Where to begin?!

I’m an old timer and new to the site who has gone down a lot of dead-ends in terms of practice routines. I am really confused as to what the process is for picking 101. How do I rate where I am now and how do I gauge progress? ( Maybe this site is really for already proficient players who need to tweak those extra milliseconds out of there playing speed.)


Hey @Paul_Lebow, welcome!

You’re in the right place, this platform is for anyone who wants to improve their picking.

The recommended process is to go all the way through the pickslanting primer

It’s a lot, but it’s laid out in a way that should naturally take you through the process and help you unlock the fast picking motion you either

a) already have and just don’t know it; OR
b) will soon learn by going through this section: https://troygrady.com/primer/testing-your-motions/

You can film a short video as outlined here:

I’d suggest to include a few examples of some single note licks/runs you are comfortable with but that also demonstrate what you think your best playing is. And there’s no judgement or competition here, anyone here who critiques you will be helpful, not rude :slight_smile:

What can really help with finding that ‘fast motion’ is if you include a video of a tremolo on one note, as fast as you can play.

That really depends on your goal(s), and hopefully you’ve got at least one! It should be well defined. For example, saying “I’d like to get better” is too vague. Something more tangible like “I’d like to be able to play “x” pattern at “y” tempo” will give you more focus. Or “I’d love to play this particular solo at tempo”.

Hope that helps, reach out if you have any questions. Everyone around here loves to help people out!

Good luck with everything!


Thanks for the info. I didn’t see the Testing your-motions series and will check that out. The pick slanting section was very interesting but, I think I would have preferred a recommendation first and getting right into an exercise routine depending skill level. As you can see from some of the examples, if you are already a virtuoso player, you will sound fantastic even if you pick with your teeth :grinning:.

Where is the left hand coordination section in the course?
Are there specific exercises for that and string changing and skipping? Things seem a little scattered. At this stage of my playing, watching people like EJ is awesome but its hard to relate.


It’s more to make you aware of what virtuoso players are doing, they may not be aware of it themselves. Try things, see if they work for you. There’s no magic bullets, and everything takes some amount of practice. Some people pick things up a lot faster than others do. There’s no real method other than experimentation, music isn’t really entirely a mechanical exercise, it’s part of it though. It also depends on what techniques you are interested in, there’s so many it’s insane. The guitar is a smorgasbord of techniques and sounds, what is it you are after? That can help people give some specific advice.

Some general advice is to be aware of yourself, your body, how things feel, to relax as much as possible even if its awkward at first, experiment, watch, learn, absorb. What the series taught me to do was to see things I had never considered before, and to re-think what I was doing and what I should be paying attention to that helps me achieve the things I want. Keep an open mind too, and be patient with yourself. It’s not a competition.

I see what you mean. Given all the guitar instruction out there, it’s very natural to want that, it’s what we’re all used to. That isn’t the point or purpose of Cracking the Code though. It’s designed to help you find a way (there are several) to pick fast. Not only that, but to understand the particular motion you use when you pick fast. Depending on which joints are moving in the motion you choose, there are implications for how you will go about string changes.

For example, if you determine that the most comfortable picking motion for you is this one:

This motion makes all string changes that happen after downstrokes completely natural. Even string skips that happen after a down stroke won’t feel difficult. You don’t need to practice exercises for this, you can just play musical patterns that change strings after down strokes. The complete opposite would be if you found out you are most comfortable with this motion:

That allows for string changes to happen naturally after upstrokes.

So the focus should be finding a picking motion that you can play fast, learn its ‘rules’ regarding string changes.

There isn’t really a section on fretting. There are some excellent posts on here (not official CtC material) that should help you.

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Just to clarify, I think some of this was posted before our email conversation in support about starting with the Primer and working through the necessary first steps: establishing pick grip, taking the joint motion tests, establishing a tremolo, understanding escape motion, testing your own escape, identifying your joint motion. I think pretty much all of Paul’s questions about what steps to take in what order, and how to know when to proceed, are answered in the lessons themselves. The issue was not knowing where they were. So I’m just reiterating this here for anyone else reading.

