch asking you to read chapters as I complete them.

One of the most difficult lessons I’ve ever learned is that I do not want to be a professional musician. I know that I am capable of it; I did the work, I put in the hours. I just don’t want it.

I’m not a professional guitarist. I do not teach guitar professionally. So far as anybody else would care, I’m a “hobbyist” or an “enthusiast.”


Hey Tom, looking forward to the book! I also thought your findings could be written in some kind of academic journal, but I wouldn’t know which one :slight_smile:

‘Popular Guitar Mechanics’ )
Though someone have to create it first

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It was certainly all fresh content to me, and observations, scientifically speaking, that make sense. You very well may be right.

Tom, I dont mean to come across ignorant but how much more material on the left hand do you have aside from EDC and switching up fingerings for better playing?

It’s not ignorant at all to ask.

Short answer: A lot.

Long answer: First draft of the EDC chapter is 20 pages, and there’ll be a minimum of at least four more chapters about fretting postures and fretting techniques. So this part of the book is probably a minimum of 100 pages, probably more when pictures are included.

Then, I have plans for chapters on synchronization, dampening and string bending and vibrato techniques.

I had meant to PM this per that one thread several weeks ago but it’s probably best left for public discussion, so I’ll just post it here:

After being a hardcore 3NPS picker for a year and a half now, I’m still not understanding this whole 1-2-4 versus 1-3-4 thing. Isn’t it just a matter of scale length?

Michael Romeo used 1-3-4 all over Young Guitar, he has small hands. Completely defeats the theory of hand size. His only inaccurate bit in of scale playing occurs for the harmonic example he does (#11), where he uses 1-2-4 for frets 13, 15, 17 and proceeds to misfret the note.

Brendon Ellis, Black Dahlia Murder, 25.5" 24 fret… 1-3-4…

Remy Hansen, pre-eminent Paul Gilbert cover guy on Youtube , 25.5" 24 fret… 1-3-4…

Paco De Lucia… flamenco, fingerstyle, 650 mm classical signatures made by Vicente Carillo, equivalent to a 25.5" scale length… 1-3-4…

Anton Oparin… arguably greatest, most technical alternate picker to ever have lived… 25.5" scale… 1-3-4 for 3NPS passages

Ruben Diaz, flamenco player in the style of Paco… 1-3-4, standard scale…

Wouldn’t it be more simple to just write/release a small manual on how to rearrange lines for 1-2-4 cycles with a caveat on the fact that scale length might dictate breaking an EDC?

Second to that is we don’t really have any definitive proof that 1-3-4 is technically weaker for guitar playing needs, so who is to say you can break an EDC in the first place?

It might be most useful to show mathematically how you can try to rearrange lines to Shawn’s style, irrespective of the fingers used.

edit: I should also add that related to the concept of an EDC is an assumption that you have multiple fingering options for sequences. I don’t believe that’s the case. I’ve never learned a single thing on this instrument where you had multiple fingerings options, say, for 3NPS sequences. There’s usually one superior solution relative to the instrument you’re playing.

Can’t we just suspend @Tom_Gilroy from the forum until the book is written? It will speed up the process! :wink: All jokes aside, I’m really looking forward to the final product.

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It takes a special kind of hubris to think someone planning on writing a book doesn’t already know this, AND I’MA LET YOU FINISH


The only thing separating a “professional” from an “amateur” is the professional looks to get paid for their work and an amateur or enthusiast works on it and appreciates it on their own merits and whether or not they receive compensation.

Anyway, I know you never said you were an amateur merely that you were an enthusiast or hobbiest but to be clear, that should definitely NOT be seen as any sort of “failing”.



No, not at all. I’m honestly confused how you’ve even come to that conclusion.

The difference between a 25.5" scale guitar and a 24.75" is essentially the same as the distance between the nut and the first fret on a 25.5" scale guitar. Any effects of scale length can be controlled for simply by moving up one fret on a longer scale guitar and tuning down a half-step, or reducing the string gauge.

The (1 2 4) and (4 2 1) cycles are indeed EDCs. However, by my definitions (1 2 3) and (3 2 1) are also.

Most guitarists who do use (1 3 4) do so for whole-half situations. In these situations, the natural substitution is (1 2 3), not (1 2 4). I made a video covering an instance where using (1 2 4) for whole-half is favorable because it reduces the complexity of the fretting sequence in that particular situation.

I am most definitely not advocating for using (1 2 4) in all whole-half situations. Nor, for that matter, am I advocating for the complete abandonment of (1 3 4) in all situations. It’s all over the place in my own playing, it just doesn’t work for my absolute fastest playing.

