The Fastest Lane - Video Lessons on Efficient Fretting Mechanics in Shawn Lane's "Power Licks"

It was suggested by our moderator @tommo that I come up with a title that more clearly reflected the content of my posts so they may be found more easily in future and which which may draw some more attention. The title I’ve come up with feels like clickbait to me, but I think it serves those ends specifically. I hope the content merits the lofty title.

I present a series of videos on the concept of Efficient Digital Cycles, which is a principle I’ve discovered which underlies most of Shawn Lane’s fast playing and all of his fastest playing:
Playlist on Youtube

The first video is background and context, serious technical discussion begins in the second video.

These ideas were first discussed on this forum in the following thread:

This thread discusses other observations I have made concerning Shawn Lane’s instructional videos, and may also be of interest:

As you can plainly see I am not very comfortable in front of a camera, and I struggle with red light syndrome. I’m trying to confront this and to improve.

I would appreciate any input on how I may better my video presentation. I would be specifically interested in any comments regarding my teaching style. I intend to learn to edit video and to improve the production quality in time.

Tom.

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Looking forward to watching them - also I think the title is appropriate and not clickbait since you really did the investigative work :slight_smile:

As a fellow RLS-er I can relate - I haven’t watched yet but I suspect you did better than you think. Also, just doing it is definitely the only way to improve :+1:

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I dig this quite a bit and its fascinating. So it appears what you are saying is the most efficient cycles half a duration twice as long. So if you playing 16ths then 8th note duration is the best between iterations of the same finger per se using 16th as the base. since we are not talking Yngwie 32 notes lol but in that case it would need to be 16th note. So even with 2 finger pentatonic that would still be the same case 16th note base with 8th note iteration. So would it be plausible to say put down and lift the same finger to test if you could actually play something faster. So lets say your doing 8th notes at 100 BPM. So you use your first finger as test case and as long as you could pull that off then you could do a 16th note run as long as that finger only needs to do the 8th note iteration. then work on the other fingers of course to see where they are at.

These threads are a testament that I’m a visual learner because [whoosh] over my head

Hey @Tom_Gilroy thanks so much for these. I am mostly through them. They are a great addition to your EDC thread. I largely thought I ‘got it’ from reading that thread, but any bits that were just a tad fuzzy I think are cleared up now after seeing you demonstrate the concepts. The main thing for me was seeing the point at which each finger releases tension during the cycle, and how exceptions like what you termed “revealing” notes and finger rolling play into efficient scenarios.

You asked for feedback: I think your presentation is fine, BUT I’ve read your EDC thread several times so I’m already aware of what I need to be paying attention to when watching the videos. I wish I had a magic solution that would help you deliver this the same way Troy did with his whole “pickslanting” breakthrough (which I know, the term “pickslanting” is dead and it’s all about joint movement/escape motion…that is how he originally presented it though, in his iconic pop-science videos). This is likely what the EDC concept would need to appeal to someone who had no background knowledge on the subject. Because, it is a very academic presentation you give, and that is by no means a criticism. I like it. For a widespread appeal, a more instant gratification type of presentation is likely required.

Takeaways after watching, that I am immediately working on applying to my own playing:

#1

One very obvious thing that escaped me until watching your videos is the idea that these EDC’s do not have to begin with the index finger (in a forward cycle) like 1 2 3 / 1 2 4. In the same vein, they do not need to begin with the ring/pinky for the back cycles like 4 2 1 / 3 2 1.

Directly quoting from your original thread

quote:

A cycle need not carry a specific starting digit, so we have equivalant fretting cycles

(1 2 3) = (2 3 1) = (3 1 2) 

and

(3 2 1) = (2 1 3) = (1 3 2) 

but

(1 2 3) =/= (1 3 2)

(end quote)

I mention this because I read it several times and didn’t internalize it and now I realize what sort of freedoms this can open. It’s the very reason one of the patterns I can play my absolute fastest (6 notes per beat @ 140 - 150 bpm on my very best days) is this economy picked pentatonic lick:

Picking: D  D  U  D  D  U
|---------------------------|
|-----------12-15---12-15---|
|--------14-------14--------|
|---------------------------|
|---------------------------|
|---------------------------|
Fingers: 2  1  3  2  1  3

It’s now so clear to me that it’s just a back cycle starting on the middle finger. Very much a “duh” moment, but chances are there are others who may miss that I thought I’d call it out. Of course, the fact that I’m doing this with only 4 separate pick strokes and sounding 6 notes helps keep my right hand quick :slight_smile:

