Getting Started

What’s the best way to get started?

What’s the difference between the Pickslanting Primer and Masters in Mechanics?

Okay, so which one should I buy?

Do you offer private lessons?

Watching and Purchasing

I want to be 100% certain my transaction is safe — how secure is Gumroad?

Can I pay with PayPal?

How do I access the products I’ve purchased?

How do I view products on my mobile device?

Will I be able to buy Cracking the Code on DVD?

How do I cancel my Masters in Mechanics subscription?

I’m having trouble purchasing or accessing a product on Gumroad. What should I do?

About Cracking the Code

What is the code?

I’ve been playing for years, but I’ve never been able to play fast. Can Cracking the Code help me?

Wait, so you’re saying Cracking the Code is not about fast playing?

Gear

Dude, what amps do you use?

What pedals do you use?

What picks do you use?

Getting Started

What’s the best way to get started?

We offer a ton of material — some free to watch, some paid products — but we’ve tried to organize it in the simplest way possible. The core material of Cracking the Code is organized sequentially, so that you can follow along in the exact order I learned these techniques myself. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. The first thing you can do is watch many of our lessons free on YouTube. As you have probably discovered, there is plenty of technical learning to be had just from doing that.
  2. The Cracking the Code Pickslanting Primer gets you downloads of a variety of lessons introducing core concepts of picking technique and examining the techniques of legendary players like Yngwie, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, and Michael Angelo Batio — plus a whole lot more, like slow-motion clips, tablature, and tutorial videos.
  3. Masters in Mechanics is our subscription series of advanced, in-depth technical investigations into the art and science of guitar technique. The material covers similar topics as Pickslanting Primer, but in longer and more comprehensive format, with multi-hour, ridiculously detailed video seminars, awesome interviews, and hundreds of video and tablature downloads. Subscribers get new material each month, plus streaming access to our entire library.

We have a few other a la carte products in our store, but to bottom-line it: we recommend subscribing to Masters in Mechanics, or picking up the Pickslanting Primer if you prefer a one-time purchase.

Can you transform your technique just by watching the free material? Yes, you can! I would have killed for an understanding of downward pickslanting when I was beating my head against the wall in the early years. So don’t feel like you have to buy in at any particular level.

What’s the difference between the Pickslanting Primer and Masters in Mechanics?

The Cracking the Code Pickslanting Primer and Masters in Mechanics cover many of the same topics, but they differ in format and presentation:

The Pickslanting Primer presents the most important principles of guitar picking technique, in a style intended to entertain as well as instruct — replete with animations and custom soundtrack. While many of our videos are free to watch, Pickslanting Primer extends these with a heap of instructional material like slow-motion video, tablature, and “how-to” tutorial videos.

Masters in Mechanics is a subscription series, and is more in-depth and technical in nature. It takes the format of incredibly detailed multi-hour seminars, accompanied by “course packs” of instructional material similar to what’s included in the Pickslanting Primer — but with even more of it!

Apart from the format and quantity of material, the main difference is that the Pickslanting Primer is a one-time purchase and Masters in Mechanics is an ongoing monthly subscription.

Okay, so which one should I buy?

As far as subject matter, Masters in Mechanics is a superset of the Cracking the Code Pickslanting Primer. We make each new release as comprehensive as we know how, and between the subscription and the free lesson videos on YouTube, you won’t miss anything if you go with Masters in Mechanics! Plus you’ll get plenty of material NOT covered anywhere else. If that sounds good, you should sign up!

If you prefer a one-time purchase, or are looking for an entertaining and less time-consuming dive into the material, the Pickslanting Primer is a great way to go, and contains plenty of material to keep you busy.

If you have further questions, just shoot us a note — we’re happy to help you decide!

Do you offer private lessons?

Unfortunately we’re not able to offer any private lessons — we’re just too busy with production right now.

We often get these requests from viewers who have seen a couple of our videos but are not yet familiar with all that we’ve covered. If that’s the case, we recommend you start by watching our free videos on YouTube, which will introduce you to many of the most important basic concepts. In many cases, you’ll find we’ve already addressed at length exactly the thing you’re wondering about.

The next step would be to pick up the Pickslanting Primer or Masters in Mechanics subscription. We’ve poured everything we know into this material, and we really think it’s the best way to start diving deeper. (We’ve also tried to make sure it’s a great value!)

There’s not much point in us looking at your technique before you’ve done your homework. But when you do take the time to go through all the material, you’re likely to find lots of basic stuff that you yourself can fix! Finally, you can always take the concepts you’re most interested in and work through them with a local teacher on whatever lesson schedule works best for you.

Watching and Purchasing

I want to be sure my transaction is safe — how secure is Gumroad?

We tested several ecommerce solutions for Cracking the Code, and ended up going with Gumroad for several reasons. Not only is it nicely designed with a simple user experience and clean website integration, it’s also creator-friendly, growing and improving rapidly, and, yes, very secure!

