Technique Limits?


Hello everyone,

I’ve been a reader and a follower of Cracking the Code for years but finally, I decided to sign up and talk about something that’s been in my mind for a while, so I have finally decided to write about this. As a short introduction, I have always struggled with picking technique, and after almost 3 years without playing at all, I bought a guitar and have set up a routine to tackle it, and I’m getting good results so far. However, I feel like I’m hitting a wall. But I want to go deeper this time, as I’ve found this wall in other situations in my life as well as in other people.

I keep a practice journal and a spreadsheet with my routine. I try to keep 20 minutes of max. focus every day. However, when I play less days a week my higher limit is pushed down again. And sometimes, after some days without playing it goes to where it was before. As I said before I’ve experienced weird situations in my life which I can’t find an explanation either and I think everything is related.

  • A year ago, I decided to learn and understand better how to play pool (billiards). I learnt how to play with strategy, how to hit the ball, etc… I could play hours and hours with friends. But here’s the paradox. After training again and again, there were days where it was almost impossible to put the ball in the hole. And then after weeks without playing, I was unstoppable. This is what happened a week ago actually.

  • Learning English. As you may have noticed, my mother tongue is not English but Spanish. I moved to England almost three years ago and speak English every day. Some days I speak more fluently than others. My level is high, but very specific days I could get stuck in a phrase because I can’t find the right word. And the same with the accent. It’s something that keeps fluctuating but never reaches a new level.

  • Ok, here’s a weird one but I put it into the same equation. There’s a fighting video game that I’ve been playing for years. I know most of the moves with some characters. Same as described above. Especially when you play with someone that doesn’t even know how to play and you find yourself struggling (or even defeated!).

So my question is, is there a physical true-body barrier that prevents from learning further? Or is it set up somewhere deep in our subconscious mind? I read some psychology books and already knew about the learning process and the cleaver approach to focused practice, as explained by Dr. Noa Kageyama, but I haven’t found a clear answer to this issue. What do you guys think?

I’m not sure if this actually goes in this category, so admins feel free to move it! Cheers!


From what you’ve described in your particular situation, what you are experiencing seems to me like a mental block more than any type of physical block.
I have found that for me, I sometimes will pick up the guitar and stumble over phrases. But if I then take a few minutes to warm up I can then tackle the phrases with the same speed/accuracy that I have worked it up to.
That said, I think we all have off days when things just don’t seem to be working.
I can distinctly remember playing gigs where I thought I played terrible only to have people come up to me and tell my I killed it. Go figure.


I feel your pain…

My max 16th notes vary by 40 bpm on any given day… I want to resolve this as well, and I’m thinking of trying practicing for a month with ZERO tension. I usually push things to my limit and then back off… so into tension, and then I come back and relax. I have improved, but this isn’t a consistency that is useful, so something has to change.

I’ve experienced your pool situation, grew up with table in the basement. Some days I can see everything, every angle, and some days I look and can’t judge the angle. This must be mental, as it’s what I can perceive. I don’t know if that is a different phenomenon from not being able to physically do something at speed. But maybe, maybe I just can’t see it, see the pick motion.


We all get mental blocks sometimes. Try not to let it throw you off too much and keep at it. On the days when it’s not happening for me, I just forget about picking and work on something like rhythm playing, tapping or legato.


Just this morning before work I picked up the guitar and licks that I can usually pull off no problem weren’t working for me.
It can be discouraging but that’s how it goes sometimes.


It is both mental and physical. The difficulty with this stuff is that we are having to experiment with everything from tension in the hands, pick angle, pick path etc. I think that it takes the body a while to make new habits and some old habits die hard. I often find that when I make adjustments things have to get worse in some ways before they get better. For example, when I started to work on 2WPS, I made great progress on the specific things I was working on, but everything else that I usually played with no issue, suddenly became problematic, the reason being is that I wasnt playing the usual stuff with the usual picking mechanics so my body was getting confused and flip-flopped between the 2 different ways - often it seemed only one way would work. I made a decision to keep working on the 2WPS and gradually it has generally became the dominant way I played. At that point I didn’t have terrible days much more and consistancy is there in the most part. Now my problem is that I get stuck at a plateau for long periods, neither getting better or worse…it is a long journey, no matter the route. My thoughts are:

  • more hours of quality practice = better progress
  • new methods and techniques need time to bed in. Unfortunately it means that sometimes we spent a lot of energy and time on things that do not help us in the name of experimentation.
  • Consistancy and endurance comes with many many many hours of practice. Just make sure the quality is high!!!


you are describing practicing pool and also video games and guitar. anything else?

commit to intense guitar focus for about 6 months…report back.


This does raise a valid point. I can’t see how you could take any of those (especially guitar) to an elite level without detrimental effect on the others. As an ex gamer, I know how much of a time drain it is. I now have a young family and have minimal spare time. The choice has been made - everything but guitar is out the window and in the last couple of years, I have made a lot of progress (thanks to CTC) with a relatively small amount of time each week. As JonJon says, if you go all out insane practice for 6 months, you could make an extraordinary leap in progress