#2

You astutely pointed out what Shawn describes as “rhythmic” groupings when combining 3s/4s/5s are actually melodic groupings and his speed rate stays constant during the phrase. He is not mixing triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets when performing these. I call this out because I feel like when I attempt many of these phrases, I don’t feel I have difficulty moving my fingers fast enough. They do not fatigue. The issue, with me, is losing track of where I am metrically that causes my fingers to trip. This, paired with your “least common multiples” concept when discussing Shawn’s descending 4’s lick makes me able to think about it differently. For me, I probably need to be learning this on a pattern that is in 3/4 time so I can make the chunks work out so that the first downbeat of each measure is where it begins. I feel like once I get it flowing, I can have better freedom across other subdivisions and time signatures. After all, one of the most appealing things about Shawn’s phrasing with these patterns is how rhythmically displaced things were. My brain just can’t quite handle that yet, so the more “in the pocket” approach is what I’ll begin with.

Anyway, sorry for the long post. Thanks again for all of your work!

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Hi @Judmeister.

I think that could be an informative and valuable test, but I think there’s more to this than just how fast you can tap each individual finger.

I’m beginning to believe that the EDCs actually exploit the lack of independence between the fingers. I think the action of fretting with a finger actually assists the next finger to begin its fretting action. The action of flexing with one finger begins results in slight sympathetic flexion of the adjacent fingers, and the same is true for extension. We can only prevent these sympathetic movements through muscular tension, which will slow us down in general.

Moreover, the EDCs aren’t just efficient from a mathematical perspective. They are fundamental coordinations which are transferrable. The more EDC based patterns and licks we practice and play, the more comfortable we become with these coordinations. In effect, the different licks and patterns based upon the EDC principles may all reinforce eachother to some degree.

So yes, I think measuring the raw speeds of each finger may be interesting and valuable data, and may be a strong indicator of your potential fretting speed, but I think it’s more complex than just tapping 8th notes at X bpm with each finger means you can play 16th note triplets at X bpm with a 3 finger combination.

I’m sorry @Pepepicks66. Have the videos helped address some of the difficulties you’ve had trying to learn from my writing? Is there anything I could do to make my presentations more accessible to you?

You’re very welcome @joebegly, I’m very glad that these videos have helped you.

I’m glad that the videos were at least a valuable resource to you!

I think I will need to hear some feedback from some viewers who have watched the videos but haven’t done the reading also.

I’m aware that my writing isn’t easily digestible. The first post alone in the EDC thread is more than 1800 words, and the full length of the YouTube playlist is about 2hrs 45mins. That’s a lot of time to ask an audience to invest. I’m sure I could pare that down with more scripting and with video editing, but to what degree, I don’t know.

The academic style of exposition and presentation is most certainly not the ideal for widespread appeal. However, that is my background and it’s what I know.

I don’t know how to make this concept appeal to a more general guitar audience. I can’t make a 5 minute video with a clickbait title like “One weird trick to SHRED like SHAWN LANE!”, and moreover, I don’t want to.

This isn’t some trick or gimmick, it’s a fundamental principle which underlies all of the fastest playing of one of the fastest guitarists ever. I can’t even explain the basic efficiency principles in 5 minutes. Also, quite frankly, I’m not very comfortable using Shawn’s name to promote myself. The title of this thread was made reluctantly.

It would be incredible if the EDC concept, and my other work on fretting hand mechanics could have the success that @Troy’s work on picking mechanics has had with CTC. But there’s so much more to CTC than the exposition of picking mechanics. There’s the scripting, the editing, the artwork and the production value. There’s the distinctive and recognisable brand and “feel”. I don’t know anything about any of that.

Maybe most importantly though, there’s Troy himself. I’ve always had the impresssion that he comes across as very comfortable in front of the camera. His on camera persona is charistmatic, entertaining and likeable, and without knowing him personally, it seems genuine. To top all that off, he’s a great player who can make the takes when they count.

The content is thoroughly excellent, but I genuinely believe that CTC could be successful even if it were just the same “conventional wisdom” we see so much from so many other content creators. The strength of everything else could probably prop up an inferior product.

I am aware that these videos have zero production value, though that might be something which I can remedy. I’m aware that I’m not the most entertaining presenter. I’m painfully aware of my own discomfort in front of the camera and my RLS. Maybe I’m not the right person to be the “face” for these concepts. All I can do is be honest, try my best and hope it’s good enough.

