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Troy Grady

Derryl Gabel: Interview with a Modern Virtuoso

By Features 8 Comments

Eddie Van Halen reinvigorated ’80s rock guitar with a double shot of blazing energy and subversive creativity. In the process, he kickstarted a kind of breathless arms race in guitar technique — a promise of stardom via innovation — that was sometimes a little like a Silicon Valley guitar bubble. But out of the melee of technical competition, something ironically straightforward actually happened: we all got better.

A particularly stunning product of the generational advance of musical technology is fusion virtuoso, and Cracking the Code viewer, Derryl Gabel. The archetypal modern lead player, his total command of the guitar’s many colors is both highly enjoyable as a listener and terribly scary as a fellow player. Derryl employs his seemingly effortless dominance of the instrument’s physical mechanics, both left hand and right, in service of an encyclopedic and endlessly tasteful command of modern jazz and fusion harmony. His blazing speed and tasty phrases have won a number of celebrity admirers, from George Lynch to Dweezil Zappa — with whom he’s set to release an album later this year. Read More

Down Around the World

By Lessons
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Bruce Lee’s famous exhortation to be like water may just as well have been directed at guitar players. The first of Season 2’s revelations, downward pickslanting, is shapeless and formless. It becomes Yngwie. It becomes rock. It becomes music. It’s one of the most universal and adaptable mechanics in picking — and for guitarists, the root of many of the most celebrated techniques in history. Read More

Building the Much-Stang

By Features 4 Comments

I sold mens suits in high school. Compared to the stockroom at the dollar store, the clothing business offered a far lower risk of maiming my fretting hand with a box cutter, and of course, took place at the very location I’d likely end up anyway: the mall. It was a suburban sinecure of the highest order, offering fringe benefits like girl-watching and free tailoring, while simultaneously conferring valuable life skills. Full Windsor knot anyone? To this day, I can still spot a neck size from twenty paces. Read More

Introducing the Code Archive

By codenews, News 14 Comments

2018 Update:

If you’re finding this post via search (or heroic blog-dive) please note that the Code Archives are a legacy product, no longer available in the form described below. They were, however, an important predecessor to our Masters in Mechanics interviews — of which you can find many on the Interviews page, with more coming soon!

—The Cracking the Code Team

The Cracking the Code project is the most comprehensive investigation of picking technique ever undertaken. And now, we’re making the raw materials of that investigation available for you to watch, study, and enjoy. Today we’re officially launching the Code Archive, the most unique collection of high-speed analytical guitar footage ever assembled, and a rare opportunity to study world-class technique up close and in action.
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No More Bull: The Moog Taurus I

By Features No Comments

The Taurus had actually been designed by Moog as part of a trio of synthesizers called the Constellation. The lower portion, operated via foot like the pipe organs of yore, would handle bass duties. The upper sections, supplied separately, would present more traditional keyboard interfaces. While the Constellation project faltered, the bass pedal section became a success on its own.  As a rock band accoutrement, its hands-free operation provided guitar-driven songs a keyboard part without, quite literally, lifting a finger.
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Licks and Truth: Episode 7 Goes Live!

By News No Comments

The dog may not have eaten our homework, but we did have to chase him around the yard for a week to get it back! Episode 7, “Lix et Veritas”, delayed for a week, is finally ready.

To quote a band you’ll see in Episode 7, it’s a monster! Episode 7, at over 20 minutes long, is nearly a double episode.  And this is after cutting a two or three scenes which would have pushed the total length closer to half an hour.  It’s also perhaps the most television-esque of the series so far, featuring some of our most immersive animations, and a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat guitar contest showdown.  Before you hit the play button, you’ll definitely want to hit the concession stand.
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Hail, the Cab: Building a Custom 2x12 Cabinet

By Features 6 Comments

Cracking the Code Impulse Response Pack

Record the speaker cabinet sounds of Cracking the Code with the Cracking the Code IR Pack!

Includes all the pine cabinet H30 impulses — plus the Marshall 1960A impulses we use for rhythm tracks, and a couple ultra-rare Cornford 2×12 impulses featuring the Vintage 30 speaker recorded via the Shure SM57.

UPDATE: We don’t currently have the impulse response pack for sale, but will try to get it added to our new store soon.

Amid the seemingly illimitable interest in amplifiers, with their mysterious tone crafting abilities, and their steam-punk innards so attractively aglow with filaments and glass, it’s easy to overlook the humble wooden box at the end of the chain. But if your 10-second Chevelle is only as fast as the slicks that hook it to the tarmac, then your supercharged big block of an amp only sounds as good as the device actually emitting those pressure waves into the room: the speaker cabinet.

Indeed, the speaker and cabinet assembly is a good part of any classic tone. That sparkle on the first Van Halen album? Reportedly the work of the glittery JBL D-120 speaker. But with a nearly endless variety of speaker cabinets available in all shapes, sizes, and power handling capabilities, why build your own? As is often the case in the world of extreme guitar sports, the answer is simple: because we can.
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Steve Always Wins: The Crossroads Intimidation Breakdown

By codenews, Lessons 48 Comments

In 1986, Steve Vai was having one of those years. March saw the debut of the film Crossroads, for which Steve wrote and performed both the rock and neoclassical sequences of the now-famous guitar duel, and in which he also landed a starring role as the devil’s swaggering henchman, Jack Butler. Trailer clips of the film’s climactic musical showdown, with its mesmerizing cascade of diminished arpeggios, had just begun to explode adolescent minds across the country when David Lee Roth stepped into the studio with Steve to record his highly anticipated post-Van Halen grudge album.

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Lesson: Inside Eddie's Arcade

By codenews, Lessons 5 Comments

The Cutting Room Floor

Not all great ideas make the final cut, and the overly ambitious scene “Eddie’s Arcade”, from Season 1, Episode 1 of Cracking the Code, is a great example of that. An over-the-top homage to Tron Legacy and Back to the Future, it was a tour de force of cinematic animation whose demands on my personal time were ultimately at odds with the exigency of actually getting things finished.

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Cracking the Code is Back! (What Took You So Long?)

By codenews, News 32 Comments

One Thing Leads to Another


50 SHADES OF GRADY: Why do we guitarists inflict the pain of practice upon ourselves?

Did you ever get out to the parking lot, realize you forgot the milk and the eggs, and have to go all the way back inside? It’s just like that time you had that killer idea to film those guitar players in slow motion, and print it up on a DVD. But then you realized you left out the truckload of technical research necessary to understand it all, and, on top of that, the historical backstory explaining why anyone even cares about this stuff in the first place. Totally — happens all the time!

And so it is that a simple idea born in the era of spinning optical discs grew into the most detailed investigation of picking technique ever put to internet video: Cracking the Code, the series.

Across three seasons, and more than five hours of in-depth historical and mechanical analysis — and, for that matter, five hours of plain old fun — the puzzle of plectrum dominance is expounded, unraveled, and finally mastered.

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