I am making the case that (3 4) transitions are fundamentally more expensive than other transitions, due to physiological limitations on finger independence. Why do you think scale length has something do do with this? Again, I play 25.5" scale length guitars exclusively.

I think you’re missing the something here. There may be instances where one can rearrange existing lines and reduce them to compositions of EDCs and efficient turnarounds, there by allowing them to be played faster. I’ve certainly done that since I made the discovery and it has yielded good results where it is applicable.

However, the primary value of this is in understanding that you can use these concept to build a vocabulary of your own lines that can be played at the fastest possible speeds with minimal effort and without fatigue.

Limitations on independence between the fingers is physiological in origin based upon anatomical fact. We do not have distinct flexor and extensor muscles for each individual finger.

The only finger which is capable of almost independent extension is the 1st finger, having an independent extensor in addition to the common extensor band.

The 4th finger has an individual extensor also, however it shares an attachment point on the finger with the common extensor. Using the 3rd and 4th fingers in combination results in fatigue due to conflict between these the action of these extensors.

There would be similar issues with other finger combinations if not for mitigating factors. The separation between the 2nd and 4th fingers reduces the effect of this conflict if the 3rd finger is kept loose. The 2nd and 3rd fingers would also be problematic if not for the fact that when playing the guitar, we can use our 2nd and 3rd fingers and let our 4th fingers move completely freely. This is why we see the “flying pinky” so often. Reducing muscular tension reduces the amount the pinky flies, but it’s not eliminated.

Alternating between the 3rd and 4th fingers is inefficient and strenuous for anatomical reasons. When playing at the fastest possible speeds, this quickly results in fatigue. At “normal” fast speeds, the 3rd and 4th transitions are often affordable provided were nor doing something like extended trills between them.

Also, it’s certainly worth noting that Shawn Lane was undeniably, categorically faster than all of the players you’ve mentioned. Faster than pretty much everybody in fact, to the degree that many now believe he had some superhuman, supercharged nervous system. When we study his fastest playing we see notice the complete absence of the 3rd and 4th combination. It is simply not there.

Also, as the guy who defined what an EDC is and proposed the hypothesis, I define what breaks them. If my theory is shown to be incorrect or incomplete due to some evidence found, I get to make the necessary changes to the definition to refine the theory. This is standard in the scientific method.

Also, as in any scientific endeavor, I have tried extensively to refute my own hypothesis and so far I have completely failed to do so.

Again, the “fingers used” is the reason Shawn could do what he did. Which fingers and when to use them, specifically, is the whole point.

I was Paul Gilbert levels of fast by the age of fifteen, and I thought for years that I would never get appreciably faster. I believed all the myths of Shawn’s freakish nervous system and thought those speeds were beyond my natural limits. Now, in my early thirties I am able to move my hands as fast as he did, and what I am playing at those speeds is getting cleaner and more expansive continually.

How? I studied his line construction and analyzed patterns in fretting and picking sequences. I imitated his positions and movements, and I tried to move as fast as I possibly could. This only started in late 2016 or early 2017. After some time, I was able to play some of Shawn’s lines at his speeds. Now that I understand their construction in terms of picking and fretting sequences, I’ve been able to create my own lines which I can play at those speeds.

It’s not about trying to take lines and force them into Shawn’s, anymore than should try to take upstroke escape based picking licks and force fit them into a double escape method. It’s about understanding explicity what Shawn understood intuitively at such an early age.

I simply could not possibly disagree with this more. I’m actually baffled, positively baffled that you believe that to be the case.

Even the standard Gilbert 6-note pattern has multiple fingering options, and there’s no universal agreement on how best to play it. Marshall Harrison uses a completely different fingering to Paul Gilbert, for example and that’s on of the simplest sequences based on 3NPS scale shapes there is. Things only get more complex from there.

Nor, for that matter, does the existence of EDCs in any way require that lines can be fingered in multiple different ways. They certainly can be, and some may be reduce to compositions of EDCs, but if there were lines which couldn’t be refingered at all, EDCs would still exist as I’ve defined them. They just wouldn’t be applicable in the context of that line.


I found the tone a little condescending here, Tom. It’s off-putting. I’m not trying to “epically own” you or “win”, I’m trying to provide another viewpoint and work with you. I don’t think many on here besides you and me - as I said the other week or so - have given fretting hand choice much written analysis here. My proof (not that I need it, it’s fairly obvious) is that you and I are the only ones to continuously broach this subject with an exhaustive level of detail.

I’m aware you’re a very smart guy, but allowing the positive reception to this EDC stuff to get you high off your own supply is not a good look. Responding to my posts that you’re absolutely baffled by my claims is disingenuous in that any third party would automatically bias against me and think I was stupid for daring to suggest - note: suggest - something to you.