Genuinely, I’ll take any criticisms that people can give me, if there’s any constructive intention. Even if comments are harsh, I’d like to hear them.

Yes, this is very important to understand.

Yes, exactly. Now imagine that you had an expansive vocabularly of your own licks and patterns based on that cycle, and that you could comfortably connect those different licks and patterns together. Even if you don’t get up to Shawn Lane’s speeds, the result would be incredible.

Yes, exactly. This is a particular bugebear of mine when people discuss Shawn’s playing.

Please don’t apologise for writing detailed, meaningful comments to me. I really appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Tom.

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I haven’t gone through all the videos yet, but do you ever discuss how to approach having to change positions with EDC? I think in your video discussing fours, you just stayed on the same frets going across the neck, but it would be cool to see what changes one has to make with EDC when having to change fret numbers or finger position, especially with reverse cycles. Let me know if that doesn’t make sense and I can clarify further?

In the 13th video titled “Transitions and Turnarounds” he covers that. I just found this out the other day, but with a youtube playlist you can click the icon in the upper right hand corner and it shows you the titles of each video in the playlist. I’m such a newb lol. Either way, have a look through the titles as it may give you some cherry picking immediate answers if you’re already pretty familiar with the concept of EDC.

Hi @carranoj25. If you mean shifting position between iterations of a pattern based on a particular EDC, you just shift your hand as you normally would. It absolutely requires practice to begin making such a position shift, but it’s not really all that much of a tripping point if you’re used to position shifts generally.

If you mean swtiching between the different EDCs, I cover that in the video mentioned by @joebegly. You use the same idea of incorporating a slide to give you more time to execute the position shift, even without changing cycle direction.

YES! Tom! Finally! Can’t wait to go through these!

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I’ll have to watch the videos again, but I think it’s my problem because I was expecting something different I think. At the moment, I would condense this whole topic as “fretting efficiency” by giving your fingers enough of a break between fretting actions by utilizing all fingers at your disposal, I just assumed everyone already did that? Or again, maybe I’m not understanding the topic and there’s something else that I’m missing. For those that learn by knowing what the wrong thing is and avoiding it, perhaps a quick video in which you play a riff with inefficient fingerings, then again with EDC.

This reminds me of the fret hand version of what bassists that use 3 fingers would map out for the picking hand to maximize speed / minimize fatigue.

I’m trying to find the portion that explains why you don’t opt for 134 /431 fingerings as well.

Regardless, I appreciate the content and your willingness to discuss it.

It’s not about using all fingers at your disposal. If it were, I’d be advocating using combinations of all four fingers.

As for giving fingers time between fretting actions, that’s really only part of it.

I think I see what you’re missing.

The point of EDCs isn’t that you take some lick you want to play, but may be fingering inefficiently and then try apply EDCs to that lick. That’s not the point, it’s not what I’m trying to communicate. Yes, there are certainly optimizations and improvements to make in how we choose to fret certain sequences, and perhaps I’ll write about that and give some guiding framewark for that in future. However, EDCs are not a recipe you follow that will boost your current vocabulary to Shawn Lane type speeds.

The point is that there are exactly two inequivalent fretting cycles which are maximally efficient in general. Exactly two, the forward cycle and the reverse cycle. The point is that Shawn Lane’s fastest playing is fundamentally based upon these two cycles and efficient transitions and turnarounds between them. The point is that all of Shawn Lane’s fastest playing is entirely composed of licks, patterns and melodic lines which are based upon these two fundamental frettign cycles and efficient transitions and turnarounds between them. Almost all of his fast vocabularly was based upon two coordinations. The point is that Shawn Lane was so fast because his vocabularly was constructed according to these principles.

What I’m trying to do, is give you the tools to begin developing your own vocabularly of licks and patterns which can be played at Shawn Lane type speeds. The point of learning and understanding these ideas is not to play like Shawn Lane, just as the point of learning and understanding USX is not to play like Yngwie Malmsteen.

Maybe I’m not communicating this correctly.

Video 14, “Why not other combinations?”

I’ve seen you playing, you’ve got some real skill. I’d love for you to “get” what I’m trying to communicate to you, I’d love to see what you can make of it.

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I think this drove the point home for me, not sure if you just phrased it in a way that more clearly stated the intent for me.

Huge oversight on my part, not sure why that didn’t load on my playlist.

Thank you for that, I’ll try to better understand these concepts and try to come up with something!