Gumroad does indeed use an encrypted connection between your browser and the Gumroad payment processing servers. Basically, because the purchase window is a popup overlay on our site, it functions like a site within a site. The pages on troygrady.com are not encrypted because you’re not actually sending any information to us — your information is transmitted directly through Gumroad’s secure infrastructure.

More generally, Gumroad has been used by Bon Jovi, Eminem, Sara Bareilles, and bunch of other high-profile artists. They use industry-standard security features and take this stuff very seriously — we should be in good hands.

Can I pay with PayPal?

Yes! Gumroad automatically supports Paypal. When you get to the checkout screen, you can either enter your credit card details directly, or click the “PayPal” button to seamlessly log in and pay with your existing PayPal account.

How do I access the products I’ve purchased?

When you buy something from Gumroad for the first time, you’ll be prompted to enter a password to create a Gumroad account. When you do this, all subsequent purchases with the same email/login will show up in your Gumroad “Library” so you have easy access to them in one place while logged in. You can then stream all your purchased videos directly from Gumroad or re-download them if you need to.

If you choose not to create a Gumroad account, you’ll still always have access to both stream and download your videos using the links in the Gumroad receipt you received immediately after purchase — so keep that in a safe place! If you lose it, though, no worries, email us and we can send it to you again.

You can also add a product to your Dropbox from either the email receipt or your Gumroad Library.

Note that you must create a Gumroad account in order to subscribe to Masters in Mechanics; for all other products it’s optional.

See the following Gumroad Help articles for more information:
“Where is my purchase?”
“How do I add a product to my library?”

How do I view products on my mobile device?

Have a Gumroad account? You should be able to simply open the Gumroad app, log in, and see all the products that have already been added to your Gumroad Library.

If you don’t have a Gumroad account, you can click the “open in app” button from your email receipt and follow the instructions to have Gumroad text you a link to add the product to your library. More info on that here.

Note that you’ll be able to watch the video chapters in the app, but the slow-mo videos and PDFs are bundled as .zip files so at the moment you’ll have to use a computer to view those. You may be able to use a third-party app to unzip the files and add them to your Dropbox for mobile viewing, but that’s a bit of a workaround. Once Gumroad enables better file organization, we’ll get those working on mobile as well.

Can I buy Cracking the Code on DVD or Blu-Ray?

We don’t currently offer DVDs or Blu-rays of any Cracking the Code products. This may change in the future, if there’s enough demand, but right now producing lessons for streaming/download is our priority.

How do I cancel my Masters in Mechanics subscription?

You can cancel at any time from your Gumroad library — more info at this link. If you have any problems with this, just shoot us a note and we can always cancel your subscription manually.

I’m having trouble purchasing or accessing a product on Gumroad. What should I do?

Here are a couple steps you can take to resolve difficulties you may be having with Gumroad. In most cases, we’ve found one of the below solutions will do the trick!

1) It’s easy to create a Gumroad account at time of purchase, sometimes without even realizing it. If you have trouble purchasing or accessing a product, first try going to the Gumroad homepage and logging in, either with your email, or via Facebook/Twitter. Once you’re logged in, refresh the product page to purchase, or head to your Gumroad Library to view your products.

2) If that doesn’t work, you may be running into some kind of compatibility issue. Double check that your browser is up to date, and try disabling any plugins that could be causing a conflict. You also may have luck giving a different browser a try.

For further Gumroad-related technical questions/problems, you can search their Help Center, or shoot them an email — they’re quite responsive and will help you out with any other issues you’re having.

About Cracking the Code

What is the code?

If you’ve watched our Yngwie and Eric Johnson lessons, then you’re already familiar with the first and most important Cracking the Code technique: downward pickslanting. Downward pickslanting is a string-switching technique, and it is part of a larger class of string-switching techniques that also includes upward pickslanting and two-way pickslanting.

When picking quickly, it is impossible to move to a new string without some form of pickslanting. This is how all the greats do it, even if they don’t realize it. It is extremely unrealistic to ask all new guitar players to stumble upon and then master these systems by accident, simply by repeating traditional picking exercises. Indeed, it takes an Yngwie-, or Django-, or Batio-level mechanical genius to do this.

Instead, these techniques must be explicitly studied and practiced. The good news is that just about anybody can do this. This is the journey we trace in Cracking the Code.

I’ve been playing for years, but I’ve never been able to play fast. Can Cracking the Code help me?

That depends! We get this question a lot. And we’d love to help everyone. But fast can mean a lot of things. For some of these things, Cracking the Code will be nothing short of revolutionary. And others we may simply not address at all. Let’s break it down with a quick checklist:

  • 1. Can you move your fretting fingers fast enough to reach the speeds you’re looking for? If not, that’s problem one.
  • 2. Can you pick at the speed you want? If not, that’s problem two.
  • 3. Can you pick on a single string with total synchronization between the hands at your fastest speed? If not, that’s problem three.
  • 4. Can you execute number 3 while moving across the strings? If not, then that’s problem four.