We get this question about where to start, and we’ve tried to place the Primer front and center on the site, with a page called “Getting Started” as the first page within it. This approach has failed. :slight_smile:

An upcoming rollout of new site features should make it much clearer exactly where to begin so players aren’t bouncing all over the site, watching fancy lessons about Eric Johnson and not knowing what to do.

Paul is asking about hand synchronization, not fretting — which is indeed covered in the Primer, just a little later on:

Once the site redesign is live, we’ll be revamping this and moving it right after the tremolo stuff which makes a lot more sense. Only so many hours in the day but we’ll get there very soon.


Gotcha, I was actually going to link that, but then I thought he meant fretting in general and changed my mind.

That 6 note pattern indeed helps with hand sync, but I do think there is more to it than that, at least for me there was. I found out exactly what caused my hand sync to ‘fall apart’ ( :grinning: ) was that I could only do it with phrases that started on my left hand index finger (ascending) or started with my pinky (or ring) finger (descending).

Unrelated, I also noticed that on certain joint motions, my picking would actually change a little if I was doing the tremolo compared to what it turned into when I added in the fretting hand. Sort of like pat your head/rub your belly, where the act of introducing the other hand sort of hosed the whole thing up. I came up with a little exercise that helped me overcome both those problems. A few people in another thread reported good results and it definitely helped me, so I’ll repost here:

It’s cool because now I’m comfortable starting a pattern on any left hand finger and I feel like my picking isn’t ‘changing’ any more when the left hand is introduced. So, the “tremolo” motion can be used in all fast playing, as per designed. Plus it helped me come up with some cool patterns I wouldn’t have thought of before.

I never would have even gone about solving a problem like this before finding your site, so thanks for helping me to get better at “thinking” :slight_smile:

I understand, and the upcoming hand sync section will have tons of cool stuff in it.

My main concern is making sure that anyone seeing this thread who is just starting out does not get the wrong impression about what is or is not convered in our instructional stuff, and knows to go right to the Primer and follow along in order. We can discuss details of various hand sync situation under separate cover.

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Can’t wait to see that!

Very helpful - I’ll lay low until I digest some of this but yes, its the syncing up the pick and fingers and then the precision of string switching that is the bane. Classical and fingerstyle avoids that challenge pretty much. After more years than I want to admit, I’ll miss 1 in 10 hits even on my best runs. Always wonder about the genetics there, especially if my handwriting is any clue.

Thanks so much for the guidance…

Don’t worry too much about things that have been issues for you thus far. The questions you have all concern fundamental issues that you’ll know the answers to once you get your basic motion happening, and understand which escape it has.

So I’ve watched most of the primer. Have to admit with some trepidation. Interesting to see how virtuosos use the same picking processes as low life mortals but, so far, I don’t have much feel for expectations. I have a theory, genetic motivation. I’ve seen growing up that, for instance, an 8-year old friend is just naturally good at a sport - same exposure as me. But the dopamine reward that a genetically superior human gets inspires them to continue and practice. Positive feedback. Keep getting those hits. I’m sure Troy’s initial successes inspired the facile speed he now has.

I can motorboat with forearm tremolo - maybe in spurts of 180 - but is completely disconnected from string switching or left hand. So the benefit from the random successes among failures never happens - no successes!

My biggest fear is devoting a lot of time to something only to find its not a real help and not universally applicable beyond the one exercise, if at all. My question is, is there a defined path and process to ride the edge of competence and gauge progress to get the positive feedback? When I was learning classical guitar, there was a rigid plan - page 1, 2, 3… of learning the scales and extending sight reading one scale at a time. (forgot all those scales and sight reading :frowning: ) Is there a systematic path to follow here?