Success! How I learned to shred from the very first exercise and the Pop Tarts Lick

I viewed the Pick Slanting Primer in chronological order up until the Downward Pickslanting - Yngwie Malmsteen section. That thorough breakdown of picking technique helped me think more about how I picked each string and how to stop trapping my guitar pick when switching strings.

But why was I still not able to shred?

ENTER THE POP TARTS LICK

I watched Troy’s video example on how to play the Pop Tarts lick. This example included two speeds: 1. shredding 200bpm and 2. articulate but very slow motion.

I could play this slow, but my problem like many other people was playing fast…

The traditional advice to play an exercise slow with a metronome until you can shred is disregarded by both Troy and Shawn Lane.
No way was I going down that boring path again, especially since we are instructed not to do that.

I wondered if the Pop Tarts lick was a bit too difficult to start with… how about that second excercise (Single String - Six-Note Pattern) in the Downard Pickslanting - Yngwie Malmsteen Section?

No string switching for the (Single String - Six-Note Pattern) so this appeared at first glance to be easier. I’ll just watch the video of Troy shredding this example… Well, that was also way faster then anything I could play.

At this point I knew that progressing any further into the material was pointless since I could not shred the very first two exercises.

So each day over the course of four days, I alternated between these two exercises.
I typically played for about 1 hour and 15 minutes and would randomly throw in AC/DC Thunderstruck without hammer ons and pull offs to break the monotony.

On the fifth day I could play the Single String - Six-Note Pattern quite fast and arguably shredding.
The Pop Tarts lick was still very slow. Why would there be such a huge chasm between them?

I realized the Single String - Six-Note Pattern was shorter and easier to play. What if I broke down the Pop Tarts lick into smaller sections?

Breaking the Pop Tarts lick down from the beginning on the high E string, this was a total of 8 notes:

12-15-14-12-11-14-12-11

I still struggled. What If I broke this down into four note parts and practiced these separately?

12-15-14-12 and then 11-14-12-11

I began playing each four note section as fast as I could. Each note was played individually but using the same wrist/pick mechanics that I use when tremolo picking.

That’s It!!!

Now what if I bring both four note patterns together?

Woot!!!

Now for the B string on the Pop Tarts lick, I would just use the full six note pattern of:

13-12-10-13-12-10 (this could actually be described as a 3 note pattern that’s repeated twice)

Even Easier!!!

Now what if I played the High E pattern and then string switched utilizing the Upwards String Escape that exists when Downward Pickslanting?

Success!!!

Most people can play single notes at 150bpm+ so they are in the shred zone already.
However, many cannot translate this speed into both string switching as well as breaking the riff/lick down into smaller parts and rifling through them.

Cracking the Code has an absolutely epic amount of content and I’m still very much a beginner. However, I have finally crossed that barrier to shred. I’m extremely thankful for this program and Troy’s dedication and unwillingness to quit. I simply would not have reached this breakthrough otherwise.

TLDR: If you are having trouble shredding but can already string switch:

  1. break down the riff further into smaller note sections or patterns
  2. play until you can shred this small section (use your tremolo picking technique but pick each individual note instead of playing the same note over and over)
  3. combine this small section with the next part
  4. repeat
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Thanks for sharing your progress here! Glad this approach with the Pop Tarts lick ended up showing a good path forward :smiley:

Thanks for the response Brendan! Much appreciated!

Very nice account of your process! Makes me want to practice more… :slight_smile:

I do feel that I want to comment on this, though:

It seems to me that there is a misunderstanding here. AFAIK the material is not meant to be followed as a “program”, step by step in a linear fashion. It is not pointless to look through everything and then decide what you want to work on for instance. I think a very lucky few would be able to actually “follow along” as the examples (not exercises) fly by.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents!

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Hi Johannes,

Thanks for the response.

The examples actually are indeed in linear progression.

These go from easiest to most difficult:

6 Note Pattern on a single string > String Switching > Changing Direction > The Black Star Riff > The Volcano Pattern

Sure nothing forbids a person from skipping the order; however it won’t actually benefit them much if at all to watch even more difficult material that they cannot play. Practicing the material is what actually helps, so going out of order will just be more difficult.

Also the Pickslanting Primer has 7 sections in a row without annotated exercises so the Downward Pickslanting portion is actually the first area to practice, then Upward Pickslanting, and finally Two Way Pickslanting. It’s not really going to be helpful to skip to the last two sections if one isn’t somewhat proficient with the Downward Pickslanting first. You could do it, but why make things more difficult?

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I have both the primer and the volcano seminars, and they do follow a logical progression of increasingly more difficult concepts, examples.

If you watch the videos Troy stresses development of single string ability and hand synchronization as your foundation… before tackling moving positions, and then changing strings.