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Tom, I watched most of the videos and found them convincing and thorough - thanks for sharing all this awesome work. If you want to improve the presentation, I suggest changing the bottom-up format to a top-down approach where you lead with a couple characteristic examples of Shawn Lane’s playing and explain afterwards - that might better capture the viewer’s attention. I feel like the first video could get the main message across while being relatively short (maybe not 5 mins, but still) - you can then refer to other videos for more explanation, math principles (least common multiples, etc.), and more examples.

Here’s a rough outline I imagine for an intro video - I know this misses many points but let me know if I misunderstood the core idea.

  1. Hi I’m Tom - since I was a teenager I’ve been fascinated by Shawn Lane’s playing (Show a clip of Shawn Lane shredding)
  2. After spending years studying Shawn Lane’s playing in detail, I found that his fastest playing, surprisingly uses just 2 fretting sequences that I call Efficient Digital Cycles. EDCs, ingeniously combined with smart picking strategies (refer to CTC, and for brevity maybe do not discuss picking in the rest of the video) might be key to how Shawn achieved such blistering speeds.
  3. To understand EDCs, let’s take a look at these two of Shawn’s phrases (show 2 clips of Shawn Lane shredding using the same EDC). They sound completely different melodically (can skip details of note groupings and notes on rate - again for brevity), but guess what (zoom into his fingers with slowed-down clips): the finger sequence is the same: 1-2-4 1-2-4… This sequence is the “forward” EDC.
  4. Although some notes fall on different strings and the sequence starts on different fingers, the sequence repeats throughout. This is the core of the EDC concept, and is used by Shawn to create a vast vocabulary of melodically and rhythmically interesting yet fast phrases that are streamlined for the fretting hand.
  5. This also appears in reverse in Shawn’s playing (similarly show and analyze two different melodic patterns with the “reverse” EDC).
  6. These two cycles, “forward” and “reverse”, are efficient because each finger is only used once every 3 notes. Other finger combinations (e.g. 1-2-1, 2-1-2 …) would reuse a finger more frequently than these two EDCs, limiting the max speed the pattern can be played.
  7. Caveats: what about 1-3-4 and 4-3-1 cycles? Or why not use 4 fingers if we are to maximize the time/number of notes between each finger use? Check out this other video where I discuss the anatomy of the fretting hand and Shawn’s posture that explain why he doesn’t use these sequences.
  8. If you found this video interesting also check out these other videos for more examples of EDCs in Shawn’s playing and analysis of how you could use them in your playing.
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I want a second pinky to play 145, damn

@Tom_Gilroy haven’t had a chance to check out that particular video yet but this is what I was gonna guess, the shared / overlapping connective tissue in the ring and pinky.

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Haha, oops! Fixed :smiley:

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Thank you, I’m very glad that they were of interest to you.

This is an excellent idea. The bottom-up structure is what I’m most comfortable with because of my academic and professional training, but I see that it requires a sizeable investment of time and attention from a viewer. This appraoch gets the viewers interested early and may convince them that the content is worth their time and attention.

Thank you so much for taking the time to put that together. It absolutely gets the “big idea” across quickly without the viewer getting drowned in the details.

Yes, I think you’ve understood the core idea and the impact of that idea.

My plan was never for this to be the final version of this video series (it an unlisted playlist of unlisted videos, the CTC forum is my test audience). Mostly, I wanted to test the structure of the presentation, and start getting myself acclimated to being in front of the camera. I do intend to record this with some better scripting and editing, and with higher production values.

I think the video that you gave the outline for could be the key ingrediant that helps to draw attention to my longer for presentation. I could see it being shared on guitar forums, social media pages, etc.

Again, thank you so much.

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Great feedback from @spirogyro :slight_smile:

For what it’s worth, even in an academic setting I’m trying to do a bit more of the top-down approach [“at the end of this lesson you will know XYZ”, “this lecture is very technical and seemingly abstract but stick with it because you will gain new powers” etc. etc. :smiley: ]. I think it just grabs a wider percentage of the audience in most situations.

Additionally, there may be benefits to the learning process if the student has a clear idea of the end goal. In the past (in fact it still happens) I had so many students asking me “why do we have to learn all this stuff? what’s the application?”. If you answer these questions before they can ask them, saves you work :slight_smile:

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Hi @Tom_Gilroy - I was going to keep watching (I’m halfway) but the video seems unavailable - is this on purpose (e.g. you plan to post an update) - or something else happened?

Great stuff so far :slight_smile:

I don’t know what’s causing that @tommo. The videos are unlisted but they should be visible to anybody with the links.

Is it just later videos or is the whole playlist unavailable?