Introducing CtC concepts to new players


Hi all,

I have a question to the CtC team as well as to the teachers in this forum. Before going further, I would like to point out that I am not a guitar teacher. I have made a lot of improvements thanks to CtC but I still have a lot of mechanical problems to solve in my playing. Which means you probably shouldn’t listen to me if I give you advice on your playing :smiley:

I am regularly joining jam sessions with guitarists of different levels. Some of them play only with their fingers, others have been using the pick for a long time but know nothing about the CtC stuff, others are complete beginners.

During warmup, I usually play some of my favorite 2WPS exercises, DWPS or UWPS exercices. This attracted the attention of some of my fellow players. But I have always had some doubts about introducing CtC material to those who never used the pick or to new players.

And here I ask for your guidance. I have always thought that we should give the player first the chance to intuitively solve these mechanical problems. I am thinking that introducing the CtC concepts from the beginning could limit him musically.

So what do you guys think? Will the CtC findings give new players (or new pickers) a head start? Or will it limit their potential you know, if they were meant to become of the greats who figured out the challenges intuitively?

Thanks! \m/

Teaching picking technique with beginning students

If i’m teaching someone who has no experience on the guitar whatsoever, I show the student a DWPS position and start from the there. As the lines they learn get more intricate I then introduce the idea of 2WPS and eventually cross picking. My philosophy here is that technique should be an enabling factor and in an ideal world if we could teach a person perfect technique from the start, that will allow them to play anything they want without hitting the inevitable brick wall that is string hopping (or any other less then ideal picking technique).

That’s not to say I force the philosophy on people. With more experienced students (typically adults) I won’t touch on the topic unless they are struggling with picking, even if I can see them string hopping. If they are struggling with a piece I might ask them some questions to help them think about their picking hand, and If they decide that it might be an issue or I spot the classic “it feels like I’m getting stuck” or similar, then I’ll float the idea of pick slanting or cross picking with them dependent on their style. I’ve found my students are more likely to change their technique if they can see themselves that their current technique is limiting. If all they want to do is strum a few chords and play easy riffs then there is no need to enforce a new technique on them that won’t have any actual benefits unless they start tackling harder material.

My only goal as a teacher is to make people want to pick up and play guitar, if I can do that then all I have to do then is be a guiding hand to help them in whatever direction they want to take their playing in. I think teaching CtC findings to new players will definitely give them a head start. By removing barriers to entry like picking technique then it’s my hope that my students will continue to remain engaged when they do hit plateaus. The longest plateau I and many others guitarists I know have experienced was with picking and that was because we had no concrete information on what techniques actually worked. If I’d been taught CtC concepts in my teens then I imagine that the plateau would have been a lot shorter and felt a lot less like fumbling round in the dark.


I am not a teacher, so you can all ignore what I am about to say :sweat_smile:

IMO it may be quite the opposite of what you are saying: if we tell the beginner how to do the movements, they will have to spend less time figuring them out by random practice, and they will have more time/energy left to work on the artistic side of things. I never tested this theory on a learner, though!


Great question! We spend a bunch of time in the Teemu interview talking about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of teaching. In Teemu’s case, you have a very specific scenario of students who have been playing for a long time, with specific types of lines they are struggling to play despite lots of effort. So they seek him out as a kind of “fixer”. This is probably the clearest example of when giving someone a proven method for doing something is the fastest route to results, and any other approach makes little sense.

How you solve the general case of teaching someone who is a blank slate - that’s a much more open-ended question, but we can still find pretty concrete test cases.

Take the Gypsies as an example. The repertoire is known. The technique is systematized. The teaching is systematized. And look at the hit rate - it appears very high. Asking a player to somehow recreate Django’s strategy and sound through trial and error would be a losing proposition. Instead, they have locked down a lot of the variables and eliminated huge amounts of that trial and error that would kill off a lot of great players before they even get started. There’s a good argument that they’ve found the right balance for their style.

Bluegrass would be another great candidate for a more locked down approach. I’ve been to Winfield, and you can watch some of that footage right here:

This was (is?) the premier bluegrass guitar competition, probably in the world at that point, and if you do a quick scan through the first-round competitors you’ll see how spotty the competence is. A handful of players, including Carl, can play the basic patterns. Most cannot. Maybe the real pros were busy touring instead of competing, so we can’t really know what kind of sample we’re seeing here. But anecdotally this doesn’t look good.

If you take something like metal, the repertoire is less standardized, and there are a lot more mechanical approaches that can possibly work. You can probably still make a decent argument for whittling that down to a few approaches with really repeatable results.

Overall, some kind of balance is probably in order. But if you can wipe out potentially years of wasted time, you’re going to increase the amount of music being made, and decrease the frustration in doing so.


It’s quicker to learn the right way than have students pick up bad habits and then spend lots of time and energy having to break those habits.


Fair question. But it’s tempting to think people are a blank slate when actually, we’re likely to acquire assumptions anyway. And sometimes it’s not what you don’t know but what you do “know” that holds you back. Many people acquire the assumption that correct way to pick is with zero PS. After all… “it’s the respectable, upright way to behave isn’t it? And why would you allow a “bad” habit to develop that tends to change the tone between one stroke and the next?” That assumption could hold someone back for years. So I think it’s perfectly appropriate to at least expose someone to the idea that pickslanting is perfectly respectable, that most people who play fast do it, and it can make it easier to change strings. In fact, just a “natural” arm positioning for many people might make UWPS near impossible physically, to discover.


I discovered pick slanting around 1989 roughly 5 years into my playing when my teacher started teaching me sweep picking arpeggios. He didn’t tell me I had to slant the pick so I spent about 3 months with no progress and then one day I figured out you had to slant the pick in the direction of the sweep. My teacher telling me would have been better.