When I first encountered Troy Grady, he was putting together a guitar technique tutorial DVD unlike any other. Aided by a fretboard-mounted slow-motion camera and a keen eye for minutiae, he had drilled down to the core of shred picking; specifically, the near imperceptible differences between those who excel at it (your Impellitteris, your Gilberts, your Malmsteens) and those who, despite good motor skills and an ear for music, do not (hi).
Though unwilling to divulge too much before the project was complete, his method and insight was thoroughly convincing, promising to answer a number of questions I had about this frustratingly under-researched subject. I was going through a critical breakdown of my own stalled technique at the time, trying to identify what minuscule movements would cause me to trip up on what Troy calls descending fours; how the best players held their picks; peering at grainy video of machines like George Bellas to discern the angles and approaches that let them pour cascades of clean, jewel-like notes tirelessly from their fingers.
No one was talking about it. The net was jammed with tutors who promised secrets of speed, but provided just canned patterns to play, with little to nothing on the vital mechanical aspects that would actually improve a student. Glorified tab is not going to do it.
My own little deconstruction helped; I did get off the legato plateau. But not far enough. I needed more. I needed Troy’s DVD. Surely it was almost complete?
That’s when Troy disappeared, five years ago.
Last night: an email, a link, a rebirth. Troy Grady, shred fugitive, popped back into existence, trailing an expanded, polished version of his Cracking the Code project, retooled as a web series. Actually as three web series. It’s dazzling. Go see.
I’m not delighted about the timescale, and there’s still paranoia about the whole thing being a wash – what if Troy’s just a wily business school grad with some chops who’s constructed the perfect guitarist paywall? In any other field, people who hold apparently revelatory information behind a barrier that you must pay to cross are not to be trusted. The secrets of real estate! The laws of attraction! Then you see a sleeping bag in their Honda. He wants $60,000 in pre-orders before the project can proceed. He could be in Aruba before our tubes warm up.
Worse: what if, during the series, it becomes apparent the big secret is something totally ordinary, like economy picking? “Yeah, so, it turns out these guys are going down up down down. Crazy. See you.”
But I’ve come too far, held on too long. I have to know.
Don’t Trip, Grady
The following is the pent-up response I left for Troy on his website that, despite its concerns, criticisms, name-calling and threats, he was good enough to publish.
Oh Troy. Welcome back, you bastard.
You show up years ago, radiant as a lighthouse, above a sea of dim fools who think telling people what number frets to press is teaching them how to play guitar. You absolutely convince me that you are the one who has captured, deciphered, and will pass on the secret of picking, the physical secret no one talks about, get me out of a rut that seemed to be endless, up the last flight of stairs to the penthouse of shred. I am ready.
All I’ve ever wanted to do is make that popsicle in the spokes noise of clean, efficient picking. I’ve slowed everything down. I’ve isolated both hands. I’ve scrutinized. I’ve been tricked into watching Tom Hess videos. I’ve done everything Paul Gilbert has said. I’ve blown up the hands of George Bellas to enormous proportions to try to see what’s going on. Is it pick angle? Is it thumb position? Is it muscle relaxation? Is it actually all down to muting? It never comes. Troy knows the answer. I’ll get this DVD he’s making. I’ll watch it however many times it takes, thousands of times. I’ll finally be able to make this blissful noise.
You vanish. The promising world of Troy Grady freezes. I check the website. I check the website again. I give up checking. I check back again, because there it is in my bookmarks, and now it’s been a long time, surely long enough, I can pay my $20 and get woodshedding. I’m left in torment. The only man with the vision to guide the ship has disappeared. I draft open letters like this one in my head. The phrase “I’m not getting any younger” features in them.
Tonight you explode back into existence amid a multicolored maelstrom of new information: slick graphics, expanded scope, a pathway to illumination. The dream is not dead. The dream is more alive than ever.
Yet I’m told it’ll be another two years (and, less importantly but still surprisingly, between sixty and eighty bucks) before I can have all the information at my disposal to even evaluate, let alone learn. Furthermore, I’m told there had better be another 3,000 people like me, or the crowd-source-fund-start thing will fail and the knowledge will slip once again into the ether!
So help you God:
1. The series better complete
2. I better be amazing at the end of it
The new clips look outstanding. It’s going to be digestible and entertaining. The production level is a real surprise. Don’t leave again. I will find you.