Since Cracking the Code is mainly about picking technique, that leaves out number 1. We are not aware of any “secrets” for fretting-hand speed and coordination that guitar community is somehow missing. This doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. If they do, and someone else makes that show, we will be first in line to watch it!

Ironically, Cracking the Code doesn’t deal so much with problem number 2 either. We assume that the average viewer is like me — we peaked at playing Eddie Van Halen-style licks, which don’t involve long fully-picked single note passages. So we could move our hands fast enough to play legato licks, where typically only the first note on each string is picked. And we could pick fast enough to play licks that contained short bursts of picking, often mixed with legato. But every time we tried to play those same licks while picking every note, it became a sloppy mess.

That being said, we do actually cover some of the different ways to hold and move the pick. We call these motion mechanics, and as an example, we demonstrate Yngwie’s rotational motion mechanic in the Masters in Mechanics Inside the Volcano seminar. If you have never developed a comfortable system for picking quickly, it’s worth giving the Yngwie method a try. It’s very similar to the gypsy jazz method, because it flows directly from the hand position that makes downward pickslanting possible. As we learn in Cracking the Code, downward pickslanting is the cornerstone of both the Yngwie and the gypsy picking techniques.

Problems 3 and 4 are where we spend most of our time in Cracking the Code. If you peaked at fast legato playing, there’s a very good chance that these two items are the missing ingredients in your picking technique shopping list. The techniques for tackling them — chunking and pickslanting — are absolutely critical to maintaining hand synchronization, and moving from string to string, at high speed.

In particular, problem number 4, string switching, is probably the least-understood component of the six main components of picking technique. It is incredibly important. And yet its solution — pickslanting — is almost never taught. This is because the greats who use it do so instinctively, without realizing it. In Cracking the Code, we’ll discuss how it works in great detail.

Wait, so you’re saying Cracking the Code is not about fast playing?

Sort of. What we’re really saying is that our thinking about picking technique has traditionally been a little confused and tangled. Historically, we have tended to think in non-specific language like “I can’t play fast”, without breaking that down to try and figure out why. When you do that, you discover that for many players, speed itself isn’t really the problem. They have plenty of hand speed. They simply cannot play cleanly at those speeds. And this cleanliness starts to become challenging even at speeds that you might not consider that impressive.

For example, Danny Cedrone’s classic solo in Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock has been a benchmark of picking technique for sixty years. The solo is sixteenth notes at 180bpm. This is not super crazy fast by modern standards. But it is still quite challenging to play this solo with perfect accuracy at that speed. And it’s still challenging even at much slower speeds like 150bpm or even 130bpm. The fact that it contains phrases with many repeated notes makes it even more so. This repetition is not tremolo picking, per se — these are discrete phrases composed of specific numbers of notes. However the note repetition makes it harder to know where you are in the pattern, because the notes tend to blur together at high speed. For this reason this classic solo is an ideal exercise in chunking. The final descending run of the solo moves across not one, and not two, but all six strings of the guitar, and is an ideal exercise in string-switching.

By far the most technically complicated problem to solve in picking technique turns out not to be How do I move my hands really fast?, but instead How do I keep my hands synchronized?, and How do I switch strings during high-speed picking sequences without making mistakes?

In short, the biggest problem in picking technique isn’t speed — it’s accuracy. It’s about maintaining a perfectly synchronized stream of individual pickstrokes, locked precisely to individual fretted notes, while moving across the strings — at any speed.

Gear

Dude, what amps do you use?

Generally, I use the Cornford Hellcat for most of our soundtrack work. I have a bunch of amps but the Hellcat is very controlled in the bass and the fizz parts of the spectrum, so I don’t low- or high-pass it at mix time.

What pedals do you use?

None. But I will almost always throw on some reverb in Logic. And if you’re looking for subtle widening on single-mic guitar tracks, Plugin Alliance’s Stereomaker is the most transparent pseudo-stereo plugin I’ve used. I’ll even throw a dash of this on voiceover tracks as well.

What picks do you use?

Many / any. I have no strong preferences when it comes to pick choice. In our various lessons and slow-motion clips, I’ve probably used everything that’s commonly available at your local music store. And I like them all for what they are. Like most players I probably prefer a somewhat heavier pick if I have to push around heavy gauge strings. But again this is not specific, and I’ll use anything from a .7mm or so on up.

Part of the freedom of understanding how picking works is losing the superstition that certain equipment is critical to being able to play. Thankfully, when it comes to simply executing basic technique, there’s tremendous flexibility there. The rainbow of pick choices is your Crayola 64!