Anyways, I think at present the lack of fretting hand material is the biggest gaping hole in the entirety of Cracking the Code’s material, to a point where I cannot believe that we have a borderline autistic level of picking hand motion analysis but only a few lines video excepts here and there about the fretting hand.

I still feel strongly scale and instrument type affects fingering choices. You haven’t controlled in your hypothesis for this at all, when multiple examples I have provided suggests there is something to be looked into there.

Paul and Shawn were two different types of players, of course. Shawn was not as strict of a mixed escape player burning through 3NPS scales. I’m not sure the speed argument holds. They played mostly different lines. If they both played the same lines on the same guitar, with the same fingerings, you would have bodybagged my entire argument by now. I would be logging off now instead of writing a novel, there’d be nothing to say.


My point is really that if Shawn used 1-2-4 exclusively, and played a certain type of guitar…

And Paul mostly uses 1-3-4 exclusively, and plays another, different certain type of guitar…

And Paul - later in his career - switches to a 24.75 22 fret in the modern day, switching his fingerings to 1-2-4…

You don’t think that’s worth looking into? Why?

Everything I’ve mentioned suggests that there is something there to be looked into, and nothing you’ve written categorically disposes of that possibility.

Yeah, I read that on here as well. I believe Frylock has a post on that, and LuckyMojo suggested that to me about a year ago when I was struggling very badly with 3NPS scales using the so-called superior 1-2-4 shape.

Except it didn’t help. I kept swiping and would pull notes sharp and flat all the time.

I was only able to master the Intense Rock shapes when I used Paul’s fingerings of 1-3-4. My playing changed in 5 minutes time. It was a laugh-out-loud moment for me. It was like a switch was flipped and it all became a joke.

I just have a very hard time accepting this 1-2-4 argument being the result of anything other than the instrument Shawn played. Presumably he did what was easiest for him with what he had. It’s just a coincidence, and not particularly revelatory.

And yes, I still think for any line, on any instrument, there is one superior fingering. I took that advice from Anton Oparin, which changed my playing. I have a hard time accepting he is wrong. I think inappropriate fingerings are also a major cause of focal dystonia, but that’s neither here nor there.

Just so we’re clear, and I cannot stress this enough: I’m always open to being wrong. This isn’t a competition.

Just to add my own anecdotal experience: I play both 25.5" and 24.75" instruments, though my preference is for the larger scale length. I don’t have big hands or anything, I’m more of a Randy Rhoads build than a Shawn Lane :wink:

I do tend to modify fingerings as I go beyond position 12 or so, where I tend to switch from 124 and 134 fingerings to 123 for almost everything (or 1234 if I’m doing 4nps patterns).

That said, I don’t think scale length matters so much for the purpose of optimizing scale fingerings. Past the 3rd fret or so there’s not an appreciable difference in the span between a double-whole step pattern on either scale in the same position - at least not one that would cause me to drastically alter my fingering approach. I appreciate that different players prefer the feel or comfort of a certain scale length, but I don’t believe that’s what impacts fingering preferences.

IMO, there are a number of variables that go into optimizing left hand positioning: thumb placement, degree of wrist flexion, lateral angle of the fingers (and the knuckle bridge), degree of curvature or flatness of fingers, etc… The challenge is that these variables are in flux, there’s not 1 ideal left hand setup that works in every position and string set on the fretboard. Higher strings allow a higher thumb placement and a more acute angle of finger placement, where lower strings often need a lower thumb placement and a more parallel angle of the fingers to the string. The length, breadth, shape, and flexibility of the hand and fingers have a large effect on this positioning as well. Of course if you have big Hendrix paws, you can just palm the neck and call it a day.

All of these factors will impact what an “optimal fingering” is for different players in different parts of the neck. It’s why Gilbert (with very long, narrow fingers) can play double-whole step patterns in low positions with 134, where very few other players use this fingering. Also why Shawn Lane can play 123 on wide intervals like 3nps pentatonics down to the 1st position - a combination of a wide palm/knuckle bridge, an acute finger angle to the string, and extreme flexibility. I don’t think either extreme provides a perfect model for the average player.

I’m in agreement with Tom that the 3-4 finger combination is the “most expensive” option, where 1-2 and 1-3 are the “least expensive”. This doesn’t mean that 134 fingerings are “bad”, as you’ve pointed out many great (and fast) players use them. I certainly do, but if I could reach 123 for everything I probably would. There’s definitely a reason that Lane most avoided this 3-4 option, out of instinct or necessity, at the highest possible velocities of left hand movement.

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