I dont agree that it wouldn’t benefit you from reviewing the course as whole, but your focus definitely needs to be on the single string mechanic . This may be more evident in the Volcano seminar

This is definitely something we could better clarify. Probably makes more sense to go in order for the seminars; the Primer is more complicated (and sometimes confusing) since it covers a bigger range of material, and while we do have an order to it, not all of it has to be watched / practiced in a totally linear way.

For example there’s no real reason you necessarily have to start with DWPS (USX) playing. It happens to be very common and one of the first things we taught in depth, and it is a perfectly good starting point, but if you’re more comfortable with UWPS (DSX) playing, or naturally have a DBX motion that works well, you can lean into that. It’s not necessary to learn every possible technique, though a good idea to at least take a look at everything to try out different motions etc. and get a sense of the overall landscape.

Anyway we plan to continue improving the Primer, both adding / restructuring the actual lessons to make things more clear, and adding more musical examples to practice in the “motions” sections.

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I completely hear what you are saying. If someone is indeed already decent with UWPS (DSX) then that would be easier to use instead of brushing that aside and immediately learning DWPS (USX) . Alright those two chapters could be swapped in that particular instance :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yes, I probably overreacted when I saw the words “pointless” and “exercises”! I realise people view the material differently. To me it’s mostly been about viewing as much as possible and trying different things that interested me. But then again, I never aspired to be a shredder!

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(I’ve done a lot of searching for the appropriate thread to post this, I think this is the one)

There’s one thing I miss in Cracking The Code: actual lessons / practice plan. The research is amazing, the videos are great, and the material is there. But you have to kind of create your own lessons out of it, like @brutaldeath did.

Say you’re totally new to pickslanting, as I was, and you’re going through the Pickslanting Primer. It would be incredibly useful (for me) to have some kind of workbook. “Do this for X minutes at X speed”. “Once you have mastered this and can play it consistently at X speed, here’s the next exercise”. Some kind of path that you could follow and check off your progress towards incorporating all the Cracking The Code discoveries into your playing. Even a to-do list would work!

“Chunking” for the win! :metal:t4: :smile:

Hi stormymondays,

Thanks for the response.

I completely hear what you are referring to with the added instruction for each exercise in regards to:

This absolutely sounds helpful. However, the chasm actually isn’t that wide in practice but indeed does seem daunting at first. In the practice exercise videos, Troy plays the example at full speed, and then the slow motion follows.

For a practice plan:
At first go back and forth between two exercises and maybe one random song/riff/lick during a practice session. Do this until you are close to Troy’s example speed. This might take 3-4 weeks (or longer) of practicing one hour per day.

Then move onto another exercise once one or both exercises are mastered. Jumping further ahead won’t actually help because the real problem is not mastering the material; it’s mastering the picking technique. Once a person’s picking technique is good enough to master any of the beginning exercises, then the rest of the material is so much easier.

Reaching this shred zone 150bpm+ really is like being able to ride a bike or not. Once you are there, learning any additional material is less of a struggle then actually arriving at that point. This is really “Cracking The Code”. Once a person has their picking technique down properly then the puzzle has been solved.

I personally keep revisiting all of the 6 Note per string patterns and the Pop Tarts lick while practicing, then just add a single new exercise to my repertoire during a practice session. That way I don’t forget any of the prior building blocks.

I will play each exercise maybe 5 to 6 times in a row then go to the next exercise.

This lets your hand/wrist/arm/brain not become fatigued with play x exercise at 135 bpm then increase at 3 bpm per 16 measures etc… This is insanely boring and doesn’t help breaking through; not to mention completely draining the fun out of learning (which might actually be the biggest problem).

I agree that adding a bit more detail for a practice plan would help; it’s just that the answer actually isn’t about practicing any particular exercise a set amount of time or bpm; it’s achieving a picking technique that is able to play at Troy’s full speed example which is the real problem.

So if the first two exercises do not yet give the guitarist the answer. Then these just plain have to be repeated until shredding is achieved via proper picking technique.

Troy used the bike riding analogy but, I can see how laying out this practicing dilemma could be specified a bit more strongly.

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I kind of agree with this sentiment. I’m not looking for specific lessons/practice plans from the Pickslanting Primer, but I think it would be helpful to have an introductory video on how the PP is best consumed.

Here’s what I mean: do I just watch/read everything in linear order and then go back and focus on the motions/techniques I want to advance? Or is there a better approach.

Personally, I’d like to develop a fluid wrist picking motion. I watch other do this in the Technique Critique section of the forum and I just…drool.

So is there any benefit for me in spending time on the forearm and elbow motion sections?

In general, I just have this feeling that more high-level guidance at the start would be helpful. Specifically some thoughts around the approach to learning if you’re brand new and the approach to learning if you’re an experience player who has been struggling for many years.

Just my $0.02. I’m going to go back to re-reading/re-rewatching the USX sections again (third time) to make sure I’m not overlooking the glint of the golden key which will unlock my picking ability (it’s surely right there, I just keep missing it). (Does anyone else feel like this?)